Shahar Shamir as a child loved eating halva, the dense sesame confection he found at markets in his native Israel. But as an adult living in New York City, he began to crave a less sweet version of his beloved treat. A fair amount of kitchen tinkering birthed Brooklyn Sesame a deconstructed halva spread made from rich tahini stirred with honey. Today, Shamir makes six different versions of his spread: sesame seed, almond, pistachio, black caraway seed, toasted coconut, and cocoa and sea salt.
Like so many other artisanal food producers, Shamir works to honor a traditional food—in this case the Middle Eastern dessert, halva—while finding ways to bring it into a contemporary context. So while Brooklyn Sesame’s halva is most simply enjoyed spread on bread, crackers, or fruit, he recently began to reach for a jar when cooking. He soon found that his halva spread had potential to elevate an array of sweet and savory dishes.
This Rosh Hashanah, Shamir asked me to develop a few holiday-themed recipes that incorporate his halva. It’s a great fit—honey, after all, is one of the holiday’s most central food symbols. A bit of experimentation revealed that the almond halva blends beautifully into a creamy dressing to top an autumnal salad of baby kale, apple, and pomegranate seeds. The earthy black caraway spread, meanwhile, adds sultry richness to a Moroccan-inspired lamb and date stew. And for dessert, the toasted coconut halva spread provides a velvety base for apple-filled baklava tarts.
Below is the recipe for the salad. You can find the two other recipes—and learn more about Brooklyn Sesame—here.
Kale-Pomegranate Salad with Almond Halva Dressing
For the dressing:
1/2 cup Brooklyn Sesame Halva Spread with Raw Almonds
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, pushed through a press
1/3 cup water, or more if needed
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 5 oz container of baby kale (about 6 cups)
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (from about half a pomegranate)
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn or roughly chopped
Whisk together the Halva Spread, lemon juice, cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of black pepper in a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if desired. If the mixture is too thick (it should pour easily, but not look watery), whisk in more water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. The dressing can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge. If it thickens overnight, stir in a little more water.
Combine the kale, apple, fennel, pomegranate seeds, almonds, and mint leaves in a large bowl, and toss to combine. To serve: dived salad on to individual plates and drizzle with desired amount of dressing.