585: A sweet Christmas gift from a Jewish, Iraqi-Catholic friendship

oday’s headline may seem puzzling, but it’s part of an unusual treat this week—the story of a friendship between two women: one a Jewish writer and the other a culinary expert sometimes called “The Chaldean Martha Stewart.” Chaldeans are Iraqi Catholics, most of whom have fled Iraq over the years.
    You’ll enjoy this true story of friendship, written by Lynne Schreiber, over the next couple of days. And, we know you’ll enjoy it, partly because we’re starting this little feast with the dessert!
    Today, we’re sharing recipes from Samira Cholagh, the Iraqi-American author of several cookbooks and now Lynne’s close friend. It’s a timely gift! In the final weeks of the year, millions of Americans have at least a few days of vacation when families and friends gather—and many of us are looking for fresh ideas to greet visitors in a hospitable way. Frankly, we can’t think of a better gift to share with you than these recipes from Samira’s upcoming third cookbook.
    Come back tomorrow for the story of Lynne’s and Samira’s friendship. Today, we’re starting with the dessert partly to sweeten your week—and partly because you just might want to visit the grocery store and pick up the ingredients in time for the holidays.
    (If you don’t recall Lynne’s past work, here’s a link to a story she wrote back in September: An Awakening in Canoes.”)


Pistachio Butter Cookies

Makes 36 cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 lemon zest, grated

2 cups all-purpose flour

36 pistachios, shelled, unsalted


1. In a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
2. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and beat until well blended. Gradually add flour, mix until well incorporated and form a smooth dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat over to 350°F. Pinch a small piece of dough the size of a walnut, form into a smooth ball. Roll into 4-5 inches long rope, shape in the form of a ring. Place a pistachio onto the point where the ends of the rope meet, press to seal.
4. Arrange cookies on baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Strawberry Tart

Makes 8-10 servings.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

2 1/2-3 tablespoons cold water

1 large egg yolk

1 cup strawberry preserves

1 tablespoon orange juice
1 recipe chocolate mousse (see below)

3 pints strawberries, halved


1. To make the crust, in a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt until well blended. Add butter, cut in slices with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water and egg yolk, mix in with fork until well incorporated and form soft pliable dough. Form into ball and flatten to disk, cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30-50 minutes.
2. Lightly butter a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with removable flutted rim.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 12 inch round, gently fold dough in and half and transfer to prepared pan, unfolding it. Fit dough into tart pan pressing dough up sides of rim. Then trim dough flush with top of ring. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line pastry pan with parchment paper, fill with pie weight or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove parchment paper and pie weight or dried beans. Bake for 8-10 minutes more or until crust begins to darken around edges, piercing if crust bubbles. Remove from oven. Spread 1/2 cup strawberry preserves over bottom of crust. Bake for 3 minutes more. Set aside to cool completely.
5. Spread chocolate mousse over strawberry preserves. Place strawberries on top, pointed ends up, covering completely.
6. In a small saucepan, place remaining strawberry preserves over medium heat until melted. Brush over strawberries. Cool in refrigerator and serve.

Chocolate Mousse

Makes 2 cups.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped


1. Place heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan, place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, remove saucepan from heat.
2. Whisk in chocolate until melted and smooth. Transfer mixture to a glass bowl, refrigerate for 40-45 minutes or until chilled but not firm.
3. Using hand mixer, beat chocolate mixture until thick and firm.


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