Charoset, aka Drunken Fruit Salad

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I don’t celebrate Passover every year, but try to when I can. And, for some reason, I am most determined to celebrate it when it is least convenient to. Last year, for example, when I was in Russia, I got it in my head that I MUST attend a seder. Through a complicated series of events, I ended up getting myself invited to the Head Rabbi of St. Petersburg’s family’s seder — by far the most Orthodox and traditional Jewish thing I’ve ever done. I was incredibly out of my element but luckily everyone mostly ignored me. They couldn’t wrap their minds around that, yes, I was Jewish, I knew the prayer over the candles and had been to many seders, but why would I dream of eating my matzah with something before the 8th day? Apparently these folks wouldn’t eat a matzah pizza or the famous cream cheese jelly schmear until the last day. As someone brought up pretty Jewish, these were the staples of the holiday! My Russian hosts were shocked when I spoke about our tradition of hiding the afikomen — a looked-forward-to treasure hunt for all Jews under Bar Mitzvah age, I had supposed incorrectly. To each their own, but I was so surprised to learn my own was so different than their own. There are so many ways to be Jewish, and our ways were very, very different. It was possibly one of the more uncomfortable evenings of my life, but I’m still glad I forced myself to seek it out and attend and have some sort of ritualistic connection itch scratched – and now I have this great story. 

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And this year, I decided I wanted to try to replicate Passover from my apartment as much as possible, never mind that I’ve never hosted it or tried to locate the various seder plate elements. I usually show up to family or a friend’s with wine or a flourless dessert and then happily eat the matzah ball soup and gefilte fish and carrot pudding and roasted veggies provided by others. 

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Here was the plan: chocolate covered matzah, homemade matzah, matzah ball soup, boiled eggs, charoset. (I contemplated gefilte fish made from a can of tuna but luckily stepped away from that madness before it was too late.) Then I had one boring tragedy after another: the caramel didn’t set for the chocolate covered variety, turns out homemade matzah tastes like baked glue, I didn’t have matzah meal so made “masa” ball soup (which was actually great), and, oops used all the eggs in the soup. Sigh, thwarted at every step. But! My charoset was awesome. Charoset is supposed to represent the mortar of the bricks the Jews were forced to use in ancient Egypt. It’s usually apples, nuts, Manischewitz. Welp, I do like apples? I decided to basically make sangria, but with proportions inverted. And it was delicious. There’s a recipe-ish below. You should try it. 

Some fail pics:

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Oy, matzah isn’t supposed to be floppy. It’s funny that the moments I want to cling closest to my Jewish roots are when everything else has been turned over. Being in a new country, experiencing a pandemic unlike anything in lifetimes. I find comfort in clinging to old traditions and family and feeling grounded. In feeling like I am more than this moment — I am a continuation of what was before me and the future will continue to spiral outwards from this moment. There have been thousands of 30-year-old women fussing about boiled eggs and soup and wine glasses. I take comfort that in that when so much else is unknown. 

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So, whether you are of the tribe or not, drunken fruit salad is never a bad idea. It’s pretty great on matzah (from a box, please) or just with a spoon. 

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one year ago: nothing of note, but I made this black sesame Mochi cake recently and can’t stop thinking about it…
two years ago: nothing of note, but if you’re looking for a perfect pantry meal, may I recommend my fav red lentil dal?
three years ago: apple cheddar quinoa cakes
four years ago: baked stuffed sweet potatoes with chickpeas, kale, and tahini
five years ago: roast eggplant and pepper soup with orzo 

Drunken Fruit Salad, aka Charoset, aka Inverse Sangria

a swanky original

Chop fruit of your choice into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces. I used one red apple, a big handful of red grapes, a perfectly juicy clementine, and a couple dates. Mix in a bowl. Add a healthy pour of red wine. (I finished an old bottle — probably about ¼ cup). Add two big spoonfuls honey, about ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, and many dashes of orange bitters. Stir everything together and refrigerate, stirring every so often, until cold and well-combined. 

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Mango Mezcal Margarita

Mango Mezcal Margarita

Last night, preparing for #JUNO2015 (aka the Snowpocalypse to end all snowpocali), I got home from work early, excited to spend the night in. I envisioned an entire night and next day of baking projects, board games, (backyard!!) snow angels, and wearing oversized clothing.

