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.

Haroset
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.

30 comments:

  1. Oh wow. I had no idea how versatile haroset could be! This is awesome! Also, can you explain a little about cleansing your home of pasta? I didn't realize it was leavened. Is it because of the egg?

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    1. Hi Brooke! The range of harosets is indeed wide - there's an Italian version that includes hard boiled egg yolks that I want to try sometime. Pasta is not allowed during Passover because of the wheat used to make it, plus it then is leavened once combined with water (that's a whole other topic). No foods containing wheat, barley, spelt or rye are allowed. Matzah is made with wheat specifically grown for Passover and it's not allowed to rise, so that's why it's is ok. There are pasta noodles made with potato starch that can be used during Passover, but my feeling it's better to enjoy pasta again once the holiday ends. So many other good things to eat! Happy spring to you!

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  2. What a great combination! We'll definitely have to make this next time we see you -- in VN, CA, or both! Oh, and happy birthday!

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    1. Thank you, Tim & Kristen! Can't wait to see you. xoxo

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  3. That plate is so beautiful. Have a happy passover :)

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    1. Thank you, Kiran! I love pulling this seder plate out each year - so many special memories. We're enjoying a lovely Passover week so far. Happy spring to you!

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    1. Thank you, Sara! I had a marvelous, delicious day. Any chance you're coming to Seattle for spring break? Happy Easter! :)

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  5. Your Seder plate is beautiful! I love how organized you are about everything. I can not wait for some matzo ball soup!

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    1. Thank you, Alyssa! I hope you enjoyed wonderful seders. I love matzo ball soup, too. This year I made potato knaidelach for our chicken soup - so good! http://theshiksa.com/2011/04/06/gluten-free-potato-knaidelach/ Happy spring to you!

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  6. This sounds so good! I love the dish you display the haroset in--it reminds me of my great-grandmother's green glass candy dish. It has a small bird as the handle on the lid. When my mom was little, they had to be very careful when they were allowed to lift the lid to get a piece of candy!

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    1. Thank you, Brianne! This green bowl is a favorite of mine and it belonged to my grandmother. Love the bird theme of your great-grandmother's dish, too. Old glass pieces are so pretty, aren't they? I hope you're enjoying the start of spring.

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  7. Your haroset sounds delicious...I can see why it is your favorite. Your seder plate is wonderful and special.

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    1. Thank you, Karen! We've been enjoying a lot of haroset this week and I'm about to make a new batch. Such a good breakfast and snack! Seeing our seder plate each year makes my very happy - lots of good memories. Happy spring to you!

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  8. I usually go to my friends for Passover seder, she generally buys almost everything at Zabar's and I bring dessert. This year I will make this haroset. Have a wonderful holiday and I love your seder plate.

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    1. Thank you, Suzanne! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful seder and liked the haroset. I'm envious of Zabar's being nearby...what a treat. A bigger treat would be your dessert! I love your recipes for sweets.:)

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  9. It's supposed to be spring here, but it's snowing today! Just shoveled 5 inches, and more is on the way. ;-( I wish I had some of this to refuel! Great job - thanks so much.

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    1. My pleasure, John - wish I could drop a bowl of haroset off for you! Wow, you're getting some late snow. We had a few odd flurries last week and now spring has truly arrived. I hope the same happens for you soon!

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  10. I am tasked to bring the ashkenazic version of charoset tomorrow night but if time allows, I may try to make this on Tuesday. I am so intrigued by the combination. And I love your seder plate! That is one item on my list for my first visit to Israel for sure!

    Chag Sameach Hannah!

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    1. Chag sameach, Beth! I hope you enjoyed lovely seders this week. I'm sure you contributed lots of deliciousness! I can share the name of the art co-op with you whenever you visit Israel. I bought a few pieces there (a matzah plate and some jewelry). It is all so pretty and unique! Wishing you a wonderful spring weekend ahead!

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  11. And on top of the wind and rain we had snow! It was crazy, wasn't it? Anyways, what a great spread. Do you save it just for the holidays or do you ever make it just because. This looks like something I'd want to eat more than once a year. YUM!

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    1. That snow and hail was indeed crazy, Mikaela! We were outside at my son's track & field meet...happy to see the sunny direction the weather has taken now. We only eat haroset during Passover, but you raise a good question because it is totally delicious and would be good at any time. Hope you're out enjoying this gorgeous day!

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  12. The special seder plate is beautiful. The yellow tulips and your beautiful post brought me nice joy in this gloomy morning here. I'd love to taste your haroset. Happy Passover!

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    1. Thank you so much, Nami! You made me smile. I hope your days have brightened and feel more spring-like now. I wish I lived nearby and could bring you a dish of haroset! Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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  13. Chag sameach Hannah! I love that you have your Passover notebook with recipes and food ideas! That haroset looks delicious! Here's wishing to a speedy spring!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! Passover and Thanksgiving are my two favorite holidays so I love collecting recipes and notes for each of them. We just devoured another batch of haroset - such a delicious snack. Happy spring to you!

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  14. Hope you had a wonderful Passover!

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    1. Thank you, Orly! We enjoyed some lovely seders and it was a fun, festive time. I hope you had a marvelous Passover, too! :)

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  15. I love all your traditions Hannah & I am liking the sound of haroset with all those lovely fruits & nuts.

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    1. Thank you, Mairi! Haroset is truly wonderful and you can get creative with the fruit (both dried and fresh) and nuts you use. I often wonder why we don't eat it during the year - I guess that keeps it extra special for Passover. :)

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