Chef Olivia Hayo of Beautiful Food Inside + Out re-creates her culinary memories of the Mediterranean using inspiration, and local, seasonal ingredients, from her home in San Diego's Little Italy.
This week, a pistachio and pomegranate pudding cup reflects the seaside treats of Hof Hobonim in Israel.
As the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv disappeared in our rear-view mirror, hand-painted cardboard signs boasting “the best” falafel, baklava, and malabi began dotting the edges of the road. We were headed north on a day-trip to escape the heat and familiarity of the city.
Wind-swept coastline and rolling agricultural fields let us know that we had driven far enough. We turned off the pavement and bumped along a dirt road, pausing at some train tracks.
I noticed a man sitting in a folding chair under a wind-torn awning, a blue cooler at his feet. A sign that read “malabi” was propped against it. With the window rolled down I held up two fingers to place our order. With little more than a nod, he reached into the cooler and took out two clear cups filled with bright, white, chilled milk pudding.
He gestured to the bottle and jars on the table, inviting us to customize our order. My husband asked him for “the works”. Neon pink rose-scented syrup, shredded coconut, and crushed peanuts were generously added to the cups, which were then handed to us through the car window—Middle Eastern drive-thru dinning at its finest.
With our treats in hand, we continued on the dirt road until we found ourselves facing the deep blue churning sea at Hof Habonim. The shell-lined shore was the perfect spot to enjoy our roadside find.
Each smooth spoonful of sweetly floral pudding was balanced by the texture and nuttiness of the coconut and peanuts. It was a simple dessert that was greater than the sum of its parts.
When we moved to San Diego, the memory of this dish became my template for simple, make-ahead desserts that I can easily adapt to the seasons. My favorite wintertime version employs a silky pudding made from almond milk scented with cardamom, topped with a sweet and sour syrup made from pomegranate juice and local honey from the Little Italy Farmers Market that bustles each weekend just outside my door.