When I wrote an ethnic market piece for the San Francisco Chronicle, I had the opportunity to become reacquainted with the diverse selection of amazing markets in the Bay Area. One Middle Eastern market that had previously slipped through my radar was Alhana Foods in San Mateo. I took some photos of their large display of hookahs for the article, but wanted to also give them recognition for their wonderful array of Middle Eastern products. Unfortunately, space constraints didn’t allow for individual establishments to be noted so I thought I’d post about Alhana here.
When I visited there was one product that stuck out and I kept promising myself to return to purchase it. I finally made it back last week and picked up the Tahini with Honey that I had been pining over. I immediately knew it would make an amazing ice cream, even without tasting it, and I was right. Unlike traditional tahini, the Macedonian version is flavored with honey. It’s the sesame version of Nutella. It’s smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet with an addictive nutty flavor. I imagine it would be delicious on toast or bagels and enjoyed as one would peanut butter or other nut butter.
Alhana Foods not only carries food products from several countries, but also houses a restaurant and catering business. If you don’t mind eating within the grocery isles (and why would you) then drop in for some shopping and lunch. Everything I’ve eaten there has been fresh and delicious.
Alhana Foods. 25 West 37th Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94403. (650) 349-3300. http://www.alhana.net
Tahini Ice Cream with Bittersweet Chocolate and Sesame Candy
If Macedonian Tahini is hard to find, use regular tahini and add 3 Tbsp. of honey in step 5 and reduce sugar to 1/2 cup.
2 oz. sesame candy (Makedoniko Pasteli)
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cup reduced fat milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Tahini with Honey
1. Finely chop sesame candy. Candy should measure about 1/2 cup.
2. Shave chocolate with a knife, creating small pieces/shavings. Chocolate should measure about 1/2 cup. Set aside both candy and chocolate.
3. Combine milk and cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally so that mixture doesn’t scald on bottom and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. In a mixing bowl, add eggs, yolks, and sugar and whisk by hand until mixture is thick and glossy and pale yellow, about one minute. In a slow stream add a ladle of hot milk mixture to eggs, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly so that eggs don’t curdle. Repeat until half of milk is incorporated into eggs. Return yolk-milk mixture back into saucepan with remaining hot milk. Place back on stovetop and heat on medium, whisking constantly until custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat. If there are any lumps, strain mixture through a fine sieve or fine mesh strainer.
5. Add tahini to custard, whisking well to incorporate. Cool custard, stirring occasionally, on countertop for about 15 minutes. Pour custard into a measuring cup and place in the refrigerator to cool completely, about 2 hours. There should be 4 cups of custard.
6. Pour custard into ice cream machine and continue to prepare ice cream according to manufacturer’s directions. About halfway through freezing, add chocolate and candy to machine and continue to freeze. Remove ice cream from machine and place in a freezer-safe container. Keep frozen for up to 1 month.
7. To serve, remove ice cream from freezer and soften at room temperature until able to scoop. Serve ice cream with a drizzle of honey on top.