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Ricotta with Date and Pecan Pesto

This is a great Italian inspired Rosh Hashanah treat. You get all the sweet and savory aspects that you love with challah and honey, but here the sweetness comes from a delicious balsamic vinegar and dates. You’ll want to make sure you can use the best and freshest ricotta you can find, which usually requires a trip to your local farmer’s market or cheese shop, or at least the cheese counter in your supermarket — the dairy aisle just can’t supply a product as fresh as you want for a dish this simple. Since the cheese is so creamy and the dates so sweet, I love to offset it with a really great, peppery olive oil and challah.

Serves 6–8

8 slices of challah
2 cups lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt, divided
4 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons best-quality balsamic vinegar
1 pound fresh ricotta

  1. Arrange the challah sliced on a baking sheet. Toast at 425F for 6 to 8 minutes, until they’re browning along the edges. Remove and cool slightly.

  2. Combine the parsley, pecans, Parmesan, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and dates, then stir in the olive oil and vinegar.

  3. Season the ricotta with the remaining ½ teaspoon with salt and spread it in a rimmed serving dish or bowl, with a wide, shallow well in the center for the pesto. Don’t be shy — each bite should get a little of the creamy ricotta, bright pesto, and oil. Double- dipping is encouraged.

Adapted from “Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” by Alon Shaya, Knopf Doubleday.


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