Mixed Nut Tart

If you thought you couldn’t give up your traditional Thanksgiving pecan pie for any other pie, wait until you try this tart. It is impressive and beautiful to look at, and from my experience over the years, it is the first dessert to disappear from the table.

The mixed nut tart doesn’t get soft and saucy like a pecan pie since it doesn’t use as much filling, and that is a big plus in my eyes. The amount of nuts used in the tart exceeds the amount of pecans used in the pecan pie, so the nuts really are the center of attention. The flaky crust is buttery and crumbles in your mouth like a good shortbread. The roasted and salted nuts make the tart crunchy and the variety of the different nuts is like a game of textures and flavors in your mouth. The caramel adds creaminess and sweetness but doesn’t overpower the nuts. It perfectly complements their saltiness. Texture wise, the caramel is more like a coat and a binding agent to the nuts. To sum it up, this mixed nut tart is THE perfect dessert for Thanksgiving or any other festive event (so says my hubby).

Use a 9” tart pan.

Ingredients:
For the crust:
2 cups plus 2 tbs (300g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (100g) sugar 
1 teaspoon salt
6.5oz (180g) very cold butter
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
4oz (100g) butter
1/3 packed cup (80g) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (100g) honey
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream
350g roasted and salted nuts

Combine the flours, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor, and process into a crumbly mixture. Add the beaten egg and mix it in, with short pulses, just until the dough is uniform, soft and not sticky. Do not over process or you lose the flakiness in the crust.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove from the fridge and let sit for 20 minutes. It makes it easier to roll out. Lightly flour a work surface.

Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll it around  the rolling pin and place it onto the tart pan. Press the dough gently into the indentations in the sides. Trim the edges. Place the pan with the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 360F.

Remove the crust from the freezer and place it immediately in the preheated oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust turns golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 320F.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar, and stir constantly until the butter and sugar are completely dissolved. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Add the nuts into the pot and mix well.

Top the crust with the nut mixture (including the sauce) and spread it evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until bubbles form in the filling. Remove from the oven.

Carefully, remove the tart from the baking pan when still hot. Once the caramel cools off, it hardens and “glues” the tart to the pan.

Serve at room temperature. You may serve the tart with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I love it as is.

May you all be blessed with good health, happiness, peace, and prosperity!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tahini – The Middle Eastern Super Food You Want to Get to Know

tehini

One of the staple ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines is tahini – a velvety, earthy paste made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, lecithin and iron, and is high in vitamin E and B1, B2, B5 and B15. It has 20% complete protein, which is more protein than in most nuts.                             

It can be enjoyed either in its raw form or combined with other ingredients to create savory dips, condiments, salads, or desserts.

In it’s raw form, tahini has a consistency that is a little thinner than almond butter. It can be eaten with a spoon or as a spread on a piece of bread. Mixed with some honey or date molasses it yields a halvah-like sweet spread – the Middle Eastern version of peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Halvah, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a Middle Eastern sweet delight made of tahini, usually in the form of large slabs. Persian halvah has a softer, smoother consistency. Basic halvah is made from raw tahini, sugar, and vanilla and can be found in supermarkets and in Middle Eastern stores in the U.S. Some other traditional halvah flavors, such as marble (chocolate swirl), chocolate, and pistachio are mostly found across the Middle East and in some Mediterranean countries. In recent years in Israel, halvah, like many other traditional and local specialties, has become a gourmet item sold in boutique and specialty stores. The number of halvah variations you can find is enormous. Nuts, chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, spices, candies, etc. are just some of the creative variations you may come across. The picture below, showing a large selection of halvah blocks, was taken at a halvah store in the Machaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

halvah

At home, we like to drizzle raw tahini on vanilla ice cream. It makes it taste like halvah ice cream. Another Middle Eastern dessert we love making at home is Halvah Cookies. It’s a real treat saved for special guests.

In the U.S, tahini is known mostly in its savory form, as a Middle Eastern dip that is sometimes combined with Hummus. But good tahini dip doesn’t need the hummus in order to shine. It is delicious on its own and can be served with raw vegetables, or as a savory spread in sandwiches (with or without hummus). It may also be drizzled over cooked meats and veggies. Tahini is also a key player in baba gahnoush spread. In Middle Eastern cooking, tahini is sometimes added to meat, chicken, and vegetable dishes and baked in the oven. Stay tuned for some of my favorite recipes that feature tahini. But in the meantime, here is my recipe for tahini dip

Ingredients:
½ cup raw tahini paste (found in health food or Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocery stores)
Juice from 1 lemon
¼ tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup water

Preparation:
Combine all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, and mix well until a smooth paste is formed. You may also choose to use a blender to mix the ingredients.

tahini making

In either case, the consistency should be that of a dip. If the paste is too thick, add more water and stir. If too loose, add a little more of the raw tahini. You can keep the prepared tahini in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. The dip gets thicker the following day and is better used as a spread. If you want to thin it out, add a little bit of water and mix well.

tahini made