Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holy Haroset, Batman!

In the course of researching a dish for a past Joust, I came across an intriguing Passover recipe. It was for a dish called haroset, which combines fruit, nuts, and often red wine in a spiced spread or dip. Haroset is a kosher food made for the Seder, a somber meal eaten during the Jewish Passover, and it is as full of symbolism as it is of fruit:
Haroset (also charoset or charoses), the blend of fruit and nuts symbolizing the mortar which our forefathers used to build pyramids in Egypt, is one of the most popular and discussed foods served at the Seder. The fruit and nuts found in almost all haroset recipes refer to two verses in the Song of Songs closely linked with the spring season: "Under the apple tree I awakened thee" (8:5) and "I went down into the garden of nuts" (6:11). The red wine recalls the Red Sea, which parted its waters for the Jews.

The real purpose of the haroset is to allay the bitterness of the maror (bitter herbs) required at the Seder. (Quoted from The Jewish Holiday Kitchen by Joan Nathan on
There are a number of fruit, nut, and spice combinations that can go into haroset. The most prevalent, at least for American Jews, tends toward the mixing of diced apples, walnuts, red wine, and cinnamon with a little brown sugar or honey. That is what I made my particular batch of haroset with, based off this recipe, substituting red vinegar for the wine (fruit-flavored vinegars work well, too). There are also other options, such as using dates, figs, pears, or apricots (or all of them!) as the fruit and almonds or pistachios for the nut.

My first taste of haroset was fabulous. Forget eating it as a matzoh sandwich or on anything at all -- I ate this straight up with a spoon! However, if you have enough restraint, I think it would also taste wonderful on yogurt, cereal, a baked apple, ice cream, or toast, to name a few possibilities. A word of warning, though -- the texture works best if you hand dice the apples and walnuts, and not "chop" them in your food processor like I did. I ended up with more of a puree than a chunky mixture. I made a second batch with hand-diced pears and a few dates instead of apples, and the consistency was perfect.

I have an idea about using this as a mix-in for oatmeal. Hot spiced apples with the soft crunch of walnuts and the stick-to-your-ribs thickness of cooked oats? I can't think of a more kosher way to start an autumn morning. (Also, a garnish of pumpkin spice candy corn is in no way amiss with this dish!)

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