Adventures in The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden

APRIL 15, 2011 8:33AM

Day 98: Keso Assado, Kashkavale Pane, Uevos kon Keso

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Last night I got one of those lectures from my gray-eyed, chubby-cheeked, curly-headed, eight year old son.  It started, over Keso Assado and Kashkaval Pane, like this: 

“I give this a C plus.  If you don’t get a better grade, next time you’ll have to go to summer school for cooking.”   And then, “Actually, I’m only giving you a C plus because I don’t want to hurt your feelings.” 


C plus.  That cut me to the quick. 


I am not complaining about my son.  My baby boy.  He was being honest. And I wasn’t really hurt.  I actually thought it was funny. 


But anyway, it was good that I didn’t have to cook today.  This afternoon we got pizza from Edge of the Woods.  Michael wasn’t very happy. He’s satisfied with a sweet potato, baked in the microwave, for dinner.  Or perhaps he’ll go hog wild and add a little butter.  But that’s it.  “Less is more,” is his motto.  As I’ve said, he’s a minimalist in all things. 


But when it comes to pizza, I’m a maximalist, and my motto is “more is better.” We got four different varieties:  artichokes and broccoli, eggplant and  gorgonzola, mushrooms and olives and peppers and tomatoes.  It was a delicious dinner. 


Yesterday, for dinner I made “blog food.”  I started with the Keso Assado (grilled cheese).  I thought “Grilled cheese.  Everyone loves grilled cheese.  What could be simpler?”  I was sure they’d all love it.   I took a piece of Kashkaval and cut it into half inch slices.  I put it on a piece of foil under the broiler.  What’s meant to happen is that you cook it until it begins to blister and brown and then you turn it over.  That should  work because this type of cheese is supposed to hold its shape even when it is heated.  For whatever reason, the Kashkaval which I bought (after a long search I finally located it at the Big Y in West Hartford) did not hold its shape but melted into a big, bubbly puddle just like any other cheese would.  I scraped it off the aluminum foil and spread it on crackers and passed it around to the kids.  That was what prompted my son’s snarky comment.  From there I tried the Kashkaval Pane, (cheese fritters).  For this recipe you cut the cheese into half inch slices.  You dip them into lightly beaten egg and then in fine bread crumbs.  You deep fry them in medium hot oil.  The results, for me, were similar to the previous recipe only worse.  Messier.  I’ll probably let my cleaning lady finish

. up because I just don’t think my hands can take any more steel wool torture.  Last evening, still hoping for some “blog food” that I could feed to my family I made the Uevos kon Keso (Egg and Cheese).  Good news:  it worked out to be quite good. For this dish which, according to Claudia is a simple but very common snack among Oriental Jewry, you fry two slices of the kashkaval cheese in oil until it is soft.  You break the eggs on top, like sunny side up eggs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about five minutes until they are set.  I served this to Michael and Batya who, even after two spectacular failures, had not lost faith in me.  They were rewarded by something which was even better than edible.  It was actually tasty.  Yes!!!  I thought, “Today is not a total cooking disaster after all.”

Too soon.  Pride goeth before a fall, and all that. 

Unable to stop myself from snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, I checked in with the Gebna Beida-Keso Blanco (White Cheese) which I had been working on all week.  The first thing I noticed about it when I removed the bowl from the refrigerator and uncovered it is that it was yellow.   I had no time to notice anything else before it was all over the floor, a stinky, gloppy mess.  The bowl slipped out of my hands and the contents fled in all directions. I was completely chagrined, but at least I could console my clumsy self with one thought:  there is no way that  was ever going to be cheese. 

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