Sundown tonight concludes the eight day Jewish holiday, Passover. I've been learning about the culture by trying some Passover-inspired foods. As my final lesson, I wanted to use matzo, because I don't what I'll do with almost an entire box of whole wheat matzo that I bought to make matzo brei yesterday (though when I was little, I used to eat it just smeared with butter). With matzo as basically the only carbohydrate allowed during Passover, there are a lot of recipes out there that use matzo. But on a Sunday that I'm spending time visiting a few not-so-local Farmers' Markets, I wasn't sure I wanted to get all complicated and make matzo-gne (matzo lasagne!) or pizza with a crust made of matzo meal. And those are nowhere near the more creative recipes...
So I looked for something a little simpler, but would still teach me something about Passover, and found haroset, a sweet side dish or condiment of sorts, made basically from apples, walnuts, and red wine. It's somewhat late in the game for it, since I understand that haroset is usually served as part of the Seder dinner, the highly-ritualistic, ceremonial dinner that takes place the first (and sometimes second) night of Passover. Haroset has its very own position on the Seder plate, which holds specific food items placed in order that guide the storytelling that is part of the many rules governing the holiday. There are other things on the Seder plate that are symbols of the story like a hard boiled egg, horseradish, and parsley. Not that these things have any less meaning, but today I'm focusing on the haroset, which represents the bricks and mortar that were used by the Jewish people to build the pyramids.
Much of the story is about suffering, so I feel sort of hmmm...sacrilegous? in thinking that haroset is delicious. *eek!* I used the teeniest tiniest Fuji apples, which were were very painstaking to peel - so how's that for suffering? It sounds sort of strange to say that I used the very asian sounding Fuji apples to make something Jewish, though I haven't heard of any Jewish apples. *shrugs* I'm not sure if each of the individual ingredients in haroset has a special meaning to Passover as well, but it seems that after the chopped apples (6-8) and anywhere from a quarter to half cup of syrupy sweet Kosher red wine the recipe is pretty much up for anyone's interpretation. (Incidentally, I am no stranger to Manischewitz - probably my first introduction to wine, and in elementary school, no less!). I added a half cup of chopped walnuts, though some recipes use almonds, and I also added lemon zest in with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Lemon juice - that's probably not very meaningful - just keeps the apples from turning brown, I think.
Some recipes use white sugar, some use honey - I used a little of both. At the farmers market last week, I picked up a little jar of sage honey - which will be showing up again later this week in my full report on the southern California famers markets. And finally in the recipe, a teaspoon or less, or more, as you prefer, of cinnamon. I think if I added cranberries, I could take this haroset right to the Thanksgiving table! Haroset is served room temperature, though you can put it in the fridge to save for later. I thought putting it in the fridge may let the flavors blend together more, but I waited all of five minutes before I took it right back out. No patience, whatsoever.
I wanted to eat the haroset like a dessert right out of the bowl with a spoon, but that just seemed a little too gluttonous for what it's supposed to represent. But, thank goodness I'm not Jewish, for if I had a Jewish great grandmother, she'd be turning over in her grave. I broke the matzo into "chips" and ate the haroset like a sweet salsa. Oy vey! (And I wouldn't dare mention spooning it over vanilla ice cream! What kind of kosher kitchen am I keeping?!)
And thus concludes my week-long, Passover-inspired lesson in Jewish food and culture - macaroons, matzo ball soup, matzo brei, and finally haroset. Certainly, I learned the history of the Jewish people, but I think the main lesson I got out of it is - Jewish culture sure has a lot of rules ;)
How inspiring that you wanted to learn a totally different culture through cooking some of the foods. Kudos to you!
sarah j. gim says
why, thank you! :) yes, it was quite fun, and actually, i wanted to make latkes, but found that those are more traditionally for hannukah. guess i'll have to wait until winter!
next up - mexican in honor of CINCO DE MAYO!
If you still have leftover matzoh, here's an easy and delicious recipe for Caramel Matzoh Crunch that everyone loves, Jewish or not! It's basically toffee covered matzoh, and I like to sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
great info,....thanx lots