Roquefort Cheese from Tnuva

I tried a delicious, fancy “Roquefort” cheese recently from Tnuva dairy.  I say “Roquefort” because I think that technically, to be called Roquefort, the cheese has to be produced in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the south of France.  Anyway, I guess when you write it in Hebrew (רוקפור) it doesn’t count ; )

RoquefortRoquefort cheese is a soft white cheese with blueish green mold veins running through it (it’s not gross, the mold gives it so much flavor!).  The cheese crumbles easily and melts, and is very smooth feeling in the mouth.  It is made from sheep’s milk.  Roquefort belongs to the family of blue cheeses, including Stilton and Gorgonzola, that all use some type of fungus (in the case of Roquefort, Penicillium roqueforti) to produce the tasty mold.

Tnuva is the biggest dairy in Israel and sells a huge range of dairy products. Roquefort is considered one of their “special” cheeses, along with Camembert and Parmesan.  This Roquefort in particular is called Galil Roquefort, so I assume it is produced in the Galil, in the north of Israel.

Roquefort cheese can be eaten plain of course, or used to make a blue cheese dressing.  Most recently I tossed about 100 grams of Roquefort cheese with some whole wheat pasta, sautéed spinach, roasted broccoli, and toasted walnuts (inspired by this recipe from BBC).  It was fantastic and packed with interesting flavors and textures.

Fun Cheese Infographic from the Smithsonian

Apparently January 20 was national cheese lovers’ day! Who knew? To mark the occasion, Smithsonian.com published this great world map infographic with information on various types of cheeses produced in the world, as well as the amounts of cheese production and consumption, total and per capita. Truly a dream come true for lovers of data, infographics, and cheese (like me).

Here are some tidbits:

  • The average person in Israel ate 37.7 lb of cheese in 2012 (compared to the average American who ate 33.5)
  • Israel produced 35.4 lb of cheese per person in 2012
  • The unique cheeses attributed to Israel were Tzfat (from the city of Tzfat in the north), Akkawi (from Akko), Nabulsi (from Nablus), and Labbeneh.  In the future I hope to have a post devoted to each one of these!

Gouda

Gouda (pronounced Gow-dah in Hebrew) is a creamy, yellow, somewhat strongly flavored cheese.  It reminds me of cheddar, but not as sharp and a little saltier.  Gouda is traditionally a Dutch cheese and is named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands, where it was historically traded.

2013-12-24 09.13.33_goudaI bought my Gouda from my usual place, the cheese counter at my local Yochananuf.  The label said “Say Cheese” and seemed to be branded “וילי פוד” or Willie Foods.  I actually had to do quite a bit of sleuthing to discover the origin of this cheese!  It turns out that Willie Foods is an importer and this cheese in particular comes all the way from Lithuania.  So, I know I’m towing the line here when it comes to “Israeli cheeses” but at least I learned that it’s not always obvious where a cheese is made. If you want to support Israeli dairies, it’s worth it to ask and make sure!  In the future I will try to find an Israeli gouda and report back here on how it compares to this brand.

I used this Gouda in a delicious Macaroni and Cheese Recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Shiksa in the Kitchen, by Tori Avey.  I omitted the raisins and pine nuts because I didn’t have them on hand and in any case wasn’t sure how I felt about raisins in macaroni and cheese. But next time I will try it and see!

Buffalo Mozzarella

Buffalo Mozzarella from Moshav Bitzaron

buffalo

My most unique Israeli cheese experience yet has been at the Buffalo farm in Moshav Bitzaron. This magical place makes, to my knowledge, the only kosher buffalo mozzarella in the world, along with other great buffalo milk products such as yogurt, tzafatit cheese, and ice cream! But, you don’t have to go all the way to the farm to buy this cheese. I’ve been able to find it in lots of healthy-type stores, like Supersol green markets.

So, what is buffalo mozzarella and why am I so excited about it? Because in my opinion, it is the queen of mozzarellas. Let me explain.

Buffalo mozzarella, or mozzarella di bufala, originated in Italy, and is made from the milk of water buffalo.  Buffalo milk has more protein and much more fat than cow’s milk, so it makes a fantastic, creamy, cheese with a tender texture.  It also has more calcium and less cholesterol than cow’s milk.  Fresh buffalo mozzarella is often found in the shape of balls, large or small, and is kept in water.  It is highly perishable, best enjoyed on the day it’s made, and won’t last for more than a week in your fridge.

Now let me say a word about the difference between fresh and “regular” mozzarella cheese.  Fresh mozzarella cheese is, well, fresher, has a higher moisture content, and is kept in water.  Regular mozzarella is allowed to dry, which also allows it to develop some more flavor (there is also smoked mozzarella, with an interesting smoky flavor).  Because of the drying process, regular mozzarella cheese has a much longer shelf life.  Regular mozzarella comes in many forms: wrapped in a ball, shredded (aka pizza cheese), in sticks (aka string cheese) etc.

To me, fresh mozzarella is wonderful.  The delicate yet chewy texture of the cheese, combined with its subtle flavor, just wins me over.  Unfortunately it is very hard to find fresh kosher mozzarella cheese outside of Israel (or perhaps Italy).  I’m sure this is changing, but until it does, this can be something for kosher-keepers to look forward to in their next trip to Israel!

Uses:

I recommend using fresh mozzarella in simple, raw recipes where the subtle flavor and texture of the mozzarella can shine. Caprese salad is a perfect dish for showcasing great mozzarella.   See this delicious looking recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

Because of the high moisture content of fresh mozzarella, be wary of using it in cooked dishes, such as pizza or lasagna, as it will add water to the dish as it cooks, making it soggy.

Make your own mozzarella? Apparently, this isn’t too hard! Stay tuned for a future post when I’m feeling very ambitious…