I would like to thank everyone who reached out to me with expressions of sympathy on the death of my mother. Your comments were helpful and healing.
Holiday meal traditions observed at home reconnect us to our roots and the generations that preceded us. Those roots too often get gobbled up by the day-to-day challenges of just getting through the days. It never ceases to amaze me that on the night of the first seder, Jews around the world are experiencing a giant dine-in — gathered and sharing essentially “the same meal” simultaneously — and have been for thousands of years.
Our holiday traditions are filled with flavor memories. With good reason, we repeat these memories, and innovate at the risk of the wrath of our dinner guests. With regard to Passover, brisket always feels de rigueur. But traditional holiday meals can get tiresome as we “arrest the usual suspects.” It is the courageous host who dares serve something new to family and friends who came expecting the same old thing! I encourage you to be such a courageous host.
A simple way to introduce something new is to work around the edges of the menu. Not the brisket, but the accompaniments like this year’s Asparagus with Mustard Butter in place of the the usual string beans. Or At Home’s Upside-down Caramelized Matzo Kugel. A very simple way to innovate is to simply add something new without taking anything away. Last Passover my sister-in-law Nancy added a delicious Sephardic charoset to the seder table. It provided a rich and complex counter-point to the crisp, simple freshness of the traditional chopped apples and walnuts that she also served.
As most American Jews – including yours truly — trace their roots to Eastern Europe, most of our Passover charosets are based on the fresh apples of the Ashkenazi tradition. The Sephardic charoset is based on dried fruit and has the advantage of being able to prepare well ahead. You may substitute pomegranate juice for the red wine. You need lots of different dried fruit for this, but you can buy just what you need from the bulk food bins of health food stores or Whole Foods. If you buy the individual packets you will likely have more dried fruit than you need. Resist making a larger batch as a little Shepardic charoset goes a long way. Leftover dried fruit and nuts, mixed together, makes for a welcome after dinner sweet snack with coffee at a future meal. Try adding some chocolate chips to your after-dinner snack mix.
Do Ahead May be prepared up to two days before serving. If adding fresh mint, add a few hours before serving.
½ cup dates, pits removed
¼ cup prunes, pits removed
¼ cup dried figs
¼ cup dried apples
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup raisins
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup pecans, whole or pieces
¼ cup walnuts, whole or pieces
¼ cup pistachios
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh mint, optional
1 Place dates, prunes, figs and apples on a generous cutting board. Chop until pieces are quite small – about the size of the cranberries and raisins. It may be easier to do this in batches – one fruit at a time. Dried fruit is sticky and not easy to chop. Transfer to medium mixing bowl. Add cranberries and raisins. Add wine and honey. Allow to sit until liquid is absorbed.
2 Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine pecans, walnuts and pistachios on rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3 Coarsely chop nuts. Add to fruit mixture. Add salt. Add optional mint.
Yield 1 quart
Tomorrow: Annette Fine’s Matzo Toffee Crunch
Design Within Reach Event Postponed
The event originally scheduled for Design Within Reach at 1708 Walnut Street has been postponed. Apologies for any inconvenience. We expect to re-schedule.
Thank you for visiting.
Your Home Entertaining Coach