Archive for March, 2010

Charoset–The Star of The Seder Table

Unlike the other elements of the seder plate; roasted egg, bitter herbs, shank bone, parsley and matzo, charoset is the true stand-out. This is one dish where you can let your create juices and personal taste preferences really soar.
Most of us think of charoset, which symbolizes the brick and mortar made by Jews when they were slaves in Egypt, as a simple mixture of apples, walnuts and wine. This is indeed, the traditional Ashkenazi recipe. But given that I am half Sephardic, I have a special yearning for the recipes that include more exotic ingredients such as dates, nuts, ginger and more. In my opinion, these recipes represent a fun opportunity for some real gourmet flair on the seder plate and table.

What I truly appreciate about charoset is that this one small item can bring exciting new flavors as well as history and ethnicity to a meal that tends to be so traditional. Certainly it opens doors for other interesting recipes—and conversation!

Below are some recipes that I am considering for the first seder, this Monday. All are from the outstanding Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook. I plan to make atleast 2 of them and will double or triple recipes so that we can enjoy these healthful holiday treats all week long!

Do you have any favorite charoset recipes? Please post them as a comment to this blog so everyone can share them.

Happy Passover and let’s always remember the sweetness of freedom. We can only hope that someday, everyone will be free.


Yemenite Haroset
10 pitted Dates, chopped
10 Figs, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
Red Wine
Matzah Meal

Combine fruit, sesame seeds and ginger. Add red wine and matza meal to bring it to the consistency you want.

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Israeli Haroset

15 pitted dates, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
3 bananas, mashed
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup almonds, chopped
½ cup red wine
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Sugar or honey to taste
Matzah meal, if needed

Combine fruits, nuts, wine, cinnamon and sugar or honey. Add matzo meal to get the consistency you want.

Makes about 6 cups

North African Haroset

½ cup pine nuts, chopped
1 hard-cooked egg yolk, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled and grated
½ cup sugar
½ cup ground almonds
½ cup chopped walnuts
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Ground cinnamon to taste
Ground ginger to taste
Red wine—add to your desired consistency

Mix all ingredients until mixture comes together. Refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups

Haroset from Suriname
7 oz package unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 ½ cups raisins
1 ½ cups dried apples
1 ½ cups prunes
1 ½ cups dried apricots
1 ½ cups dried pears
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ cup cherry jam
Sweet red wine

1. Combine in saucepan all ingredients except cherry jam and wine. Add enough cold water to just cover fruit. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary.
2. Remove from heat; stir in cherry jam. Set aside to cool.
3. Add just enough sweet red wine to be absorbed by the fruit. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Makes about 9 cups

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Sambassador to Greek Life

When my son Sam was born, we lived in New York City. I used to take him to the playgrounds in Central Park and it was only a matter of time before Sam would find another kid to build a sandcastle with or join in a game of tag. The great thing about those days was the variety of kids Sam played with, all reflecting the melting pot of New York City.

When Sam moved into a fraternity house this year, his sophomore year, it was like those playground days all over, with Sam becoming friends with a lot of peers from diverse backgrounds. Sam brought his own uniqueness to the mix as the only Jewish kid in his fraternity house.

I suppose it was the Jewish mother in me that relishs sending him packages of challah and holiday goodies to nourish not only his stomach but also his identity. For example, a couple of weeks ago, for Purim, I sent him a big package with one of our Purim Bakery Towers—6 lbs of Hamentashen, rugelach and mini black and whites, along with a Purim Candy Platter and challahs. And I dreaded the day when, in one of our weekly video chats, he’d say, “Mom, enough with Jewish treats!”

Imagine the thrill I got last night when he reported that he and his 14 house mates LOVED the stuff. Not only that, but Sam wants Josh and me to come to the fraternity’s family picnic in May. While visiting, he wants me to cook a “Jewish meal” for the house. He wants to help and thinks maybe some of the other guys will want to, too.

I’m fairly certain Sam has no idea how happy this invitation makes me. He’s an ambassador of Jewish culture by introducing Jewish food and traditions to his housemates. Some of them had never met a Jew before Sam, and now they are loving our culture and traditions (or just free food, and who wouldn’t?). Once again, in my Challah Connection journey, the universe has proven that no matter our religion or our background, no matter if we are from the Middle East, the Midwest, or the Upper West Side, we all come together over food.

Now I am planning what I’m going to cook and where I am going to shop in this small town in Western PA where the greatest shopping attraction is Walmart. So far I am thinking of challah, brisket, latkes, chicken soup, matzo ball soup, and noodle kugel. But first and foremost, I am planning a terrific Passover Gift to send to him—Passover Traditions in a Box–one of our kosher college care packages, along with a Decadent Dark Chocolate Covered Matzo Platter.

What are you sending your Sambassador? Email me and I’ll give you some recommendations.

Happy Jewish Mothering—whether you are a Mom or a Dad!


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Passover Starts March 29

It’s amazing and exciting that the days are noticeabley getting longer. After all of the snow and frigid temperatures, I am beginning to feel a sense of spring excitement coming on. I may even take my dog for a walk later!

Of course the warmer weather means that Passover is also coming. No rest for the weary here at Challah Connection. While some of our crew is packing up leftover Purim graggers, the rest of us are making the finishing touches on this year’s Passover Gifts. Later this week, we have a scheduled photo shoot so we can add them to our Challah Connection and Kosher Gift Box sites.

We are going to be offering several new and exciting Passover Gift Baskets as we have sourced some great new products as well as some traditional favorites. The buzz at this year’s Kosherfest was about the reappearance of Barton’s Almond Kisses after it was announced last year that they were being discontinued. You can count on us to carry them along with Matzel Toff, another exciting product that will be included in our kosher gift baskets. If you didn’t catch it in the Spring, the Matzel Toff folks were on The Martha Stewart Show showing how they make this yummy Passover treat. Chocolate Frogs? Why of course! A customer emailed asking for them and they are now on our site (Note: they are kosher, not Kosher for Passover). Chocolate Seder Plates are in full blossom at Challah Connection as are Kosher for Passover rugelach, macaroons and rainbow cookies. You’ll be able to purchase these classic baked goods separately or in our Passover Bakery Tower, which will be live on our site soon. New this year is the Passover 2-Sided Puzzle; a perfect afikomen gift. This is just a small preview of what’s in the works for Passover. You can be sure that we will have great Passover gifts for everyone on your list: from young kids to college kids to business associates and all of the rest of us in between.

I often get asked how we plan our holiday inventory. That is always an “interesting” exercise! For those of you with inquiring minds, here it is from the horse’s mouth: GUESSWORK!! Prior to every holiday, we decide exactly what kosher gift baskets and other gifts will comprise our holiday selection. Once that’s done, we make sales projections; for example 50 of this Passover Basket and 40 of this kosher gift, etc. Now it would be lovely if we could simply look at the previous years’ sales and increase it by our growth rate. But what I have learned is that as soon as you change the holiday offering by even one product, all of those projections are out the window. This year we have several new Passover Gift Baskets, so that means we are back to the “GUESSWORK.” Just please do me a favor: whatever we sell, buy every single one! Nobody wants macaroons in July.

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