Hot Pepper Cheese Dip

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I made this hot pepper cheese dip to accompany pitas, lamb, pork souvlaki, tzatziki, and hummus at this week’s Greek dinner date. It had a great flavor. To make the cheese, for the most part, I followed the same method I’d used for producing the cheese I used for paneer back at our India-themed dinner.

For the cheese:

Ingredients:

1 Liter whole milk

¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice

Directions and Notes:

1. Bring the milk to about 80 degrees Celsius (about 175 degrees Fahrenheit) and turn off the heat.

2. Add the vinegar or lemon juice one teaspoon at a time, stirring the milk as you add the acid. The curds will separate from the watery whey. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes until it’s cool enough to handle.

3. Strain the milk through a cheese cloth (or a steamer basket cloth from Chinese markets works as well). Rinse the curds with fresh water to help remove the taste of the acid. The whey can be discarded.

4. Use your hand to squeeze out additional moisture from the curds inside the cheese cloth. Then allow it to hang for 1-2 hours (optional) so more moisture can drip out from it. The more moisture that comes out of the cheese, the more firm the resulting cheese will be. The cheese for this dip does not need to be too firm, so a short dripping time is okay.

For the dip:

Ingredients:

1 batch of the cheese from the recipe above

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 small red pepper (mild to hot, depending on preference)

olive oil

Directions and Notes:

1. Crumble the cheese into small pieces. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Add the whole red pepper and saute until the skin is lightly browned.

3. Remove the stem. Add the whole pepper and the oil it was cooked in to a small blender cup and blend. Or use a mortar and pestle to mash until smooth.

4. Mix the oil and pepper mix with the cheese and mash until smooth, adding additional olive oil until it reaches the consistency of a thick dip. Salt to taste. Serve as a spread for lamb or pork pita pockets.

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