Two Jews, Five Cream Cheeses

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Naomi Miller performing at a brunch. Bagels and and cream cheese for all!

“Two Jews, three opinions” This quip holds true across the board: “two Jews, five cream cheeses”; “two Jews, seven languages”; “two Jews, 15 degrees of separation from a long lost common relative in Bielsk.”

Multiples and melanges of language, food, and culture were strong at Naomi Miller’s comedy/musical performance. (Temple Emanu-El, Bayonne, N.J.) Not only did the laughs come in multiples, but Ms. Miller shook up her performance with interactive songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese. She even taught one song in Hebrew sign language!

Alongside the show, there was a table of assorted cream cheeses to match the diverse flavors and tastes of the crowd.

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Who wouldn’t think both pink cheeses weren’t strawberry?

Not one solitary cream cheese could possibly suffice! Next to a tray of bagels, there was a display of cheese in five flavors, plus margarine. On the sweet side was strawberry cream cheese; on the savory were chives, garden vegetable, plain, and a lox cheese the color of strawberry ice cream.

The unmarked deli-bought lox spread was a bright, light pink with chunks and shreds of vibrant pink. One would assume it was strawberry. But no! The strawberry Philadelphia was right next to it—a more muted dusty rose color sprinkled with tiny seeds and a few dark pink flecks of fruit. The pink cheeses caused some stir. “Why does my strawberry taste like fish?” and “What are they serving here?”

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Vintage wooden Breakstone cream cheese box. Yes, Breakstone – formerly Breghstein – is Jewish!

Thus there were two great shows going on that day. First was Naomi Miller’s lively, humorous performance; second was watching people put the pink lox cheese on a bagel, thinking it was strawberry. The faces they made when they found out! I tried to warn them, but but no one believed me until their mouths puckered up from the salty fish.

Although Ms. Miller didn’t provide the cheese, it made for extra comic relief!

One group of Jews. One great show. One common confusion over pink cream cheese.

Elizabeth Bland
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Little Miss Muffet

cottagecheeseSat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey.

What she was eating was a loosely curded farmer’s cheese or “cottage” cheese, named as such since most often produced in the home by housewives in a cottage. The cheese came from many sources, but what all varieties of curdy fresh cheeses had in common was their distinctive plumpy nodules of cheese, swimming in a bath of light cream and whey. Sometimes the cheeses were destined to be slightly acidic, and other times, a little milky sweet.

Cottage cheese, even in it’s full fat 4% version, still only has 110 calories and 5 g of fat per serving.

IMG_2097I usually buy the 2% milkfat Breakstone, which is available for Passover. Breakstone (formerly Breghstein from Lithuania) has a Jewish past.

This year, my stores ran out. I had to travel to a town once over to find 2 final tubs of 4% Breakstone.

I got these home, but 3 days into Pesach, the tubs were nearly all gone. I know there are recipes, but I usually just eat it on matzoh.

Why do I like cottage cheese so much? I love that milky, slightly sour flavor and the soft, chewy curds. It is a wonderful cheese, and with such a farming history. This is a cheese meant to be made in the kitchen and sold immediately, not aged.

Here is a recipe for cheese latkes. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough to make this, but I have before. Dryer, drained cottage cheese, farmer cheese, and goat chevre/cheese are excellent ingredients. For Passover, matzoh or bread meal.

pancakes

This is not coconutty’s pic, but enjoycountryfresh.com. In my experience farmer, goat, or cottage cheese latkes have turned out very irregular. That’s what makes them so good!

 

 

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Ingredients

Nutrition

Directions

  1. Lightly oil griddle or frying pan and heat the pan.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Adjust thickness of batter by adding liquid (or matzo meal).
  4. Pour batter into hot pan and cook the pancakes on each side.
  5. These are great with strawberries and yogurt.
  6. For non-Passover use, you can substitute regular flour for the matzo meal.
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Cream Cheese Emergency

In the U.S., cream cheese seems to hold a place in Kiddush and celebration tradition. The following story bears witness to the Jewish love of what is otherwise a rather uneventful cheese:

Milchigs or fleishigs at a bris? All morning long, I was hoping for a milchig (dairy) spread. The bris was at 2:30 at a shul in NJ on a weekday—too late for fleishigs (meat).

