Thursday, March 21, 2013
Our Persian-Inspired House Haroset
Spring has arrived, and in celebration I brought home tulips today and painted my toes pink. Between the pouring rain and lashing wind, though, it’s not feeling particularly spring-like yet, but once I start thinking of the balmy days ahead there’s no stopping me.
Having Passover fall in March this year is creating a bit of a scramble as I scrub the kitchen and clear out all the hametz (leavened items like pasta and bread). Fortunately, I also get to plan the seder menu which is so much more fun! A seder is the traditional Passover dinner that celebrates the ancient Israelites’ journey from slavery to freedom. I also get to dust off my seder plate, which is used to hold symbolic foods during the seder. I love our seder plate! Bob and I brought it home from a pottery co-op in Jerusalem back in 1994, where we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. Such special memories.
I keep a Passover file with each year’s notes, suggestions and recipes I want to try. Once it’s all spread out over the dining room table, I get out my pen and notepad and start planning. We have eight days of eating unleavened foods (including matzah roca!), which leads to some creative cooking that I truly enjoy.
One of the symbolic foods we put on the seder plate is haroset. Haroset is typically made of fruit and nuts mixed with wine and spread on matzah to eat. The chunky mixture represents the mortar that the Israelite slaves used when in Egypt. Haroset is made with a quick blitz in the food processor or you can crunch it together with a mortar and pestle. The most familiar version is made with chopped apples, walnuts and sweet wine.
There are many different harosets reflecting different Jewish cultures. Suriname, Egypt, Yemen and Turkey are just a few – you can take a trip around the world just eating haroset! Each year, I like to do a haroset tasting and sample some different flavor combinations. There’s one haroset that’s always on our menu, though, and it’s this one: our house haroset.
I discovered this Persian-inspired recipe almost twenty years ago, when Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America was first published. It includes strawberries, dates and bananas in addition to apples and nuts. Sweet, spicy, soft and crunchy ... let’s just say it was love at first taste! I’ve changed a few ingredients and spiced it up a bit over the years and it’s become a family tradition.
Some of my favorite times volunteering in my sons’ Jewish elementary school were when I taught each of their classes to make this haroset. I roughly chopped up dates, strawberries, bananas and apples and let the students scoop the ingredients into small bowls and sprinkle on cinnamon and a splash of cherry juice. Then their little hands got busy pounding away with wooden spoons to create a chunky paste. We slathered the haroset on matzah and happily snacked away.
Adapted from Jewish Cooking in America
By Joan Nathan
Makes about 4 cups
1 cup pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried, unsweetened cherries
10 ounces strawberries, stems removed and cut in half
1 medium banana, peeled and chopped
1 medium apple, cored and chopped (I use Granny Smith)
6 ounces dates, pitted and sliced in half
2 tablespoons cherry juice (I used dark cherry concentrate) or pomegranate juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional, provides a little kick)
Matzah or crackers for serving
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until a chunky paste is formed. Spoon the haroset into a bowl to serve alongside matzah. It can be made a few hours ahead and kept covered in the fridge.
Haroset also makes a marvelous breakfast when spread on matzah (or toast) with some cream cheese.