My version of the classic Halvas Simigdalenios, a Lenten (vegan) dessert served the weeks preceding Easter. Orange juice in the syrup makes it much more interesting, while substituting corn for the semolina you have a perfect, gluten-free sweet.
2/3 cup light olive oil
1 cup fine semolina or yellow cornmeal
1 cup coarse semolina or polenta corn
1/2 cup almonds, blanched and quartered (optional)
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (optional)
For the syrup:
1 cup water
4 cups orange juice
2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cloves
1 large piece of lemon or orange peel
Ground cinnamon, for serving
Coarsely ground pistachios, for serving
First make the syrup.
In a pot bring to a boil the water and orange juice with the sugar, the cinnamon stick, the cloves, and the lemon or orange peel and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pass through a fine sieve and discard the cloves, the cinnamon stick and the peel.
In a heavy-bottomed pot warm the olive oil and add the semolina or corn.
Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook the grain over medium heat for about 15 minutes or more, until the mixture starts to color.
Add the almonds, walnuts or pine nuts, if using and sauté, turning a few times.
Remove from the heat.
Very carefully, wearing kitchen gloves because the mixture will bubble vigorously, pour the syrup over the cooked grains, stirring once with the wooden spoon.
Cover the pot with a tea towel, and let sit for 10 minutes so that the grains absorb the syrup.
Spoon the mixture into a mold, or in individual cups or muffin tins and let cool completely, then refrigerate, if you like, for up to 4 days.
Unmold on a plate, sprinkle with cinnamon and pistachios and cut small pieces to serve. Halva is quite a substantial sweet!