When I jotted down a menu for our Passover Seder, I wrote down Charoset in parenthesis. Memories of my mother’s housekeeper making huge bowls of it came flooding through my mind. It seemed to take her all morning, and she would be sweating profusely and frustrated. Her labor would result in a huge bowl, which fought for space in the crammed fridge all seven days of Passover. I’ll just buy a little jar, I thought, and save myself the aggravation.
Later that evening, I googled Charoset recipes out of curiosity. This revealed, unsurprisingly, two camps: the Ashkenazi version, which offered variations on grated apples with nuts and raisins, and the Sephardic version in which dates and/or other dried fruits, as well as nuts were simmered in sweet red wine. All seemed to take less than ten minutes.
When I came home from grocery shopping the next day, Charoset was the first thing I wanted to try. I chopped the dates and placed them, along with white wine and water in a pot, and immediately thought this was never going to work. The dates seemed like immovable islands in a pool of white wine, and it seemed like two more irreconcilable entities could not exist; a future of their combining into the thick creamy spread I was imagining seemed utterly impossible. I poured myself a glass of wine, and headed to the living room, telling myself I could always pick up a jar in the morning. You know where this is headed, right? When I returned to the pot a few minutes later, the two had combined into the most luxurious, velvety mixture, going from impossible to dreamy in the blink of an eye. It was smooth sailing from then on, and within a few minutes I was done. I told Yaki to close his eyes and fed him a spoonful, asking him to guess what it was. He said it tasted like… Passover.
And just like that we were ready for our first Seder.
Charoset, or Date and Nut Spread for Passover
Roasting the nuts adds depth and character to their harmonious pairing with dates, while chestnuts bring an additional layer of earthy flavors to the mix, and the wine contributes a teasingly elusive fruity aroma.
Prep time: 15 minutes
10.5 oz (300 grams) pitted dates, chopped
6 tablespoons water
½ cup white wine (I used a Chardonnay)
3.5 oz (100 grams) roasted and peeled chestnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup walnut halves
1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Spread the walnut halves on a baking sheet and toast for approximately five minutes, until golden and aromatic. Set aside.
2. Place dates, water and wine in a medium pot and cook over low heat, stirring until combined.
3. Stir in chestnuts and cinnamon, then remove from heat and let cool. Coarsely chop the walnuts, and fold them into the date mixture.