When it comes to finding the city’s best and most authentic ethnic eats, sometimes you have to look in unexpected places. Most weekday mornings, you’ll find recent Turkish transplant Hulya Temiz behind the counter at the Tribeca branch of Amish Market(53 Park Pl at West Broadway, 212-608-3863) quietly preparing savory pastries—burekas, gozleme—for the lunchtime crush. To these, she’s added irmik helvasi, or semolina halvah ($2), an ancient sweet so revered in her homeland that the 13th-century poet Rumi called it “the halvah of contentment.” And contentment is what we feel whenever we bring this traditional delicacy to our desks for a midday snack, which these days we’re doing almost daily. Temiz is a trained chef who operated a restaurant in Ankara before relocating about a year ago to the U.S. Not to be confused with Middle Eastern sesame halvah, the Turkish variety begins with coarse semolina, simple syrup, milk and butter that are simmered and stirred until golden, and transformed into a thick pudding with a nutty flavor. In Turkey, it might be spooned into bowls and topped with ice cream. Here, Temiz uses an ice-cream scoop, which she brought from home, to create portable servings. Studded with toasted pine nuts and dusted with cinnamon, it’s a soft, dense (thank you, butter) and filling comfort food you can eat with your hands. Consider that next time you turn up your noses at chain stores, foodies.
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