With only five contestants left, things are getting fiery here in “Gourmet Survivor 2004.” This round I asked players to convert a friend with a food phobia by cooking that food in a new and more appealing way. Were our entrants successful? You be the judge. (Note: Dallas sat this round out, so she’s ineligible for immunity. In her defense, it was her birthday.) Now on to the entries…
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Goat cheese is the bane of my wife’s existence. She can’t stand the stuff. I love goat cheese. I often go to goat farms in the area to select the deliciously sour and sharp cheese in all its different varieties. Boy, do I know how to live.
For me, goat cheese is like wine. Instead of saying “That was a good year,” I say “That was a good goat. Born in 1999 you say? Is she from the Judean Hills region or the Ela Valley?”
The challenge for me was to make goat cheese palatable for my wonderful wife. This would not be the first obstacle I have overcome in this department. Previously she had disdain for coriander/cilantro, yet I gradually introduced her to the wonder of the pungent herb and now she is a cilantro eating machine. Yes, I am every living married man’s fantasy.
As for me, I used to detest olives. But why did I hate olives? Perhaps it was a bad experience as a child? I eventually figured it out. My inherent hatred of the olive was based on the fact that I had always eaten low quality olives. But my first year in Israel, a good friend escorted me to the outdoor market in Jerusalem and introduced me to a plethora of olives. There were meaty Syrian olives, lemony olives, spicy olives and many other types. It was a slow process, but I eventually learned to appreciate the deliciousness of the Olive. Experiencing the Olive as a fine food, I finally broke free of the prejudice that I had haunted me since my youth. I hoped that I could similarly free my wife of her struggles with the cheese of the goat. Something irreverent would have to be devised.
She loves cream cheese, so maybe I’ll make something with goat cream cheese. Would she even be able to tell the difference? Would I even tell her that she was eating goat cheese? The answer is yes! Because I had her pick it up in the supermarket?! Doh! But this cream cheese wasn’t going to be smeared on one of my legendary bialys (see challenge 1). That would be too easy. And slightly pathetic.
Back in my college days at SUNY Albany (It wasn’t the number one party school back then) I used to frequent a pizza and wings joint called Mild Wally’s. Their slogans were “You’re drunk. We’re Open” and “Got the munchies? Call Mild Wally’s.” Real subtle, huh? Anyway, one night (or morning) after hours and hours of gratuitous binge drinking, some buddies and I went to Wally’s for an early morning bite. There in front of me appeared something so glorious and so beautiful (particularly in my drunken state). A dessert pizza. Sweetened ricotta base with apple and cherry pie filling, cookie dough and more sweet stuff. It was decadent. It was delicious. But it was a one night stand. I never saw her again. That was almost ten years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of what could have been between us. So my recipe is a dessert pizza, albeit a healthier version.
Due to time constraints, I made a bread machine crust. Three cheers for the bread machine. Get one. It will change your life. While the crust was rising I took a package of goat cream cheese from the refrigerator, allowed it to soften, and then mixed in honey and vanilla. Ah yes. Sweetness. I opened up a bottle of red wine, poured a few cups in a saucepan, added vanilla, lemon rind, a stick of cinnamon and an heaping cup (or two) of sugar. I reduced it by about 2/3 until it became delicious syrup.
I then gave my wife a glass of wine. I thought liquoring her up might make it easier for her to take a chance on the goat cheese. Hours later after several dough rises and several glasses of wine, I rolled out the dough and baked the crust for about three minutes in a very hot oven. Then I spread the flavored goat cream cheese on top and threw down some banana, pineapple, apricots and sour cherries. I cooked the pizza for about ten minutes and it came out of the oven looking quite edible.
Before serving, I sprinkled dark chocolate flakes on it and drizzled on the wine reduction. I made my wife drink a glass of tequila and gave her a slice.
Lesson learned? Drunk people like sweet things. But don’t take my word on it. She speaks below.
(No wives were harmed during the production of this recipe.)
I knew things were headed in a weird direction when Harry approached me with the new AG Survivor challenge and a strange sparkle in his eyes. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be married to a foodie. I have strange hang-ups about food and am not always adventurous in my eating habits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that Harry always makes amazing dinners, lunches and even brunches (well almost always, there was a lemon chicken incident a while back) and it’s wonderful to be able to rely on his delicious and thoughtfully prepared meals. But like I said, I just don’t like every food on this earth. Enter AG Survivor Challenge, with me as the victim – I knew that glint in his eye meant: up-to-no-good.
And so, in no particular order: my food issues: I don’t like anything too spicy; any foods flavored with apple, watermelon or banana (I only like those fruits as fruits, not watered down or concentrated); papaya, guava, passion fruit and any derivative drinks, mixes, sorbets, cakes, confits, or jams – hate ‘em, hate ‘em, hate ‘em; caramel corn or cracker jacks; and coconut. It may seem like a lot to you gourmands, but Harry, my sweet husband, has already succeeded in helping me get over (and even love) the following with his creative and tasty dishes: coriander, slightly warm (not spicy), fruit in meat dishes, carrot cake and yogurt. In each of the above cases, Harry convinced me that I hadn’t properly tasted the ingredients, that they weren’t cooked properly or that they weren’t in their starring dish. So I tried them each again, with a bit of resistance, and was won over.
And so, with a bit of hesitation, Harry and I agreed that it was time I started to like: goat cheese. Israel has delicious dairy – rich creams, fresh homemade cheese farms and desserts a’plenty but somehow I just couldn’t stomach the goat cheese aftertaste. It was sour, sticky, foul tasting and lingered on for way too long. Harry promised that I would eat even like goat cheese when incorporated into a dessert pizza. Using my sweet tooth against me (with a little help from the alcohol) my husband proceeded to prepare the goat cheese with honey, vanilla bean and plain old sugar. I’m a sucker for sweet foods and chocolate, so I gave it a few bites. Honestly, I liked the way the goat cheese set off the apricots and pineapple. And the chocolate shavings are always a crowd pleaser. The dough was light and slightly sweet; cooked to pizza dough perfection. Have to admit that I’m less anti-goat cheese having this experience under my belt. I would now be able to eat goat cheese heated and with some fruit (a big step for me). It’s definitely a sophisticated taste (I wouldn’t serve goat cheese dessert pizza to a seven year old) but I wouldn’t stick out my tongue next time Harry begs to use it in a recipe. Thanks, AG. Oh, and Harry, I’m not going to fall for tequila trick again. One night in that lousy Tijuana jail on our wedding night was enough for me.