By Tali Simon | May 20, 2013
Let me tell you a couple of things about gvina tsfatit croutons.
One: They do not work when grilled alone in a dry skillet. They’ll just melt into little cheese puddles. Two: They do not work when coated in egg and crushed nuts, then browned in oil. You will just find yourself assaulted by millions of little jumping oil particles. [However,] three: Nuts make a considerably better crust than do sesame seeds.
Guys, I’ve learned a lot today.
Now we can talk about the cheese.
From what I’ve seen, gvina tsfatit is an Israeli original. Those of you who live here have likely tasted it, and those of you who have visited may have seen it, too. It’s the kind of thing that will show up on a cheese platter at a hotel breakfast. Or at a Holy Bagel bris.
So what is it, exactly? Gvina tsfatit is like feta, only not quite as sharp and not quite as salty. Its texture is softer than feta, too, and kind of jiggly. You’ll find it sold in containers in a salt water solution, and you slice it rather than crumble it. It’s great as it is, but I decided to make a crouton out of it, anyway.
And once I made that decision, for some reason there was no going back.
Nuts and cheese often work well together, and this is no exception. The crisp almond crust gives shape to the melty cheese inside, and it also balances the saltiness. The almonds should be crushed into pretty small pieces, because they need to coat the cheese cubes as completely as possible. I could have gone even smaller than what you see in the photo above. In fact, I did, when I refilled that dish.
The croutons brown pretty quickly and are easily flipped with a regular fork. Do watch out for the oil, though. Coating them in flour and then egg and nuts helps with that, but still. Better safe than…burned. I actually wore an oven mitt for this part.
Also…please ignore my stove top.
What does one do with a pile of cheese croutons? So many things.
Imagine how fantastic they would be in a classic tomato soup. Or sweet potato soup. Or — ooh! Gazapcho.
Or you could sprinkle a handful over a bowl of leafy salad, or a bowl of non-leafy salad. Like a lentil salad. That would be good. Or a beet salad. That would be good, too. I’m coming up with these ideas as I type them, and I think that’s a good sign. Cheesy croutons go in everything.
Which includes quinoa with cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, and black pepper. They were perfect in that.
One year ago: brown-butter mint chocolate chip cookies
Yield: 40 (1-inch) croutons
- 200 grams gvina tsfatit
- 1 egg white
- ¼ cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat) or matzah meal
- ½ cup sliced almonds, crushed into very small pieces
- olive oil, for pan-frying
1. Slice the gvina tsfatit into 1-inch cubes (more or less). Set up three small dishes with the flour, egg white, and almonds, and coat each cheese cube in each of those, in that order (i.e. coat in flour, dunk in egg, roll in nuts).
2. Heat about 1 Tbsp oil in a nonstick skillet, or just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Fry the coated cheese until lightly browned on all sides, about 1 minute per side. (Add oil to the skillet as needed, every three batches or so.) You may want to wear an oven mitt while you flip them to protect yourself from jumping oil. Let cool for at least 5 minutes.
Serving: For best results, serve the cheese croutons within two hours. When served hot, they’ll have a crisp exterior and melted interior; when served a bit later at room temperature, they’ll have firmed up inside but will still have great flavor. Once they sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, though, the flavor lessens significantly.