Tag Archives: dates

Moroccan Date-Raisin Haroset “Truffles”

Charoset_Moroccan_TruffleBalls_10_blog

 

Moroccan Style Haroset
(Cinnamon Dusted Date-Raisin “Truffles” with Walnuts, Rolled in Cinnamon)
Yield: Serves 12 / Makes approximately 3 cups or 4 dozen 1-inch balls

A recipe from my cookbook Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe, Section 1: Africa, Chapter 5.

This Moroccan haroset is shaped into a small ball, then rolled in ground cinnamon to resemble an elegant truffle. For the most impressive way to serve visually, stack balls on top of one another into a pyramid shape on an elegant platter alongside any other more classic haroset spread in a bowl. When it comes time to eat, guests may help themselves to a single truffle and eat it straight, or pressed down between two small pieces of matzah as a sandwich.

For Haroset:
1 cup walnuts

½ cup slivered almonds
12 large Medjool dates or 20 regular-size dates, pitted and cut into large pieces
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dark raisins
3 to 4 tablespoons sweet Passover wine, such as Manischewitz

For Serving:
1 box of matzah/matzo squares or mini matzah crackers

Cinnamon (for rolling and dusting the outside)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place the walnuts and almonds in the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, but not into a meal-like consistency (about 30 seconds).

2. Add the dates and raisins and combine in the food processor for about 30 seconds.

3. Add the wine and pulse until the mixture becomes a soft paste.

4. Taking one level tablespoon (or mini melon ball scoop) at a time, roll the thick paste into 1-inch balls* (if the paste is sticking too much to your hands, try dipping your hands in cold water and then rolling them).

5. When all of the balls have been rolled, pour a couple of tablespoons of ground
cinnamon onto a small plate and gently roll each ball in the cinnamon to lightly coat the outside. (You can also dust your hands with cinnamon and then roll each ball again
between your palms to lightly coat, whichever way is easier.)

6. Serve haroset balls at room temperature stacked in a small decorative bowl or on a small platter alongside tea matzahs. Store balls in a tightly covered plastic container between layers of parchment or wax paper in the refrigerator for up to three days, or the freezer for up to one month.

*Note: If you wish to serve the mixture in the more common way of a paste in a bowl, then add a little more wine or warm water to make a bit smoother and softer for spreading.

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A Seder Plate for Rosh HaShannah? (It’s not just for Passover!)

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Did you know that in some Sephardic homes there is the custom of presenting a special Seder plate before the Rosh HaShanna meal, just like one does for the Passover Seder? Eight symbolic foods (Simanim) are selected and arranged on a platter to ensure a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year, and while certain ones may physically represent an idea (such as using pomegranates to symbolize fertility and abundance because of the many seeds within), another less obvious food choice may be made simply because its name in Hebrew sounds like another Hebrew word with a different meaning (for example: using a leek because its Hebrew word karati sounds like karat meaning “to cut off,” implying the hope of breaking away from one’s enemies). Below is a quick guideline or listing of the types of things often used on a Rosh Hashanna Seder plate:

For the New Year, we eat foods that symbolize the following:
Luck

Abundance (foods that are plentiful)
Mitzvot (good deeds)
Fertility, Life (foods that are round, continuous, plentiful)
Leadership
The act of breaking away from evil, enemies and bad things

 

VARIOUS FOODS USED TO REPRESENT THE FOLLOWING IDEAS:

happiness, prosperity, good luck and success:
Aniseed, round challah with raisins added, sweet wine, stuffed foods like gefilte fish,
tzimmes (sweet stew: carrot, sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, sometimes meat)

fertility:
Apples, pears (first fruits of season from the tree,
dipped in honey, sugar, or sesame seeds for abundance and extra sweetness)

good deeds (mitzvot) and abundance:
Pomegranate seeds (belief that there are as many seeds — 613, as there are mitzvot)

peace:
Dates (Hebrew word for date is tamar and is related to word tam meaning, “to end” in hopes
that our enemies will end)

happiness: Gourd, pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash (Hebrew word for gourd is kara, which also means “to announce,” and rhymes with a similar sounding word meaning “to rip apart”)

freedom: Spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, kale, beet leaves
(Hebrew word for beets is seleka and related to root selek meaning, “to depart” or “remove” implying that enemies and bad luck be taken out; Aramaic word for leafy green, like spinach, is silka)

friendship, freedom from enemies: Leeks, chives, scallions, spring onions
(Hebrew word for leek is karati and sounds like karat meaning “to cut off,”
implying from one’s enemies)

leadership: Whole Fish (with head left intact), ram’s head, head of cabbage, garlic
(“Head” of year, leaders to all nations, poor and powerless, move forward/ahead/progress)

commemorating tribulations, difficulties, struggles, and hardships of past year:
Savory and bitter foods

prosperity: String beans, peas, beans (plentiful, abundant, round/circle of life)
(Hebrew word for beans is lubia, sounds related to Hebrew word lev meaning “heart,”
and rav meaning “many”)

NOTE: Some refrain from eating lemon or salt fearing that it will bring bad luck in coming year.

