A Spice Master Reimagines an Ancient Festival

America’s leading authority on spice blending, Chef Lior Lev Sercarz, has reimagined a staple dish of the ancient Jewish festival of Shavuot.

Perhaps best known as the owner of New York City’s La Boîte, Sercarz also serves as the Director of the Galilee Culinary Institute by JNF in Israel. Having grown up eating the often-bland (according to Sercarz) Ashkenazic foods of Eastern Europe, the spice-focused chef has dedicated his career to creating new and unexpected spice blends that delight the taste buds and excite the senses.

On the evening of May 28, Jewish communities around the world will celebrate Shavuot – a festival associated with the consumption of dairy products. Although cheesecake is the traditional go-to for this holiday, why not try Sercarz’s Cherry and Pistachio Clafoutis with Chamomile for a new twist on a delectable dairy dessert.

Chef Lior Lev Sercarz will talk all things spices on Wednesday, May 27TH at Jewish National Fund-USA’s virtual Midwest Women for Israel event. For more information, visit jnf.org/midwestregionalwfi or contact Kim R. Levy, Executive Director, Midwest at klevy@jnf.org or 847.656.8880 x763.

Cherry and Pistachio Clafoutis with Chamomile:

Cherries are the most iconic fruit for clafoutis. Here, tangy sumac highlights their tart side, Sichuan peppercorns give them a little zing, and mellow, floral chamomile balances those bold flavors. A cherry pitter comes in handy here, but a chopstick or metal straw can poke out the pits too.

MAKES ONE 12-INCH SKILLET SERVES 6 TO 8

MAIN SPICE BLEND
3⁄4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (1 gram)
1 teaspoon sumac (3 grams)
2 teaspoons dried chamomile flowers (2 grams)
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese (2 grams)
Finely grind the peppercorns, sumac, and chamomile together and immediately mix with the cinnamon.

CLAFOUTIS
2 tablespoons salted butter (29 grams), plus more for the pan
1 pound pitted cherries (454 grams)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar (13 grams)
3⁄4 cup shelled roasted unsalted pistachios (96 grams)
1 cup pitted prunes (184 grams)
1⁄2 cup rum (113 grams)
1 cup whole milk (224 grams)
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream (284 grams)
1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (3 grams)
1 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar (125 grams), plus more for the pan
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour (71 grams)
3 large eggs (180 grams), at room temperature Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1. To make the clafoutis: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan and then add the cherries and brown sugar. Stir until the cherries are evenly coated. Add one-third of the spice blend, stir to evenly coat the cherries, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning the cherries occasionally, until softened a bit and evenly browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the prunes and pistachios and stir well. Add the rum and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid evaporates and glazes the fruit, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature while making the custard.
4. Whisk the milk, crème fraîche, vanilla, and the remaining spice blend in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk the granulated sugar and flour together in a large bowl; add the eggs and whisk until well blended. Make sure there are no lumps of flour remaining. While whisking, add the milk mixture in a slow, steady stream.
5. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch-round, 2-inch-deep cake pan or ramekins. Coat with granulated sugar, tapping out the excess. Add the cooked fruit and nuts. Put the cake pan or ramekins on a half sheet pan and carefully pour the custard mixture over the fruit.
6. Bake until just set, 35 to 40 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cool slightly and serve warm or room temperature.

This recipe can be found in Lior Lev Sercarz latest book, Mastering Spice: Recipes and Techniques to Transform Your Everyday Cooking, available on Amazon.com and all good bookshops.

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