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Haroset with Bible land fruits

Haroset with Bible land fruits
Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Haroset, a blend of fruit, nuts and wine, is probably the most popular food of the eight-day holiday of Passover, which begins on Monday night.

For the Seder, the feast commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, haroset is spooned onto the Seder plate alongside other symbolic Passover preparations and is served as part of the ritual. Although haroset's brown color is meant to be a sad reminder of the mortar made by the Hebrew slaves, people's faces light up when it's time to sample it.

Some Jews prepare extra haroset to use as a spread throughout Passover. To me, haroset is more than a holiday item. I use it as a basic flavoring for desserts the way French cooks use almond praline, Italians use chocolate-hazelnut gianduja and Americans use peanut butter.

Over the centuries, Jewish cooks around the world developed many versions of haroset. Typical Ashkenazi haroset like the one I grew up with is a light-textured mixture of grated or chopped apples, chopped walnuts, sweet red wine and cinnamon. Sephardi haroset is made with dates, which make it sweeter and denser, almost like a paste. Pistachios and pomegranate juice might flavor Persian haroset, which might also contain fresh pears and bananas. Yemenites combine dried fruit with sweet spices, almonds and often sesame seeds; to Orthodox Ashkenazim, the presence of the sesame seeds makes this haroset not kosher for Passover.

For my standard haroset, I combine ingredients from the lands of the Bible: dates, dried figs, raisins, dried apricots, almonds and walnuts, blended with wine and sweet spices.

With my haroset I flavor treats from blintzes to brownies. I use it to fill cream puffs, to enhance baked puddings and to make confections.

Haroset mixed with chocolate melted in wine makes tasty truffles. I roll them in chopped walnuts or grated coconut, and I have an easy pareve treat that's healthy too.

For a new twist on blond brownies, I add haroset, dried apricots and chocolate chunks to a Passover brownie batter made with matzo cake meal and potato starch. They're certainly easier to make than Passover sponge cakes.

One of my favorite ways to use matzo is to make it into haroset kugel. It's much faster to prepare than noodle kugel, as there is no pasta to cook. I just crumble and moisten a few matzos, mix them with eggs, haroset and sliced apples, and bake the mixture with a topping of cinnamon and sugar. You can serve the kugel with Iraqi haroset, a saucelike combination of silan (date syrup) and wal- nuts.

But why should we enjoy something so delicious only during Passover? I plan to keep haroset on hand year-round to flavor all sorts of desserts.

Haroset ripple ice cream, anyone?

Total time: 30 minutes | Serves 10
Note: Sweet red wine is traditional in haroset, but you can use any wine you like or substitute grape juice.
  • 1 cup almonds (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 cup walnuts (about 3.5 ounces)
  • 1 cup pitted dates (about 4.5 ounces or 20 Deglet Noor dates), pitted, halved and cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots (3 ounces or 12 apricots), cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup dried figs (about 4 large whole figs), cut in chunks (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup dark raisins (about 1 ounce)
  • About 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweet red wine, divided, plus more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • About 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Walnuts or slices of dried apricots, figs or dates (optional, for garnish)
  • Matzos or tender lettuce leaves (for serving)

Step 1Finely chop the almonds in a food processor, leaving small chunks. Transfer to a medium bowl. Chop the walnuts in the food processor, pulsing to leave small chunks. Add to the bowl of almonds.

Step 2Combine the dates, apricots, figs and raisins in the food processor. Add one-third cup wine and the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Process the mixture until it forms a slightly chunky spread, stopping occasionally to scrape it down and adding more wine by tablespoons if necessary to enable the mixture to blend.

Step 3Transfer the blended fruit to the bowl of chopped nuts and mix well. Add more wine by tablespoons until the mixture has the consistency of a thick spread.

Step 4Spoon the haroset into a shallow serving bowl. If you like, garnish it with walnuts or slices of dried fruit. Serve with matzos or lettuce leaves.

Each serving:
252 calories; 6 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 21 grams sugar; 3 mg sodium.
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