I’m proud to say that I live in an out-of-town community. I love it, and there are those among us who think we live at the epicenter of the universe (except for Israel, of course). But when it comes to shopping for kosher ingredients… let’s just say that it ain’t New York.
I don’t complain, and in fact, it has worked to my advantage. THe number-one compliment I get on my cookbooks is that the ingredients are easy to find, and they are pantry staples in every home. I always tell people that it’s a reflection of my own laziness, that my corner grocery store or local food market are about as far as I am willing to go for ingredients… and that fact that I live out of town.
One day I found myself with a free afternoon, and I decided to venture to a different store, at the other end of town, to check out the selection of kosher items. (You have to be a real foodie to spend a free afternoon on the adventure of shopping for new ingredients!) I found products I had never seen with a kosher certification before, such as avocado oil and labeneh, a some really great artisan breads I couldn’t leave behind. Yet it was the Middle Eastern aisle that really caught my eye. I was taken with all the great spices and the all-natural tahini products and nut butters.
Then I found a bottle of silan, and I remembered that a friend of mine from Israel had told me that I had to ty this product. I hope that it’s cheaper in Israel than it is in my city, but I bought it anyway so that I could try it for myself.
Silan is date syrup, or rather, a honey made from dates. It is sweeter than honey, and has a wonderful deep golden color, with a hint of caramel and burnt sugar. When eretz Yisrael is called “eretz zavas chalav u’dvash,” the land floweing with milk and honey, the Torah is referring to date honey. It is a great addition to sauces (use it to replace brown sugar for a deeper flavor) and is so sweet that a little can go a long way. It is wonderful when drizzled lightly over my favorite Israeli cheese, haloumi, or even a fresh mozzarella, and adds a nice finishing touch to a tart sorbet or fruit salad. I even used it on my fish for dinner, and it was an instant success with my guests.
I’m definitely sold on this sweet syrup, which is now a pantry staple.
This article appeared in Mishpacha Magazine, Issue 307, September 2012.