My favorite genres of sweets are those that are crisp, salty, or creamy. The golden-brown outer bits of a pie crust, I love. The shattering shell of a croissant. So I was destined to fall in love with knafe, an Arabic dessert I'd had before but only truly appreciated in Israel.
It's a nest of fine, fine pastry threads shaped into a flat sort of web, topped with soft cheese, then piled with more pastry. After baking it's drizzled (or, often, drenched) in rosewater or orange blossom syrup. Crushed pistachios often ride on top to garnish.
I loved this Palestinian version in Jerusalem, dyed bright orange and drowned in syrup, its thick layer of goat's milk cheese just barely holding together. It's salty and sweet together, in the best of ways.
And it dresses up nicely, too, like at the Knafeh at the Port stall at Jaffa Port market, where Mati Zadok and Danny Phillips make knafe to order—five different kinds, including a gluten-free version. "We went all over Israel and Palestine looking for the best knafe we could. Ours is a bit boutique, but we wanted to give people choices, and always make theirs to order."
Any other knafe fans out there? What's the best you've ever had?
Editor's note: Carey was on a culinary tour of Israel through Taste of Israel.