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Israeli Inspired Cookies for Tu B'Shevat

tahini thumbprint cookies with pomegrante

I wanted to create a recipe that was at once inspired by the foods of Israel- fruit, seed and nuts for Tu B’Shvat. The connection to using fruit is so clear- of the four renewal holidays in Judaism, it is all about trees and the fruit they bear at it’s literal essence after all. But many Jewish dishes for this celebration also utilize the Biblical 7 species: wheat, barley, dates or honey, figs, pomegranates, olives and grapes or wine.  I wanted to focus on the contemporary Israel- widely multi-cultural, sophisticated and rich in local food traditions as well. My first thought: tahini. I can’t think of the Middle East, or mizrachi cuisine without it.

Heralded chef Yotam Ottolenghi, in his book Jerusalem with Sami Tamimi, has a great recipe for a tahini cookie - and I have made  it and enjoyed it. There are plenty of tahini cookie  recipes around - Bon Appetit's Tahini Cookies; David Lebovitz's Tahini and Almond Cookies; Martha Stewart's Tahini Cookies

(BTW Tamar Genger, Founder and Executive Editor of this website, wrote a great piece about tahini including a bunch of fun recipes found here)

tahini thumbprint cookies with pomegrante_7

I wanted to make sure my cookie, this cookie, was Tu B’Shvat specific. So it needed fruit. Big time flavor from fruit would be the ticket to making this cookie Tu B’Shavt-y. In terms of Israeli fruits, although Jaffa oranges might come to mind first for most people and perhaps even the prickly skinned sabra fruit, the fruit I associate with Israel is the pomegranate. I ate it there as a child. I was puzzled by the pareils and intrigued by the pungent, complex tart sweetness. Before I could get pomegranate molasses here, in the US, I used to simply reduce pomegranate juice - in and of itself a prized item, so hard to find in days of yore- and made my own. In this cookie I make a pomegranate caramel - sticky, tart and overtly sweet. The cookie dough is spiced and offers  a texture not unlike a good peanut butter cookie. And last but not least, the dough is not cloyingly sweet. And that is intentional. It’s rather European, just a little bit sophisticated  in sweetness. In Europe dough of many sweet treats are often devoid of sugar. My cookie has sugar, but it is just enough to take it right to the edge. These cookies are my 2015 my ode to the trees and plants, grains and fruits of modern Israel, through my American lens.  Enjoy.

Get my full recipe here: Tahini Pomegranate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies