Posted by: Rachel | April 8, 2012

small is beautiful

wash tub with iris

iris I had a bigger tub...

I have two “ponds” in my yard, and right now both of them house water iris that is blooming! I’ve had one of these plants for a couple of years, the other one was a recent gift, and both are blooming for the first time. I had no idea what to expect for color. Oh la la… one is a beautiful sort of blush pinky lavender and the other is a deep purple.

Now understand that I use the word “pond” to mean a tiny bit of standing water that houses a few plants and some teensy mosquito fish, OK? I’m not some sort of landed gentry with “water features”. I have a galvanized wash tub and a small “rigid liner” pond that someone put out at their curb. But I do love having water in my yard, as do the birds and the cats and anyone else who stops by.

The big rock in the washtub insures that no critters can drown, and makes it harder for the coons that visit occasionally to pull up the plants. The other “pond” (which I can step across with no trouble at all) has a nice sturdy juniper branch wedged in it that lets the doves walk down to drink. Then they can fly away if the cats come.

cat walking by small pond

big kitty, small pond

Now, on the subject of small, there is a small war going on in my cul-de-sac. Its the best kind of war, though, with my neighbors all trying to “out-nice” each other. There has been much baking and potting of plants, and general gifting. I think its the season… everyone wants to both be outside and to get that last bit of baking done before it gets too hot to run our ovens!

My neighbor’s last volley consisted of a pecan pie. I have eaten lots of pecan pie in my life, but I’ve never had one like this. It is lighter than any I’ve had, and yet it seems to be crowned with some sort of eggy custard! I’ll try to get the recipe for you (and me!)…

Anyway, I figured to retaliate and at the same time to answer the burning question of what to do with that left over tahini. One of my New York cousins reminded me that I’d never answered this as promised, so here is one idea. This afternoon I made a nice batch of tahini halvah! Mmmmm….

If you don’t know halvah, it is pretty much a sesame fudge. It can be dry or slightly moist, involve chocolate (oh yes, please!), walnuts, pistachios… there are many variations. I went with a fairly straightforward “marbled” halvah, though, and this is all it takes:

Good Neighbor Halvah

2 C brown sugar
2/3 C tahini
2/3 C milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 T unsweetened cocoa (optional)
1 T chopped pistachios or walnuts (optional)

checking milk and sugar temp

nope, not yet...

Line a small mold with heavy-duty plastic wrap.

Cook the sugar and milk in a sauce pan over medium heat to just under the soft-ball stage. Remove from heat and add the tahini and any of the optional items, but do not stir.

tahini in pot, not mixed yet

almost there...

Let it rest for 2 minutes. Beat the mixture with a spatula or spoon for a few seconds. Pour it into the lined mold and let it set until cool. Keep covered on the counter and see how long it lasts…

done and cooling

cool, already...!


Its really that easy. I do recommend using a candy thermometer, but it isn’t tricky at all. You can cut it like fudge, slice it, or serve it a a “log” and just let folks go at it. I plan to set little cubes on a plate and put the ball back in my neighbor’s court! Mmmmm….I’ll keep you posted!



  1. I’ve never thought of making halva until this post. I have a tub of left over tahini in the fridge as we speak. The recipe doesn’t indicate when to add nuts, etc but I imagine the whole lot goes in at the beginning of the process.

    • Add the nuts and flavorings with the tahini at the end:

      “Remove from heat and add the tahini and any of the optional items, but do not stir.”

      It is awfully good… if I may say so myself! (grin)


  2. I love your ponds and your neighbours sound great! The halva sounds wonderful, have never thought to make it…

  3. Wouldn’t you have to divide this to marble it? Do you add the tahini without stirring, let it sit and then divide it and add cocoa to half? Looking forward to that pecan pie recipe.

    • I added the cocoa with the tahini and when I stirred it in it marbled itself as I didn’t fully incorporate the tahini. Make sense? It turned out very pretty, in any event, and tasted fine. So happy to have neighbors to unload upon! Mmmm… 🙂

  4. Sounds like the best kind of war to have! And your ponds are lovely too. I’ve never made halva. I used to eat it in Turkey, so maybe I should try it.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I have all the ingredients to give it a go x

    • So??? How did it turn out? 😉

  6. It sounds like you have great neighbors that share their bounty. How wonderful.

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