Apparently I wasn’t the only one wondering the same thing! brishandsWhen I got there, the long table was set up with cling wrapped trays and a couple of empty heating stands. The guests were milling around as the rabbi greeted people and the mohel (also a surgeon by profession) instructed the grandfather/sandek on how to hold the baby’s legs. Other guests were either chatting or eyeing the food table—or both.

“Is it milchig or fleishig?” somebody asked. There were bagels. There was a ton of fish of various sorts, including lox, but we saw no cream cheese or anything that looked like dairy under all the plastic.

“It’s milchig!” a lady announced. “Look. That’s herring. Sour cream. That’s dairy.” There was a little bowl of something white and lumpy that I would not have noticed otherwise.

IMG_1899After the bris and baby naming portions were over—and the mohel had checked on a man who had fainted during the ceremony—the caterer helpers brought out trays of hot noodle kugel and macaroni and cheese. Dairy! Yay! But where was the cream cheese to go with the lox and bagels? The guests started to murmur loudly: “What? No cream cheese?” and “Do you see any cream cheese?” and “They didn’t put out cream cheese?” and “They could have at least had cream cheese!”

The new mother seemed upset: “We’re paying a lot for this event!” Apparently the caterer had left off the cream cheese. A major faux pas!

IMG_1902I was a little disappointed, but I eat cream cheese every day anyhow. I was very happy to have had such a delicious mac and cheese. It was decadent, with big curves of penne rigate noodles covered in cheddar and a light coating of golden bread crumbs. After being plated, each buttery, cheesy scoop oozed a frame of gold.

I, for one, was quite content with the over-the-top milchig dish that we did have. But where was the cream cheese?!

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Matzo Cheese Pizza at the Manischewitz Experience 2015

IMG_1643Manischewitz put on a 3-day free pop-up at Chelsea Market in NYC. The event featured recipe tastings, an interactive s’mores-making station, a chocolate fountain for macaroon dipping, a giant gumball machine that dispensed macaroons, and chef demos.

The only cheese on the premise was at the matzo pizza station.

At “Manni’s Pizzeria” (get it?), Manischewitz’s Thin Salted matzos served as the base for two types of pizza: IMG_1649Manni’s Margherita Matzo Pizza and Matzo Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella.

IMG_1651As much as I begged and pleaded, I was only able to taste the pesto/tomatoes/fresh mozzarella pizza “Only one per person!” the server said. The pizza I tried was very good. It was made with shredded mozzarella. I liked the thin matzos because they were reminiscent of a thin crust pizza with softness on top from the sauce, and a bit of crunch underneath. The sauce, pesto, and hot melted cheese transformed a crisp, flaky cracker into a softer, more dough-like crust.

Of course I was curious about whose cheeses these were as I know a lot of people in kosher cheese. I asked the guy making the pizzas about the cheese, but he didn’t know as he was just there to cook.

NKmozzgroupBy chance, Chef Richard of Main Event Caterers of Englewood, NJ, had just come out of the curtained kitchen for a moment. I asked him about the cheeses and he invited me into the kitchen. The shredded low-moisture mozzarella was a blend of Natural & Kosher’s and Haolam’s, both cholov yisroel.

Next he showed me a box full of fresh mozzarella balls and I immediately recognized the Natural & Kosher label. This company puts out a line of excellent cheeses of all sorts.

I am sorry to have missed the Matzo Pizza Margherita, but I can make my own. Margherita pizza typically is made of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The red, green, and white of the ingredients represent the colors of the Italian flag. IMG_1662According to popular tradition, in 1889, 28 years after the unification of Italy, Queen Margherita made a visit to Naples. In her honor and in the spirit of new-found Italian patriotism, a pizza maker and his wife created a pizza to mirror the Italian flag, and named it Pizza Margherita.

In this picture, there is a bucket of N&K’s fresh mozzarella sliced straight from the ovoline balls, ready to go on the matzo for the Pizza Margherita.

Get the matzo. Get the cheese and let Pesach begin!

Elizabeth Bland, Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Smoked Scamorza by Cappiello

scamorzasmokedIf you like mozzarella, you’ll love scamorza! A cheese originally from Southern Italy, Scamorza is a proud member of the “pasta filata” pulled curd family. This cheese making process involves heating and stretching curds, almost as one would taffy. It adds more power to a pizza, lasagna, or sandwiches than does a mozzarella. Scamorza comes plain or smoked. This scamorza  (smoked) from Cappiello is even more flavorful since it is roasted over hickory.

