Honey sweet, honey bitter
Up to my eyeballs with Rosh Hashanah preparations – lamb shanks roasting, honey orange sponge cake cooling upside down over a soda bottle, chicken soup simmering, apples all over my counter waiting to be sliced – I hear the doorbell. Slightly annoyed at the interruption, I open the door to find the UPS man delivering my eagerly-awaited copy of “Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey: The Mediterranean Flavors of Sardinia” (Rizzoli International) by restaurateur Efisio Farris with Jim Eber.
A cookbook with honey taking center stage arrives erev Rosh Hashanah. How beshert (destined) is that?
Sardinians flavor not only their desserts, but also their savory dishes with many varieties of local honey: miele millefiori (thousand flower honey), eucalyptus, chestnut, and the afodelo, acacia, and cardo flowers.
But two are truly unique in flavor – abbamele, a honey and pollen reduction they drizzle over ice cream, cheese, fresh fruit...even salads, and miele amaro or bitter honey, made from the flowers of the strawberry trees – a staple in every Sardinian kitchen – whose flavor Farris describes as “a deep yet fleeting sweetness, followed by an appealingly bitter aftertaste.” (Bitter honey as well as other Sardinian delicacies may be ordered through his web site, www.gourmetsardinia.com.)
In this his first cookbook, Farris introduces us to a little-known cuisine, rich in flavor and history. I am drawn to the warmth of his family, the passion he exudes for his heritage, and the glimpse he provides into this fascinating and enchanting region. To be sure, Farris is not Jewish, but I am especially intrigued by his Sweet Ravioli with Bitter Honey. One man's ravioli is another man's kreplach - or woman's! - and these irresistible fried dumplings topped with warm bitter honey are especially appropriate for Rosh Hashanah.
Because the holiday comes at the beginning of the lunar month when the moon is hidden, it is traditional to eat foods like kreplach, with their hidden interior. And because they are fried, they just might be appropriate for Hanukkah too! Maybe not anything that Farris envisioned, but delicious nonetheless.