Monday, January 11, 2010


I've been craving this thing that I used to get as a treat when I was a kid. On weekends, my parents would go to the deli and bring back nova lox, whitefish salad, pickled herring and sliced tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. There would be a little package beside it that contained a precisely wrapped slice of cream cheese from a big block and another block, this one of halvah. It was the perfect confection of candied tahini, spices, honey and occasionally nuts. Sometimes it would be marbled with cinnamon or chocolate.

It's a particularly Jewish food memory, I think, because no one out here that I know has ever heard of halvah, at least not like it was in my memory.

I can't always have seeds or nuts, and honestly, I'm not sure how long to soak sesame seeds before the drying process. This batch was the experiment, but the chemistry works, at least. Also, I can't have syrups, sugars or honey, so, again, I went for ground dates.

This was the basic recipe, made in a monster blender. :)

3 cups lightly toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup sesame oil
7 medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon vanilla.

Reserve a handful of seeds for the top. Blend the toasted seeds and oil into tahini. It should be pretty liquid. If it's not, then add more oil. This also is a good base for lots of sauces and dressings. Add the dates and vanilla. Blend until it starts to caramelize - the blender should be strong enough to heat up the mixture and not explode. Spoon the mixture into a pan and spread well. Top with the rest of the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until solid. Slice and eat!

If you can't use your blender to heat the mixture you could try to heat the blended mixture in a pan or add some gelatin dissolved in boiling water before refrigerating.

My batch was a bit too caramelized (I was fully expecting to have to make a gelatin surprised me!), so I think next time I won't blend it as long. Dates, I'm guessing, get more of a burn-y taste than sugars or honey when heated, so I think it's necessary to keep it from heating too much.

Favorite spice mix - homemade curry

A week or so ago I mixed up this vegetable ferment that turned out really good. Our friend's vegan son loved it and she asked me about how to make the spice mix that went into it. So here it is. It's actually a home made curry. You need a grinder or mortar and pestle to make it. Personally I like the m&p, but I usually go for the tactile experience when given options. Also, measurements are approximate. My unit of measurement was the cupped palm of my hand, which is about 1 teaspoon. :)

I got all spices from Other Avenues.

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
1/8-1/4 teaspoon each fennel, fenugreek, black peppercorn
fresh turmeric root - about the size of the top of the average thumb. I think, grated, it was about 1 teaspoon.
2-3 cloves garlic (this varies depending on what you're making, of course - my general rule is to add one more than I think is necessary. :) )

Put all seeds into a small fry pan or an oven pan. Toast them gently over medium heat or in a 350F oven until aromatic and slightly toasty looking. (Don't walk away here - it happens quickly!)

Put toasted seeds into grinder or mortar and grind well, although it's not important that it be fully pulverized.

If you're making a hot dish and have onions to saute, add your spices to the onions while they're cooking. Add the garlic and turmeric near the end of the saute, before adding meat/broth/beans/veggies or whatever dish you're making.

If you're making a kraut, toast and grind seeds, then add them with whole cloves of garlic and grated turmeric to the bottom of the crock before adding your vegetables and brine.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bean quiche with mixed greens, mushrooms and onions!

This is what the quiche in the last recipe looks like before and after baking. This version had more veggies in it and a bit more turmeric than the recipe calls for.