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Auricchio Provolone in an Italian deli in Hoboken, NJ. The ones pictured are not kosher, but a kosher Auricchio is listed here: http://allfreshkosher.com/auricchio/

The Cappiello family immigrated from Sorrento, Italy to Schenectady, New York in the 1920s. Once settled in the States, they carried on the tradition of cheesemaking. In Italian shops, one often finds dryer cheeses and cured meats hanging from the ceiling over the  counter.

Scamorza is one such cheese. Its shape, which resembles a pear or beggar’s purse, comes from such a hanging. In fact, the cheese is “strangled” (strangolare il formaggio – to strangle the cheese); it first is shaped into a ball, and then pinched at the top and tied with a rope to hang up to dry, and in this case, smoked. Such torture for a cheese! stretching, strangling, hanging, and then set over burning embers!

IMG_1444The result is a gorgeous dairy delicacy with a rich tradition in Italian artistry. Scamorza works as a savory table cheese and, when melted, adds excellent creamy texture to dishes. The smoke gives a “meaty” flavor, but with no meat, of course.

Cappiello products are OU-D, cholov stam. http://www.cappiellofoods.com

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Point Reyes Toma

“They have real cows!” a guy in L.A. told me about the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. in Marin County. He had just been on a trip up the coast and, for some reason, was surprised to find real California cows making real California milk on a real California farm. He was really excited he saw a REAL cow!

I would be, too, especially one that made this luscious, buttery cheese. Toma is a gentle cow’s milk cheese that comes in a large toma-style wheel (toma means “cheese that the farmer made himself” in Italian) with a natural rind. It has a few scattered, irregular holes that taste like pockets of butterfat. The cheese is semi-soft and breaks off or slices with ease. Its aroma of pure butter matches its color and flavor, and true to the lush grasses, its tangy finish tastes of fresh fields. The butter seems to stretch for miles.

A picture from my phone. This cheese is a gorgeous shade of butter yellow, sunny and beta carotene-rich from lush grazing grasses.

A picture from my phone. This cheese is a gorgeous shade of butter yellow, sunny and beta carotene-rich from lush grazing grasses.

Toma is a “melts in your mouth” cheese; it hardly requires chewing. It has a bit of saltiness that would complement sweet fresh fruit. The website (www.pointreyescheese.com)  suggests using it in omelets, mac-n-cheese, casseroles, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

All of Point Reyes cheeses are “certified kosher,” according to the website. I contacted the farm about the exact hechsher and packaging of Toma, but I have yet to receive a response. It is likely under the KORC and cholov stam, as is the much celebrated Point Reyes Original Blue. As far as I know, Toma is not sold pre-packaged, so the 10 lb. wheel would need to be purchased and handled in its entirety to keep the kashrus intact.

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Good Day Sunshine! Tomato Olive Cheese Brings the Warmth

NKtomolive92Tomato Olive Cheese invites the Mediterranean sun into your kitchen. Based on a creamy white Prairie Jack, it is dotted with bits of sun-dried tomatoes, black and green olives, oregano, basil, and garlic. While Tomato Olive Cheese contains several ingredients typical of a basic Italian herb cheese, it is far more. The spices do not overpower, but instead add a subtle backdrop to the roasted sweet the tomatoes and zingy olives. The herb mix is well-balanced, allowing the fruits to be the stars of the cheese.

Viva con passione! Tomato Olive Cheese is eager to entertain as a cheeseboard favorite with bites of grape tomatoes, olives, nuts, and crostini. It also loves to melt over your favorite Italian pasta dishes and pizza. Anywhere it goes, it adds rays of sunshine and intrigue.

NKtomolivepackSincerely, Brigitte™ is one of AI Foods’ kosher labels. This particular line reflects AI’s cheese maven Brigitte Mizrahi’s passion for creativity-inspired cheeses that deliver “an explosion of flavor in every bite of cheese.” With conversation-starters such as Jalapeño & Cilantro Cheese, Chipotle Cheese, Roasted Garlic & Chives Cheese, and Blue Marble, Brigitte hopes to bring cheese lovers together into a community of cheese expression.

Sincerely, Brigitte™ cheeses bear the Wisconsin Cheese label and the kosher certification symbol OK-D. These cheeses are cholov stam and vegetarian. They are available in select supermarkets and specialty stores.

Elizabeth Bland
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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