Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I spent the first two weeks of July in Israel. When I am not in Israel I dream of the many amazing milk products that you can get there that you just can’t get here. The dairy section of a regular supermarket is easily three times the size of any of the supermarkets I shop at in New York. There are all sorts of cheeses, yogurts, pudding type things and fantastic tasting milk and my personal favorite cottage cheese. It took me a long time to learn to like some of the white cheeses because I spent the rest of the year eating the filled with fat American cream cheese, but now I wish I had access to them all the time (especially when baked inside puff pastry).

That said, part of what I love about eating in Israel is that for the most part everything is most meals are accompanied with fresh cut up raw vegetables or salads and all these kinds of cheese. I did not expect to end up cooking while in Israel but my brothers begged for me to make baked macaroni and cheese. Normally I make my macaroni and cheese with predominantly cheddar cheese. I might mix some Gruyere or goat cheese to add some extra flavor, but part of the whole point of macaroni and cheese is that it is comfort food and to that equals cheddar. Except that you can’t really find cheddar in Israel. I imagine if you go to a specialty store that carries imported cheeses you might find something that as one family member said might have stood next to a block of cheddar in its life. I remember reading an American cookbook about Israeli food that discussed different cheeses and how Israeli chefs used to smuggle in various hard cheeses from Italy and France since they were not made in Israel.

I made macaroni and cheese anyway using the only vaguely yellow cheese I could find that came cubed and marked “Holland Cheese” mixed with some leftover Brinza (which I know as Bulgarian cheese and is vaguely Feta like) and some other leftover soft white cheese mixed with scallions. The breadcrumbs that were available at the grocery store were some of the finest breadcrumbs I’ve ever seen so I mixed them in with a generic Israeli brand of cornflakes. The end result baked up to look quite pretty in my grandmother’s casserole dish and tasted good if a bit bland.

We always used to leave Israel smuggling borekas and rogalech and various bags of Bisli and Bamba in the suitcase, perhaps next time I go I’ll be smuggling cheddar in.

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