SHANA TOVA METUKA!

The joys (and tribulations) of making homemade date honey.

Silan_DateSyrup_3_blog

Silan (also known as Ha’lek) is an an ancient Babylonian date honey or syrup that many Iraqi Jews today prepare as their form of charoset for the Passover Seder. Unlike other date charosetsSilan  requires a tedious process of boiling down, squeezing, mashing, and straining until you reach the proper consistency. I knew that the Iraqi chapter of my Passover cookbook would not be complete if I hadn’t tackled this recipe myself, and after speaking to various individuals about Silan, I was intrigued (and sufficiently warned): “It’s a lot of work and you need an enormous amount of dates to give you just a few cups of the syrup,” one Iraqi man told me. “Make sure that you enlist the help of a strong man to help you squeeze out all those dates,” replied one woman. And lastly, “I made it once and it was a disaster. I had to throw my shirt out afterwords — what a mess,” said a third younger woman. But the overwhelming response from those who grew up with Silan was simple: “There’s absolutely nothing like it. It’s divine. It’s pure liquid gold.” My challenge had been set.

One quiet morning (while both kids were at school) I set out to the task of making pure date honey for the first time (at this point I was basing my recipe upon the taste of the store-bought kind from Israel, and detailed descriptions from various Iraqi Jews I had spoken to). I combined several pounds of Medjool dates with water in the largest pot I could find, and brought it all to a boil over high heat. After cooking it down for an hour, I removed it from the heat to cool just long enough for me to handle squeezing the pulp in a sack of cheesecloth to extract the juice (I could see where it required a bit of strength!). This precious liquid was then returned to the same large pot and cooked down another full hour until it reduced to about half. The result was a rich, decadent syrup like a cross between honey and black strap molasses. It was divine, and I had to admit that the Baghdadi Jews had won the battle of the date charosets with this one. (Bravo!)

Note: For more on Silan, please see my August of 2013 post.

SILAN (Baghdadi Date Honey with Chopped Almonds, Hazelnuts, and Walnuts)
Yield: Serves 15 to 20 / Makes 2 1/2 CUPS

INGREDIENTS:
For Date Honey:
3 1/4 pounds Medjool or regular dates, pitted (or 3 pounds total without the pits)
18 cups cold water
4 to 8 large pieces of cheese cloth, for squeezing out liquid
Fine mesh strainer with mixing bowl underneath

For Serving:
2 cups toasted walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios (or blend), cooled and coarsely chopped

STEPS:
1. Place pitted dates in a very large 5- or 6-quart pot with the water and bring to a boil over very high heat. Reduce to medium-high heat and skim off and discard the foam with a large spoon.
Boil, uncovered, for 1 full hour.

2. Layer a large, fine mesh strainer with 3 large pieces of cheese cloth (it should hang over the sides by at least 6 inches so that you can gather them up and tie it into a sack). Place the strainer lined with the cheese cloth over a large bowl and pour the hot dates with all of its liquid over it. Gather the ends of the cheese cloth up and twist it into a large sack. Allow the dates to cool long enough for you to be able to squeeze the liquid out by hand, about X minutes.

3. When cool enough, squeeze the sack of date pulp as hard as you can to extract any further liquid that can come out. Discard the sack and all of the date pulp and return the pot with the date liquid to the stove. Bring to a second boil over high heat, reduce to a medium-low heat, and continue to boil, uncovered for 1 hour 15 minutes.

4. Remove from from heat and cool completely before pouring into one or two jars. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dry place or at room temperature for up to 1 month.

5. To serve, pour into small glass or decorative bowls and allow individuals to serve themselves.
You may also mix in the chopped nuts or serve them on the side. Serve as you would any type
of charoset.

A Tu b’Shevat Seder: Time to Honor Israel’s 7 Fruits.

Today is Tu B’shevat, the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year of the tree in Israel, marking the beginning of its fruit bearing cycle. In order to connect us to nature (and Israel) it is customary to incorporate 7 specific fruits and grains that represent the main crops of the Holy Land. It has also become the tradition of donating a young tree to be planted in Israel, while some may even take this opportunity to plant one in their own backyard in honor of a loved one. With a little digging of my own online, I discovered that in the 1600s Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) would serve a festive meal similar to a Seder using specific fruits, nuts, and grains to symbolize nature, life, and God.

