Monday, June 17, 2013
As my vacation here in Israel comes close to its end I contemplate what I will miss here. Of course I do miss the important things like my aunt and uncle, my cousins, and friends and the feel of being close to my religion here in the holy land. The truth is like most people the first thing that popped into my mind was the food. I know it is a horribly ridiculous notion that people especially a young female who has a food addiction would think about the food of Israel before leaving.
I tell you this because I actually wanted to write a blog about a specific food in Israel that I will probably miss the most. The diet of an average Israeli is similar to the Mediterranean Diet. Israel has it's own rendition of the diet. It's emphasis is on Olive Oil (similar the Greek style diet), local fruits and vegetables like dates, pomegranates, carrots, and chickpeas, tomatoes, and cucumber, and what this blog will mostly be about and that is Israel's amazing cheeses and yogurts, specifically goat dairy.
I can remember the first time I ever tried goat dairy. It was here in Israel with Maya from New York about 10 years ago. We came to Ramat Hasharon from Hod Hasharon to visit my aunt and uncle for the weekend and to get away from school for a little bit. It was Friday night dinner; we had just eaten a feast for kings and queens, made of course by my amazing chef of an aunt. We laughed and dined, talked about the school and all the drama going on, I remember talking about the classes like my biology class and our monthly "discotechs" (when the school would put on a dance party for all those living on campus. As I was picking at the main course I was read to explode and then pass out but I knew what was coming next. Next was dessert!!! When I arrived at the apartment my fat a** went straight to the kitchen and noticed the delicious desserts that were left over from my aunts previous adventures in the kitchen and I was so excited for it. I can't explain this dessert other than saying it was this gooey cake like dessert made from pecans and other goodies. I noticed both my aunt and uncle went in to return the main course to the kitchen and bring out dessert. This was a perfectly normal thing considering there was a lot to bring back and a lot to bring out. There was this gooey goodness, an array of fruits and nuts and some chocolates and cookies. My uncle, and I don't know why he decided to do this but he came out with something I was unfamiliar with. It was a plastic bag with a white substance (no it wasn't a powdery white substance to fear). It looked like fresh almost crumbles mozzarella cheese. I was partially right with a small difference. This Mozzarella cheese was actually fresh goat cheese my aunt and uncle went to get at a goat farm up North.
Do you remember that scene in Ratatouille when Remy takes a bite of the strawberry and loves it, then a bite of the cheese and loves that just as much but then he takes a bite of both together and not only loves it but it is as though there is magic all around him because of this one bite. You see his eyes closed his mouth chewing and the colors of red and yellow dancing around him. That was just about what happened when I ate the goat cheese. My uncle in this calm yet excited tone comes out saying, "you have to try this cheese, you have never eaten cheese like this before." I looked at the bag and see a goat on the front and nearly ran away. I have heard of goat cheeses but I was so in my ways of eating real cows milk cheese. The fact is that when it comes to food my Israeli family can proudly say they are true foodies; so I trust them when they say try it. I slowly put my hand in the bag, grab a little more than a pinch of the cheese and in slow motion place the cheese on my tongue. That was the true magic moment for me. This goat cheese had this amazing sublte saltiness not like regular mozzarella. It was this pureness you felt as though this cheese was truly slaved over. Than you get the textural feeling that feels just like mozzarella with an after texture of this creamy buttery melt in your mouth goodness that you don't get from mozzarella cheese. I was sold! I ate that cheese by the handful. I ate it with the dates, with the nuts and all on it's own till that bag had nothing left.
A few months later I was back in the states searching for goat cheese that tasted just like the cheese I ate in Israel. Each time I found a cheese it was to expensive and to salty. Soon there was this new craze of healthy yogurts. First it was Greek yogurt, and later on in life people started realizing that many people had the issue of being lactose intolerant.
Note: EVERYONE IS LACTOSE INTOLERANT. You start losing lactase, an enzyme found in your intestines that breaks down lactose (dairy sugar) at the age of two. Some people can eat dairy more than others and some use enzymes as supplements before they consume dairy. Yogurt itself has probiotics and enzymes added to it so it is easier to consume and digest, however there are still many who are extremely tolerant and even allergic to dairy.
