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By Mari Levine
I’m in the throes of what I’ve dubbed the “Summer of Love.” I’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, I’m slated to go to six weddings—and that’s after I found a way to weasel my way out of three. Oy!
But I’m not complaining! Quite the opposite. I’m actually really looking forward to meeting these new baby-friends and attending these open bars—um, I mean, celebrations of love. In fact, one wedding I’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 it’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. They’re going to have some of the Jewish prayers also recited in French. We’re going to dance the hora, then get down to some Carimi (Pascal’s favorite Haitian band). And then there’s my favorite culture clash: the food. In addition to chopped liver, knishes and a latke bar (!), they’ll be offering fried plantains, mango chicken and du riz a pois (rice and beans). And for a familial touch, Rachel’s asked some of her food-minded friends—myself included—to bring a small plate of sweets to add to the dessert table.
The timing is perfect to be thinking about weddings: Judaism’s very own holiday of love, Tu B’av, begins at sundown on July 21. Historically, Tu B’av was a matchmaking day on which unmarried women were paired with spouses. But it’s morphed into a more general day of love. Kind of like a less acknowledged, summertime Valentine’s Day—minus the Hallmark domination. And, like the more popular day in February, Tu B’av is considered a lucky date on which to get engaged and married. Rachel and Pascal’s wedding is only a couple weeks later, so I’m thinking some of that luck will carry over (not that they need it).
While thinking about Tu B’av, I was struck with an idea for my dessert recipe’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 I’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.