I’ll be whipping up a second batch of this truly extraordinary charoset (kha-ROE-set) for dinner tomorrow night. In addition to the good old-fashioned, European-style, apples-and-walnuts charoset I make every year, I’ve been rotating through a series of Middle Eastern-style, dried-fruit charoset recipes every year for at least a couple of decades. But I never found one I liked enough to make it again until this year, when I served a bowl of this charoset, which was passed around and around the table until it had been almost emptied!
Re: that European charoset, I want you to know that my mom and my Grandma Rosie actually taught me to make it in a wooden chopping bowl (so many special memories) that still holds a place of honor in my parents’ house. Things go much faster now with my food processor, though I always process each ingredient separately almost to the desired consistency, and then add them all back together for a couple of final spins. Otherwise you are likely to get fruit spread, which is a different recipe entirely.
One note: Instead of cayenne pepper I used some ground smoked Serrano chili pepper that I got in Napa last fall. Feel free to be creative with whatever kind of heat you can find in your cabinet. Remember that freshness is more important than the particular source.
2/3 cup whole almonds with skin, toasted and cooled
2/3 cup pistachios, shelled
1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped (5 ounces)
2/3 cup pitted dried dates, coarsely chopped
1 (3- by 1/2-inch) strip orange zest, finely chopped (approx. 1 tsp.)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Toast the almonds in a cast iron pan or a cookie sheet in the oven, shaking often, especially as you see the color begin to darken. Do not allow them to burn or you will have to start over.
Rinse the pistachios to remove most of the salt, and spread on a towel to absorb most of the water.
Add apricots and orange zest to food processor and pulse until well chopped. Remove apricots, and do the same with the dates. Remove dates from processor.
Add almonds to food processor and pulse a few times until the nuts break apart. Add pistachios and spices, and continue to pulse until the two different types of nuts are well mixed but still (barely) distinguishable. Return apricots and dates to the bowl, and pulse until all is well mixed, but still chewy and a little bit crunchy.
Spoon this onto matzah, or chicken, or fish, or eat it off the spoon. Enjoy!