SederPlate_Tub'Shevat_blog_2

The following is a list of the main fruits that are consumed for this holiday, along with some suggestions of others you can add:

MAIN 5 FRUITS:
FIGS
DATES & DATE SYRUP OR HONEY
POMEGRANATES
GRAPES/WINE
OLIVES

MAIN 2 GRAINS:
WHEAT
BARLEY

OTHER SUGGESTIONS:
WALNUTS, ALMONDS, HAZELNUTS, PISTACHIOS (& NUT BUTTERS)
APPLES, PEARS, QUINCES, APRICOTS (& SAUCE OR JUICE)
ORANGES, CLEMENTINES
QUINOA, BULGUR, FREEKEH, OATS

The following links were helpful references about Tu b’Shevat and the Seder plate:

Jewcology.org

TabletMag.com

By Rabbi Amy Scheinerman

RitualWell.org

Seder Plate Checklist: Are you set?

Seder_Plate2_BlogBelow is a list of all the necessary Seder foods, along with the variety of ingredients that individuals from all over the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and parts of Africa have used on their Seder table:

Z’roah (sacrificial lamb): Roasted lamb shank or chicken wing or leg (any with or without the meat on the bone)

Beitzah (egg): Hardboiled, singed, or slow-cooked with onion skins & coffee grinds

Charoset (sweet fruit spread): Variety using any or a mixture of the following: dates, apricots, apples, oranges, pomegranate seeds, figs, raisins, bananas, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, fresh and dried ginger, ground rose petals, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, anise, red wine, grape juice, vinegar, orange blossom water

Karpas (spring vegetable): Celery, celery leaves, cucumber

Maror (bitter herb): Romaine lettuce, red radish, bitter greens salad, lemon peel,
endive, frisée, chickory, arugula 

Representing sweat & tears: Salt water, white/red/cider vinegar, lemon or lime juice

MatzahCommercially-bought small square kind, larger Shmura Matzah type,
homemade and soft, or very  crispy and smooth: up to 3x size of a large pizza!

QUESTION: What do YOU use on your Seder plate or table?
SEND ME YOUR SEDER PLATE PHOTOS!

Charoset of the Day: Persian Hallegh

Charoset_Halegh_4_blogPersians refer to their charoset as hallegh. Many of them use some combination of nuts with dates, often adding pomegranate juice and/or seeds to round out the flavors. Today my friend Simona stopped by to show me her family’s hallegh, and what intrigued me the most was its addition of fresh red grapes to the mixture of nuts, raisins and dates (which have been marinating overnight in apple cider vinegar and sweet Passover wine). The result was a tangy, fruity spread, the texture of a paté:

HalleghPersian Charoset with Nuts, Apples, Grapes & Marinated Raisins & Dates
(Yield: Makes 5 Cups)

For Hallegh:
1 cup black raisins (preferably larger ones, if available)Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_1_blog
6 medjool dates (about 1/2 cup), pitted
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine
(such as Manischewitz)

1/4 pound (about 1 cup) of each of
the following:

    hazelnuts
    walnuts
    pistachios
    almonds
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper (optional)
1/2 red seedless grapes
1 large red apple (about 8 ounces),
cut into large chunks

For Serving:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced red grapes

Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_2_blog
1. Place raisins and dates in a small bowl and marinate with the cider vinegar and sweet wine overnight (do not refrigerate).

2. Rinse nuts and spread out on a large kitchen towel to dry about 15 minutes.

3. Place nuts, salt, and red pepper (if desired)
in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.

4. Add grapes, apple, and marinated raisin-date mixture (with soaking liquid) to the processor and pulse until fairly smooth and well-blended. 

5. Serve immediately garnished with sliced red grapes, or refrigerate in container for up to 2 days.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

Wann-a date, Biblical style?

Dates are used as a base in many of the Middle Eastern charosets. Sometimes they are cooked down into a pure syrup (Iraq), while other times they are blended with raisins and nuts (Morocco), or cooked and mashed into a paste with allspice and ginger (Libya). But the most interesting version of charoset that I learned about was from an Egyptian man from Cairo that I interviewed for the cookbook. His version was the most pure, and I think closest to what the Israelites might have eaten way back in the desert, in Biblical times:

“For the charoset we used to have dates — big, fresh ones — with the nuts on the side. We would make the Bracha, take the date and remove the pit from inside, and dip it into the chopped walnuts and hazelnuts. And then we would eat it.”
— Frank Mayo

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