Cheese. It is surprisingly complex. There is so much of it. And where do you begin learning about it?
Well, Minos and i have decided to learn about cheese. The plan is that we will get a type of good cheese from one of the local markets. We will sample it, think about it, and maybe cook with it some. We will research the history of the cheese, and learn about where it is from, and what it is related to. Then we will post all of that here for you to read.
We have already started this series with the post about Robiola, and here is the second post, and it involves the Palestinian cheese Ackawi.
My research indicates that this is a cheese from the city of Acre, which is on the north end of the bay that the city of Haifa is in. It is usually brined, although non-brined is available as well. We got domestic cheese, the non-brined coming from The Rich Cow in Wisconsin while the brined is from Karoun in California
Ackawi is a soft cheese with a creamy texture, kind of like a mild feta. The brined Karoun Ackawi has a nice salty undercurrent to the creamy, vaguely sweet taste. The unbrined Rich Cow block lacked the salt, and had a denser texture. Raw, we preferred the brined Ackawi.
Since the texture was thick, we decided to try cooking both cheeses. First we pan-fried a small slab of each. The Ackawi cooked well, forming a nice crust. The flavor was modified subtly, becoming a little nuttier. The non-brined cheese melted nicely, but became chewey on cooling. The brined cheese did not heat as well, perhaps because it was so moist to begin with.
On the grill, well, the brined Ackawi was so light that as soon as it heated it fell through the grill. Too light to grill, I guess.
The non-brined, with its slightly denser texture, held up well. On grilling it became slightly rubbery, but the taste had taken on more nutty undertones.
We decided to use the Ackawi in a salad. In the summer I often make a refreshing watermelon salad using Feta, and we decided that the Ackawi would work well in its place.
½ seedless watermelon
1 medium red onion
1 sprig of fresh mint
3 blocks of brined Ackawi
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of Pomegranate Molasses (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste.
- Cut the watermelon flesh from the rind and chop it into small cubes, about 1.2 an inch on a side. Reserve the rind to make watermelon rind pickle with, or just toss it, your call.
- Dice the onion and finely chop the mint.
- Chop the cheese into cubes slightly smaller than the watermelon cubes.
- Throw all of those things in a bowl and crack some pepper over them. Taste. The brined Ackawi has a slightly salty flavor, and that might be enough saltiness for your palate. It now, sprinkle a little salt on the mixture.
- Pour on the olive oil and the Pomegranate Molasses, if using. The molasses is not essential, but it does add a slightly different flavor undertone to the salad. However, the salad is yummy without it as well.
- Gently fold the salad together so that it is well mixed and the oil is distributed. I say “gently fold” because the watermelon is delicate. Use too much force and you will crush it.
- Store in the refrigerator. I find that the salad is best after an hour or two, when the flavors have had time to blend. However, it will keep for up to 3 days.
This salad is yummy, and is always a big hit at summer barbeques. It is salty and sweet and oily at the same time. The onion adds a bit of savory bite, while the mint adds a fresh, crisp flavor. I bet you could use parsley or cilantro instead of the mint. Hmm. I will have to experiment with that.
And that is our experience with Ackawi. It is a good, versatile cheese.
Related Cheese: Nabulsi
You will notice in the picture above there is another type of cheese, Nabulsi.
Back in January on a trip to the farmer’s market, on a whim we picked up a jar of brined Nabulsi. According the The Rich Cow website, Nabulsi is Ackawi cheese that has been boiled with spices. We fell in love with its rich, salty taste. Nabulsi is very similar to Feta, although the texture is creamier and thicker. Non-brined, Nabulsi is denser although not quite as flavorful. Both types have black caraway seeds riddled throughout the cheese, providing a hint of flavor in each bite.
Nabulsi would work just as well in the salad. Maybe in the future we will do a post on just this cheese.