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By Mari Levine
Iâ€™m in the throes of what Iâ€™ve dubbed the â€śSummer of Love.â€ť Iâ€™ve hit the age where my Facebook feed is dominated by photos of engagements and newborns, and the only snail mail I get is wedding invitations and baby announcements. In the next three months, Iâ€™m slated to go to six weddingsâ€”and thatâ€™s after I found a way to weasel my way out of three. Oy!
But Iâ€™m not complaining! Quite the opposite. Iâ€™m actually really looking forward to meeting these new baby-friends and attending these open barsâ€”um, I mean, celebrations of love. In fact, one wedding Iâ€™m especially excited for is in just a few weeks, when my dear friend Rachel marries Pascal, a guy she met and fell for while the two were in grad school together at Brandeis. But itâ€™s not quite your typical Brandeis love story: Rachel is American Jewish, and Pascal is Haitian Catholic.
Their wedding will celebrate both of their cultures. Theyâ€™re going to have some of the Jewish prayers also recited in French. Weâ€™re going to dance the hora, then get down to some CarimiÂ (Pascalâ€™s favorite Haitian band). And then thereâ€™s my favorite culture clash: the food. In addition to chopped liver, knishes and a latke bar (!), theyâ€™ll be offering fried plantains, mango chicken and du riz a pois (rice and beans). And for a familial touch, Rachelâ€™s asked some of her food-minded friendsâ€”myself includedâ€”to bring a small plate of sweets to add to the dessert table.
The timing is perfect to be thinking about weddings: Judaismâ€™s very own holiday of love, Tu Bâ€™av, begins at sundown on July 21. Historically, Tu Bâ€™av was a matchmaking day on which unmarried women were paired with spouses. But itâ€™s morphed into a more general day of love. Kind of like a less acknowledged, summertime Valentineâ€™s Dayâ€”minus the Hallmark domination. And, like the more popular day in February, Tu Bâ€™av is considered a lucky date on which to get engaged and married. Rachel and Pascalâ€™s wedding is only a couple weeks later, so Iâ€™m thinking some of that luck will carry over (not that they need it).
While thinking about Tu Bâ€™av, I was struck with an idea for my dessert recipeâ€™s base: halvah, the dense, nutty confection popular among Jews all over the world. I love its mellow sweetness and chewy tackiness, which feels a bit like astronaut food (in a good way!). Halvah is great eaten straight from supermarket shelves, but I plan to give it a little flair by dipping it in chocolate and topping it with nuts and sesame seeds. I think Iâ€™ve found a cross-cultural recipe that everyone can enjoy.
Chocolate-Coated Halvah with Nuts
Makes about 16 pieces
1. Line a plate with parchment paper. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice halvah in half height-wise, making two planks. Cut each plank into 8 equal pieces.
2. Heat small, dry pan over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast until slightly darkened in color, about 4 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.
3. Heat now-empty pan over medium heat and add almonds. Toast until slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl with sesame seeds. Add pistachios and salt to bowl and stir until well-mixed.
4. Using microwave or double-boiler method, melt half of chocolate. Working piece by piece, dip half of halvah pieces in chocolate until fully coated, allow excess to drain off, and transfer to parchment-lined dish.
5. While chocolate is still warm, generously sprinkle nut mixture over tops of chocolate-coated halvah. Repeat chocolate dipping and sprinkling steps with remaining halvah pieces.
6. Transfer plate to refrigerator until chocolate has firmed up. Chocolate-coated halvah can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.
Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com. Chosen Eats appears every Thursday on JewishBoston.com.