[This is my first entry for the SOS Kitchen Challenge: Sesame Seeds this month: anti candida friendly, sugar-free, gluten-free halvah. If you’ve got a sesame-based recipe of your own to share, link up below–and win one of our eleven prizes!]
Have you ever noticed how some of the foods we loved as children seem entirely distaseteful once we’re adults? (This principle works equally well when you compare your teenaged years or early twenties to your 40s and 50s, too: just replace “some of the foods we loved” with “clothes we loved,” “music we loved,” “heartless cads** we loved”. . . you see what I mean).
These days, when I think of foods I ate–with gusto–as a child, I cringe a little. A few of them (Cocoa Puffs, Cherry Blossom) still sound appealing in theory, so the cringe-factor arises more from my current (and oh-so-mature) awareness of their nutritional deficiencies (plus the smattering of high fructose corn syrup, FD & C Red dye #40, sulfur dioxide and butylated hydroxytoluene). Others (Cap’n Crunch, Skittles) no longer tempt me at all.
(“Mum, we don’t have that problem. We still love all the foods we liked as puppies. In fact, if you won’t be eating that Cap’n Crunch, we’d be happy to help you out with it.”)
When we were kids, for instance, the CFO and I performed a Saturday breakfast ritual that involved soda crackers and peanut butter with huge sploshy glasses of chocolate milk. Sneaking into the kitchen while our mother slept (Dad had already left for his butcher shop by 6:30 AM), we’d slide a tray from the cupboard and load it up with a box of saltines, an opened jar of Kraft Smooth peanut butter and two butter knives. Next, we’d add a heaping teaspoon of Nestle’s Quik (after consuming at least one spoonful, dry, first, of course) to the bottom of two tumblers and fill them with milk. If we were really in luck, there would be a carton of chocolate milk already in the fridge–so we’d fill the glasses with that instead.
Then the CFO would grab the tray, I’d snatch the tumblers, and we’d pad down to the basement TV room where we’d station ourselves in front of Boris and Natasha, Bugs Bunny, The Prefab Four or whoever else danced across the TV screen for the next two hours as we slathered saltine after saltine with peanut butter and slurped our drinks. True, I suppose there were worse breakfasts we could have had (those cigarettes and coffee from my 20s come to mind), but we weren’t exactly poster children for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, either (and just thinking of all that sugar makes my fillings ache).
On the other hand, many foods I detested as a child have since become dearly beloved staples. Some of the obvious examples include oil-cured black olives, roasted garlic bulbs, broccoli or parsnip fries. It may be hard to believe, but as a tot I couldn’t face even the smallest tidbit of cheesecake. At my parents’ weekly card games, my mother would serve up cherry-topped cheesecakes, chocolate cheesecakes, no-bake cheesecakes, Farmer’s Cheesecakes, Cheese Danish–and I’d avoid them all. The thick, gloppy filling would stick in my throat and I’d feel slightly nauseated every time I tried to swallow some (too bad my negative response didn’t also stick). Fortunately (or, perhaps, unfortunately), I outgrew my cheesecake aversion by the time I hit my 20s, and the dessert even became one of my specialties in the days when I used to baked conventional sweets.
Another previously loathed–and now loved–sweet was halvah. It was one of my mother’s two favorite confections (the other was known as “Turkish Delight”–gooey, gelatin-based cubes of candy in an array of popsicle colors, each dusted with icing sugar and sold in a rectangular, waxed-paper lined cardboard box, from the local fruit market).
My mother’s preferred halvah, a Middle Eastern candy made primarily from tahini (sesame paste) and honey, was always purchased by the pound at the supermarket deli counter. To me, it resembled a discarded brick of concrete from some abandoned construction site, the oatmeal-gray block streaked with wayward marbling from the chocolate filling. Its texture was dry and grainy with crunchy layers that stuck in your teeth, a sensation I did not enjoy. And overriding the sesame taste was the strong flavor of honey, a sweetener to which I reacted rather viscerally as a child. Needless to say, the mere appearance of either one of those desserts on our kitchen table triggered my gag reflex.
It wasn’t until I hit my 40s and tasted halvah again at a raw foods restaurant that I became truly besotted. By that time, I’d been eating a healthy diet for several years, so both tahini and sesame were staples in my everyday cooking. The halvah this time was soft, with a fudge-like bite and a subtle sweetness (from agave nectar) that encouraged the true sesame flavor to reveal itself. That early sample was studded with bits of cheery green pistachios as well, and I fell in love. I’ve been making my own version of halvah ever since.
This recipe is an adaptation from the one in my cookbook, Sweet Freedom. I’ve used ACD-friendly sweeteners here so that all of us anti candida veterans can enjoy it just as well. Creating the chocolate swirl is easy and lends a bit of elegance to the candy, but if you prefer your halvah plain (or with chopped fruit or nuts), go for it. You can also simply blend the melted chocolate right into the sesame mixture for chocolate halvah, another decadent treat.
** you knew we had to be talking about Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants), didn’t you? 😉
Chocolate-Swirl Halvah (ACD Phase 2 and beyond)
This is the kind of dessert that looks great on a candy tray alongside chocolates or truffles. At the same time, it contains so many healthy ingredients and is so packed with nutrition that you can feel just fine eating a few pieces as an afternoon snack.
For the halvah base:
1/2 cup (80 g) cashews, lightly toasted
3/4 cup ( 180 ml) sesame tahini
1/4 cup (35 g) sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
3 Tbsp (45 ml) yacon syrup or agave nectar
10-20 drops plain, vanilla or chocolate stevia liquid, to your taste
For the Chocolate Swirl:
1 ounce (30 g) unsweetened chocolate, preferably organic (I used Cocoa Camino)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) vegetable glycerin or agave nectar (for ACD stage 2, use glycerin)
10-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste
Make the halvah base: In the bowl of a food processor, whir the cashews until they resemble a coarse cornmeal. There should be no pieces left bigger than a sesame seed.
Add remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture comes together in a ball. It should have the consistency of a thick dough (resist the temptation to add liquid to make it blend more easily; you want it to be fairly dry, but just moist enough to hold together). Break up the ball with your fingers or a spatula and crumble it evenly around the processor bowl. Set aside.
Make the chocolate swirl: Pour enough water into a small pot to fill it about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to lowest possible heat. Place a larger metal or heatproof bowl over the pot (it should be large enough that the bottom doesn’t touch the water in the pot) and add the chocolate to the bowl. Stir constantly until the chocolate melts, a couple of minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot (turn off the heat) and then stir in the glycerin or agave and stevia. The mixture should remain smooth and pourable.
Finish the halvah: Drizzle the chocolate mixture directly over the halvah in the processor bowl, pouring in a ring shape. Don’t worry if it’s not even or if it doesn’t cover the entire halvah mixture. Replace the processor cover and pulse once or twice ONLY to barely incorporate the chocolate in rivulets through the mixture (any more than this and you will end up with chocolate halvah). You want the chocolate to be distributed between the bits of halvah, but not blended into it.
Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on your counter and turn the mixture onto it. Folding the plastic over the halvah mixture, press the mixture into place to form a compact rectangle. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm. Once firm, cut into small squares for serving. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to one week. Makes 20-30 small squares.
(recipe from Diet, Dessert and Dogs: http://dietdessertndogs.com)
This is my contribution this week to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays event. Check out the other submissions!
Last Year at this Time: Let’s Get this Party Started: Tempeh Bacon-Topped, Roasted Plum and Baby Spinach Salad
© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs