Yes, yes, I'm unforgivably late in posting a Passover recipe, especially given that the holiday starts in about 5 minutes here on the west coast. Those of you on the east coast are probably well into your macaroons by now and drunk on umpteen glasses of kosher wine. But here we go anyway.
Charoset (or haroset, or charoses) is kind of a pesto, but sweet with fruit, nuts and wine in place of the garlic, herbs, and cheese. So it's really not pesto, I guess, but you see my point. It symbolizes the mortar the Israelites used to bond bricks together during their time of slavery in ancient Egypt.
It's also very tasty.
So tasty, in fact, that I usually eat it as an entree and am full by the time the real entree arrives, unless the entree is Julia's tsimmes, in which case I'll shove inappropriate quantities of meat into one side of my mouth while delivering matzohfuls of charoset to the other.
Not very demure, but it works for me.
The secret to good charoset is making it sweet but not too sweet, cinnamony but not too spicy, and moist but not sopping wet. The texture, in particular, has got to be right. Not mushy, but not totally discrete. I like it best when it has a combination of textures. A combination.
Two years ago, I had a charoset revelation. My friend Alison, of latke fame, brought a new kind of charoset to the Seder, and by new I only mean new to me. Hers is a Sephardic charoset, so its roots are North African as opposed to Eastern European, and it was sticky with dates and bright with chunks of orange peel. It had very little in common with my charoset and yet...
I wanted to marry it.
And so, due to my indecisive yet generous nature, I offer you both recipes. Happy Passover, or Happy Easter, or Happy Spring.
Just, be happy.
Recipe for Ashkenazi Passover Charoset
I find the rhythm of chopping the apples and nuts by hand quite relaxing. You may disagree, and that's perfectly fine. Serve with matzoh, and, if you like, a bit of horseradish.
Makes 5 cups
1-1/2 cups pecans, walnuts, or a combination, toasted, chopped very fine
3 Fuji apples, cored (peel on or off, your choice), chopped very fine
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sweet red wine
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Puree half of mixture in a food processor until a rough paste forms. Return to the serving bowl with the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
Recipe for Sephardic Passover Charoset
This unusual charoset was adapted from a recipe my friend Alison shared with me. You'll notice that it uses an entire, unpeeled orange, so please choose an organic, seedless one if you can. The charoset is both quite sweet and also a bit bitter due to the orange peel. The combination is surprising and delicious.
Makes 2-3/4 cups, packed
1 medium seedless orange, well-rinsed, preferably organic
1 pound Medjool dates (about 22-24), pits removed and discarded
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sweet (red) wine
1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, toasted, finely chopped
Cut the orange into 6-8 rough pieces (do not peel) and place in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the dates. Process for about 15 seconds, or until a mushy paste forms but rough chunks of orange peel are still visible.
Place in a small saucepan with the sugar, cinnamon, and wine. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn.
Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in the chopped nuts.