Spiced Halvah Spread on honey cake. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Spiced Halvah Spread on honey cake. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Pumpkin spice time: bring a little Americana to halvah and lamb chops

Does autumn have a flavor? I’d have to say it’s the comforting, sweet spiciness of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves — integral to spice mixes such as Moroccan ras el hanout and Middle Eastern baharat as well as the popular American pumpkin pie spice.

It’s the easy-to-find American pumpkin pie spice that stands in for the international blends in the recipes below.

The halvah spread is a spiced, sweet topping for baked goods made from tahini. Make the lamb chops with cardamom plum sauce with either rib or shoulder lamb chops. Mix red and yellow flesh plums for a colorful sauce.

Pumpkin pie spice blends vary. Look for one that contains cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and either allspice or cardamom. And, if desired, forgo the American standby and use either ras el hanout or baharat.


Spiced Halvah Spread

Makes about ¾ cup

  • ½ cup tahini, mixed well before measuring
  • 2 Tbs. agave syrup or honey
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar, or as needed
  • ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • Grapeseed or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil, if needed

Thoroughly mix tahini with agave and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir in sugar (sift if lumpy) and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. The mixture should be spreadable but not be loose or stiff. (It continues to thicken as it sits.) If necessary, stir in vegetable oil or extra confectioners’ sugar until spreadable.

Use immediately or keep refrigerated airtight for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before using, adding oil to thin, if needed. Use as a spread on toasted or untoasted slices of challah or other bread, or in loaf cakes such as pound, honey or lemon. Use as a filling or frosting for cake, as a filling between two cookies, as a topping for bar cookies such as blondies, or (thinned with a little vegetable oil) as a topping for fresh fruit or berries.

Serving suggestion: Spread atop a toasted slice of pound cake. Sprinkle with toppings such as chopped pistachios, almonds, grated lemon zest, chocolate shavings, berries and/or edible flower petals. Drizzle top with agave, honey or silan (date syrup).


Spice-Rubbed Lamb Chops with Cardamom Plum Sauce

Serves 4

  • Spice mix paste (see recipe below)
  • 1½ lbs. lamb chops (see note below)
  • Vegetable oil for grill
  • Cardamom plum sauce (see recipe below)
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint, parsley or cilantro for garnish
Spice-Rubbed Lamb Chops with Cardamom Plum Sauce. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Spice-Rubbed Lamb Chops with Cardamom Plum Sauce. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Rub spice mix paste on both sides of chops. Let chops sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, or covered overnight in refrigerator. If refrigerated, bring chops to room temperature before grilling.

Oil grill grate or grill pan and grill on medium heat, turning occasionally, about 7 to 11 minutes total for medium-rare (more for medium). Cut into chop to check doneness. The chops can also be grilled in a closed, panini-style grill, broiled, or cooked in an oiled skillet. Timing will vary depending on thickness of chop and cooking method.

Serve topped with cardamom plum sauce, garnished with chopped mint.

Note: 1½ lbs. is about 4 lamb shoulder (arm) chops and about 8 single lamb rib chops.

Spice mix paste: Mix 1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice, ¾ tsp. salt, ¾ tsp. ground black pepper, ¾ tsp. ground cumin, ¼ tsp. garlic powder and ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper. Stir in 3 Tbs. olive oil until well blended.

Plum cardamom sauce: Pit and chop 3 to 4 medium plums (about 10 oz.) into ¼-inch pieces. Mix with 2 Tbs. finely chopped red onion and 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice. Stir in 3 Tbs. minced fresh mint (or 1½ Tbs. crumbled dried mint), ⅛ tsp. ground cardamom and ⅛ tsp. salt. Make just before grilling the chops.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at [email protected].