December 15, 2018

Charoset Sampler From All Over the World

While planning for Passover, my favorite family holiday celebration, I received an email from Jennifer Abadi about her new Passover cookbook, “Too Good to Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories From Africa, Asia and Europe.”

I met her many years ago, a young food writer, teacher and cookbook author living in New York. We continue to correspond because I always am amazed at her accomplishments, teaching, stories, recipe research and cooking special dinners. She now has written an amazing cookbook about her Sephardic heritage, which she admits has taken her nine years to complete.

A compilation of more than 200 Passover recipes from 23 Jewish communities, this cookbook-memoir provides a historical context to the ways in which the Jewish communities of North Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean and Middle East observe and enjoy this beloved ancient festival.

In addition to full seder menus and Passover-week recipes, each chapter opens with memories of friends and family.

“Too Good to Passover” is a versatile and inspiring reference cookbook, appealing to those who may want to introduce a different “food theme” during the holiday.

One of the mainstays on the seder plate is charoset, usually a mixture of fruits, nuts, wine and spices. Depending on the ingredients available, the mixture is ground together to resemble the mortar that was used by the Jews when they were slaves in Egypt.

We love the concept of new food ideas for Passover, always adding interesting items to our menu. During the seder, we have a charoset tasting that includes examples that Jewish communities around the world serve during the holiday. Each guest receives a plate containing several charoset options with small flags identifying the country that they represent.

We love the concept of new food ideas for Passover, always adding interesting items to our menu.

I was amazed that more than 20 charoset examples were included among her Passover recipes, and this year we have included some of the traditional Sephardic charoset recipes that I have adapted from Jennifer Abadi’s new cookbook.

AFGHANI CHAROSET
1/2 cup raw whole almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup cashews
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup black raisins
10 small dates, pitted and coarsely
chopped (about 1/2 cup)
6 tablespoons applesauce
4 teaspoons sweet kosher-for-Passover wine
2 tablespoons orange juice

Pulse nuts, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in food processor until coarsely ground, about 30 seconds.

Add raisins and dates and pulse 30 seconds, then add applesauce, wine and orange juice and blend until mixture is thick and chunky.

Serve at room temperature in a bowl. Store in refrigerator bring to room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Makes about 2 cups.

TURKISH STYLE APPLE-DATE CHAROSET
1 8-ounce red apple,
peeled, rinsed, cored and
cut into 1/2-inch cubes
(about 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces Medjool or regular dates, pitted
and coarsely chopped
2 cups water
1/4 cup pine nuts, dry toasted in a small
skillet, cooled and finely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons sweet kosher wine or
cider vinegar

Combine apples, dates and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent burning, until mixture is thickened like a chunky compote.

Remove from heat and combine with remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Before serving scoop into small bowls and bring to room temperature.Makes about 2 cups.

BULGARIAN STYLE CHAROSET
1 pound (about 24 large) Medjool dates,
pitted and cut in half
1 cup water
1 2/3 cup walnuts
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice,
red wine or grape juice
1/2 cup finely chopped or coarsely
ground walnuts (for garnish)

Bring dates and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce to medium-low heat (so as not to burn) and steam dates, covered, until soft, 5 minutes.

Blend the walnuts in a food processor for about 30 seconds. Add the cooked dates and lemon juice and pulse until very smooth.

Cool to room temperature and serve in bowls sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes about 2 cups.

GREEK-STYLE CHAROSET
2 cups black raisins
6 ounces peeled red apples, cut in 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
3 cups walnuts
2 teaspoons orange juice

Blend raisins, apples, walnuts and orange juice in a food processor until thick and smooth.

Measure 1 level tablespoon of mixture at a time, and roll into smooth balls about 1-inch in diameter. (Mixture will be soft, so roll gently). Place in a bowl or container and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day in advance.

Makes about 2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a journalist, cooking teacher and cookbook author, including “Italy Cooks.”