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Next week is Shavuot, the holiday par excellence for dairy products, and already you see more than the usual amount of cheeses and cheesecakes in the supermarkets and bakeries.
BOTH TNUVA and Strauss are offering their traditional holiday kit containing most of the ingredients to bake a cheesecake. Tnuva's kit didn't change from last year, but Strauss, thanks to cooperation with Elite and Yotvata, has changed the ingredients somewhat. The Strauss kit contains Ski white cheese, a package of Elite petite beurre biscuits, a bottle of Yotvata whipped cream, a bag of instant vanilla pudding and a bar of Elite chocolate. Depending on whether or not you bake the cake, you will have to add some other basic ingredients such as sugar or milk. The price for this kit is NIS 24.90.
TNUVA HAS a big container of cream cheese for baking, part of the Chef Halavan series, containing 5% of fat, and a 750 gr. container costs NIS 9.90. Tara has a firmer cheese that is excellent for baking, called Tuv Ta'am, containing 3% fat. A 250 gr. package is NIS 7.05. Tnuva also has a firmer type of cream cheese this year, called Canaan, sold in packages of 250 gr. at NIS 8.70 and 500 gr. at NIS 16.87. To top the cake, Tnuva's HaChef Halavan has small containers of strawberry-forest fruit costing NIS 7.20, which contain enough fruit to cover one cake. The fruit mix can also be heated up and served with blintzes or ice cream.
IF YOU don't feel like baking, you have plenty of options to buy a tasty cake in the supermarkets or bakeries. Tnuva, again cooperating with the Roladin bakeries this Shavuot, is marketing two cheesecakes: one regular topped with biscuit crumbs (NIS 34.40), and a lite version (NIS 32.90). The Supersol chain sells Gidron cakes, available in a round version (NIS 36 and up), or a rectangular shape, with chocolate or with blueberries (NIS 19.90 to NIS 24). Rich's has teamed up with the Kapulski bakeries to market very impressive-looking and quite good-tasting cakes, including the Dream Cheesecake (NIS 59.90) and the mousse cheesecake topped with blueberries (NIS 39.90).
AT THE bakeries, you can find other cheesecakes in addition to traditional flavors. Hexter, for example, sells a cream cheesecake with white chocolate and orange brandy (NIS 70 or NIS 130, depending on the size). Roladin has some refreshing varieties, such as the Primavera brioche cake filled with ricotta cheese and blueberries, sold in a reusable baking form for NIS 44, or the brioche cake with pesto, cream cheese, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and almonds. The Dr. Lek ice cream stores sell individual size cream cheesecakes, in the varieties cream cheese-strawberry, tiramisu, and cappuccino, for NIS 14 a piece. Cheesecake flavored cookies are made by Carmit and a package of these Ego cookies, available for a limited amount of time, is NIS 8.
SHAVUOT IS a good time to finish a festive meal with a platter of cheeses, eaten with or without crackers or some good bread, and the big dairy companies have upgraded their cheeses for the occasion. Strauss has new spreadable cream cheese in the Symphonia series, in the flavors garlic-mint, onion, and pepper corns (NIS 8.16), and Tara has 5% cream cheeses in the flavors natural, olives and pepper corns (also NIS 8.16). Tnuva has a box of Collage soft cheese balls with different herbs - a box with seven costs NIS 17.95. New from the Gad dairy are the Tsfatit salty cheeses with black cumin, or the Tsfatit cheese with rosemary (NIS 16.40 for 250 gr.), and the labene cheeses that are good for dips, with fried onion and olive oil (NIS 11.49), or with olive oil and pine nuts (NIS 13.33).
THE MACHLEVANA dairies make goat cheese cream cheeses and yogurts with a 250 gr. container of goat cream cheese costing NIS 13. At all the local small goat and cheese farms, you can find plenty of tasty varieties. Teva Ez, for example, a goat farm located in Moshav Ben Ami, sells a Brie type of cheese, a hard cheese called Premiera (both NIS 7.50 for 100 gr.), or a salted cheese called Israela (NIS 5.50 for 100 gr.). A healthy bio-yogurt drink prepared from goat milk is made by Machlevana (NIS 6.19 a tub), and the Gad diaries make a Balkan style drink yogurt with cucumbers, dill, garlic and salt (NIS 12.48 for one liter).
TO SERVE your cheese on an attractive manner, you can get beautifully decorated cheese platters or plates. A set of four plates, decorated with pictures of cheeses, is NIS 130 at the Domo cook store, and at the Tollman's stores, you will get a pizza serving plate for free when buying a glass decorated cheese serving plate and cheese knives for NIS 136. At Home Center, a wooden board plus four cheese knives that are attached to the board with magnets is NIS 60.
OTHER POPULAR dairy dishes prepared with cheese are vegetable quiches or pasta. To make a vegetable pie real quickly, you can use the new, limited edition of a frozen vegetable mix for quiche by Sanfrost (NIS 18.49). The mix consists of broccoli, cauliflower and onion. In the Supersol, Super Center, Clubmarket and Mega supermarkets, Sanfrost offers special deals on other frozen vegetables that can be used to prepare a vegetable quiche. Strauss has expanded its Lorenzo line of ready made pasta and now offers ravioli with spinach and cheese and tortellini with dried tomatoes (NIS 20), tortellini with potato and onion filling (NIS 15), an Alfredo sauce (NIS 12.72) or Napolitano sauce (NIS 7.47) and, for dessert, a sweet cheese ravioli with raisins (NIS 17.24). If you want to make a spaghetti dish, but aren't exactly sure how much spaghetti you need, the Typhoon spaghetti fork and measure is a handy item. This wooden fork has four different sized holes in the handle, allowing you to figure out the exact amount needed for one to four people. At the Cook Store, this Typhoon fork costs NIS 10.90.
WHITE IS the color associated with this holiday and, therefore, the stores encourage you to dress in white clothes (and then use the right stain removers to get the tomato sauce stains out again), set the table with a white tablecloth, white plates and white flower decorations. Another item that is advertised in connection with the holiday is baskets, symbolizing the collection of the harvest, but now purely a decorative item. At I.D. Design, a set of three rattan baskets in the colors green and orange is NIS 139 and, at Lola-La Petite Provence in Moshav Bet Yitshak, French-style cream-colored metal baskets are sold for NIS 139.