(The Nosher via JTA) – October is upon us. I know because my Instagram feed is full of decorative gourds and pumpkin spice lattes.
But as much as Americans truly love pumpkin, we are sometimes guilty of typecasting this nutritious vegetable as sweet and forget that pumpkin has a savory side, too. Happily, Sephardic cuisine abounds with savory pumpkin dishes to remind us of this fall vegetable’s versatility. My favorite of these is chershi karaa, a tangy, spicy pumpkin spread created by Libyan Jews and now a favorite among Israelis.
Chershi (sometimes spelled chirshi or tershi) are spicy, highly flavored condiments or dips that are typically served as part of mezze, the spread of hot and cold dishes that precede the main meal in the Middle East and North Africa. Pumpkin chershi is among the most famous.
I first learned about pumpkin chershi when I attended an event hosted by the Israeli Consulate in Chicago. The event featured leading Israeli food personality Gil Hovav making some traditional Sephardic dishes from his childhood, one of which was pumpkin chershi. One taste of Hovav’s savory, spicy chershi and I was hooked.
As is often the case in Jewish cuisine, there are many ways to make pumpkin chershi. In his dish, for example, Hovav mixes pumpkin with carrot and potato. Others use only pumpkin. But everyone seems to agree that chershi karaa should be spicy and tangy, with lots of garlic and lemon juice.
One of the best things about pumpkin chershi is how easy it is to make. Using canned pumpkin puree, this recipe comes together in a few minutes. The only ingredient you might not have on hand is the harissa, but these days it’s easy to find at the grocery store. (Hovav argues that powdered caraway seed is essential to chershi, but I have seen plenty of recipes without it, and since few Americans have this spice in their pantries, I omitted it.)
My goal with this pumpkin chershi recipe was to create a nice balance of sweetness, heat and acid. I guarantee that it will change how you think about pumpkin.
How best to eat it?
Chershi makes a fantastic dip alongside some warm pita with a dollop of cool yogurt on top. But don’t stop there. Chershi also works as a sandwich spread, and it has traditionally been eaten as a garnish for couscous.
This fall, take a break from pumpkin bread and pumpkin spice lattes and make something new and especially Jewish with pumpkin.
More In News
Alexander Hillel Treisman, Accused of Plotting to Kill Joe Biden, is Son of Prominent Jewish AttorneyAccused of planning to execute Joe Biden, Alexander Hillel Treisman comes from a Jewish family. read more
- Sudan and Israel announce they will end their state of belligerency and normalize relations. read more
- A popular Owings Mills lunch restaurant and full-service caterer, The Gourmet Girls opens its second location at Dumbarton Square in Pikesville. read more
- Jmore talks with Dr. David N. Maine, the new president and CEO of Mercy Health Services, about what it's like to be the Jewish head of a Catholic-based health system, … read more