April brings holidays for many faiths and cultures. The Jewish holiday of Passover begins this year on the evening of April 19, with the seder meal, when families gather, recount the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and enjoy a festive meal.
In recent years, some members of other faiths have also begun to hold Passover seders. The theme of celebration of freedom resonates among many different cultures.
The seder is rich in tradition. Customs vary, shaped by family tradition and by geographic region.
One essential part of the seder is the inclusion of charoset—a blend of chopped fruits, nuts and wine— symbolizing the mortar used by the Israelites to build Pharaoh’s pyramids.
Plymouth resident Gaby Israel Grinberg, whose name may be familiar from our December issue, offers her family’s recipe for charoset and other traditional Passover foods. Grinberg’s father is from Egypt, so the family’s charoset recipe has delicious Middle Eastern flavors.
You’ll enjoy them whether or not you observe Passover, any time of the year.
Yield: About 4 cups
Time: 30 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups red wine (Manischewitz or other wine of your choice)
- 1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) red raisins
- 8 oz. (1 1/2 cups) dried dates, chopped fine
- 4 oz. (3/4 cup) dried apricots, chopped fine
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
- 8 oz. (1 1/2 cups) walnuts
- 1 tsp. rose water
- Pinch salt (optional)
- Bring wine to a low simmer on medium heat, then stir in fruit and spices. Cook uncovered until fruit is plump and wine has reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes
- In a food processor, roughly chop almonds in short pulses. Remove almonds from food processor and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Add fruit mixture to food processor and pulse until fruit just begins to come together into a paste. Do not overprocess.
- Transfer fruit to mixing bowl and combine well with walnuts. Stir in rose water. Add salt to taste if desired. Can be made in advance—the flavor improve over time. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Editor’s tip: Rosewater can be found in many international grocery stores.
Servings: About 6
Total time: 1 hr. and 45 min. (including baking time + 15 cooling time before serving.)
Active time: 1 hr.
- 8 squares matzo (available in many supermarkets in the kosher foods or special Passover section.)
- Filling (Can be made a day or two in advance.)
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped yellow onions (about 3 medium onions)
- 1 ½ lb. ground beef
- 2 tsps. kosher salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dill leaves
- One 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (about 3 cups)
- 5 large eggs, lightly beaten + 3 large eggs, hardboiled and coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Lightly oil 9” square casserole or baking pan.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil until it is hot but not smoking. Add the chopped onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add ground beef, salt, black pepper and sugar and cook until brown, about 10 minutes (stir occasionally and mash with a fork to ensure uniform cooking).
- Lower to medium heat, add the chopped parsley and dill, and mix well. Cook 5 minutes.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Adjust heat to high and bring to a slow boil over high heat and cook 3 minutes, then lower the heat to medium and cook an additional 7 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Mix in the beaten eggs and the chopped eggs.
- Soften the matzo sheets by dipping them in a dish of water until they are just starting to soften, then remove and wrap in a clean dish towel. Let sit for about 5 minutes
- Set aside in a clean dish towel for about 5 minutes, then check to see that they have become somewhat bendable. If not, moisten them further and set them aside for another few minutes to absorb.
- When the matzo is ready, cover the entire bottom of the baking dish with one layer of it. Gently spread half of the filling over the matzo. Top with another layer of matzo, then repeat until there are 4 layers of matzo. Pour the beaten egg over the top, and spread to glaze the top layer of matzo. Bake until the matzo is golden and the filling is hot and set, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool and set for 15 minutes before serving.