People found that it is easier for people to digest goat's dairy over cow's dairy. There are a few reasons for this occurrence. First is because of the size of the fat globules, which are smaller in goat's dairy making it easier to digest. The second reason is for the amount of medium chained triglycerides, which are more abundant in goat's cheese. MCT's are known to speed up your metabolism and lower cholestorol. Number three reason, the reason most people are familiar with is that goat's dairy has less lactose compared to cow's dairy, so the body doesn't need so many enzymes to help break down the sugars of dairy. Now if you are allergic to goat's dairy this last reason is key. Cow's milk is known for the various proteins. Goat's milk as well has many proteins but there is one in particular that is correlated to allergic reactions from dairy products and that is alpha S1 Casein protein which is missing in both goat and human milk. FYI, goat's milk is known as being one of the closest dairy to human dairy.
Back to the craze of healthy yogurts: I think the craze truly began with the 100 calorie Yoplait’s, then came the Greek yogurt which was known to be healthier because of the lack of chemicals and sugar added to it. Of course if you are like me you would want to add some sort of sweet fruit, honey or stevia. Then as mentioned people realized there was the issue of dairy intolerance and the found that goat's milk was easier to digest and they began coming out with goats yogurt. Like many on the weight loss train I feared the regular goats cheese because of the amount of calories you would find but if you have a cup of low fat goat's yogurt it can only be about 80-120 calories and you can do so many things with it.
You can make a parfait
1 c yogurt
3/4 c your favorite granola
1 c seasonal fruit
Stevia (or any natural sweetener) to taste.
Stir a little sweetener into the yogurt if it doesn't have any yet. Depending on the plating you use go with layers. Take a spoon full or even more of yogurt then a small amount of fruit and then a large pinch of granola and layer I would say about three to four times again it depends on what you are plating in. I always love having my last layer be a drizzle of the granola with a small amount of cinnamon, nutmeg and stevia.
You can also just eat the yogurt straight up, stuff some mushrooms with some other cheese/onions/etc..
You might even want to make a sauce or dressing out of the yogurt or even use it over some tacos instead of sour cream. There are many options. I like to eat my goat yogurt straight up as is with a little stevia with it.
Israel's goat cheese is some of the greatest. I have had goat feta, which has been great on salads, goat mozzarella in a caprese, and each morning I wake up with either a goat cream or yogurt with corn flakes fruits or a rice cake. One of my favorite brands is Gad. They use a balance of technology, natural ingredients and farms to create 100s of different types of cheeses, yogurts and desserts. I love the Yogurt kveeshim (balkanik goat cheese) I will add stevia with it and have some fruit with it or have it with some seasonal squash.
What's really special about the cheese in Israel is something that people have been doing since even before Israel was a nation. Historically before modern day Israel was officially a state, Jews throughout the world known today as Israeli pioneers came to Palestine and created commune like villages called kibbutzim. Each kibbutz produced something different. Some have farms for fruits and vegetables like Kibbutz Tamar in the desert where they produce the most amazing Dekel Noir, Medjoul dates and others along with the most amazing garlic that I had the opportunity of cooking with. There are also small farms not related to any kibbutz. Israel is now officially one of the biggest, if not the biggest start up country in the world and that includes small farms and kibbutzim. Now as a kibbutz new comers who moved in weren’t always welcomed but people who wanted to come in to buy some fresh goat cheese was and that is what makes Israel different than other countries. Yes this is done in the states but really it's not common at all. It is a new thing for a person to go to a farm to buy there groceries but here I can either drive to Kibbutz Hazorea on the foothills of Mount Carmel to get my goat cheese or go to Naot Farms down in the Negev to buy the freshest cheese there is and believe me when I say for a weekend trip 100s of families will go to these farms for a great lunch and a shopping spree of cheeses and that is what makes the dairy of Israel so special.
I have to say I will have goat dairy products, I always have and I have been scarfing down dairy for years. With bread and pasta it is one thing that has been in my families dietary life forever. From my mother waking up with cottage cheese with bran flakes, to my father enjoying a coffee with some flavored cream periodically throughout the day and to me enjoying at a time a traditional cream cheese sandwich and now yogurt with fruit or a Greek salad with feta. What makes me miss the cheeses of Israel already is the freshness the purity and just the strong flavors that each cheese product has. Of course going back home is hard for many other reasons and believe me if I don't get on the plane back it won't be because I miss my yogurt. I will leave with this though: Sometimes concentrating on a materialistic unneeded product is not because of a shallow mind or because that is truly what is important in life but it is because of what that product represents. The cheeses here represent the culture of Israel that I love, the trips to numerous places I have taken with my family and friends here and the great meals I have enjoyed with those people. That is truly why I will miss the dairy. However, there is an extra love for the flavor so if you all want a foodie trip please consider Israel I won't even mind joining you.
Till Next Time