As I got off the train, I got a series of texts from Daniel:
“I’m at the coffee shop, wanna join?”
“The guys are going to the bar, let’s go there after”
“I think John and I are going to go take pictures at the bridge”

Mango Mezcal Margarita

Excuse me, what? Who makes PLANS on a snowday? Not this lady, whose mother refused to drive her to friends’ houses in elementary school and would be forced to play board games and watch old family movies and play in the backyard with her sister (ya…tough life, I know). We glared at each other for about 10 minutes, me inching towards the couch, him trying out his new flash in anticipation of the photo excursion.

Mango Mezcal Margarita

We ended up finding a happy middle: trying out Cook’s Illustrated’s crispiest potato recipe (ps did someone send me this?? It just appeared in the mail…) (it was only meh), watching a street photography documentary that’s been on the agenda for a while, and eventually getting inspired and going on a late night walk in our neighborhood. All while imbibing responsibly. These mezcal mango margaritas could totally make you forget the false blizzard fuss, or could inspire you to wander into the quiet, snowy beauty of abandoned Brooklyn. I stood for a full minute at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush. Come on, real blizzard or not, pretty cool. Fueled by margaritas or not, pretty cool.

Mango Mezcal MargaritaMango Mezcal Margarita

adapted from Geeks with Drinks
makes 2 full drinks, with half-sized refills (aka 3 but who needs 3 drinks?!)

3 oz mezcal
1 oz tequila
1 fresh mango, cut into cubes (about 1 cup if you want to use frozen)
2 oz jalapeno simple syrup (recipe below)
2 oz Triple Sec, or other orange-flavored liquor
1.5 cups crushed ice

BLEND all ingredients together except ice until smooth. Add ice and continue blending for about a minute, or until you reach desired smoothie-y consistency.

Jalapeño Syrup

Bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil in a small pot. Stir until sugar melts. Add one jalapeño, sliced lengthwise. Simmer for 12 minutes. Take off heat and cover for 10 minutes. Strain. Let cool until room temperature. Keep in the fridge for a spicy kick to any cocktail!

Mango Mezcal Margarita

The Ice Blocks

Daniel’s “neat ice” kit. It theoretically makes a perfect cube on one side and a crushable cube on the other. This is why we cannot put vegetables in our freezer.

Spicy Micheladas

The Finished Product

Do you remember the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day?

(Full disclosure: I didn’t really either, except for a vague version of the title. Wikipedia to the rescue.)

The book follows a little boy through a day where everything goes wrong. He doesn’t get the window seat in the carpool, his cereal box has no prize in it, and he must eat lima beans for dinner. Life is tough.

Last week, I had a truly Alexander-esque day. Spilled water on my laptop (hence the dearth of recent posts), went to the Apple store to learn it would cost an exorbitant fee, took the train to NJ for a late rehearsal, missed the first train back, arrived in Brooklyn past midnight to find my brand new bike had been stolen, and walked home, preparing myself to walk to work the next day for a 6:30 am start time.

Not my finest hour. Some tears were shed, some whiskeys were consumed. Some dramatic screams to the sky were contemplated, but not actually followed through with.

But what seems like the End of the World at first, usually isn’t. (In fact, hasn’t ever been yet.) I am lucky to have such a great support system, and now, a week later, I am poised to inherit an old laptop, my waterlogged computer’s hard drive was pried out and backed up (a million thank yous to Daniel), and the credit card company thinks it can reimburse us for the bike.

AND I managed to take a mini-vacation for some much-needed TLC to my parent’s beautiful home, where my sister painted my nails while watching the Food Network, we drank wine while putzing down the Charles at sunset on the parents’ little boat, and made the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten. Not a bad way to regroup.

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Even adults have Alexander days. When we do, there’s family, friends, and spicy micheladas. Make this. Drink to the end of summer and first world problems and supportive family and to the sunshine of tomorrow. Cue end of sappy post.

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Spicy Micheladas

from spoon fork bacon

1ish T honey (enough to fill the rim of a shallow bowl)
1/2 t smoked paprika
pinch cayenne
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t hot sauce (vinegar-based is best)
1 t soy sauce
2 limes worth of juice
1 light Mexican beer (we used Negro Modelo)

Mix together smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne in a shallow bowl/plate. Dip rim of glasses you plan to drink out of into honey. Then dip into smoked paprika/salt/cayenne mixture. (Plastic take-out containers, like from Thai restaurants, are perfect for this purpose!)

Combine all other ingredients in a shaker with a healthy dose of ice. Pour into two prepared glasses, add a lime wedge and a giant ice cube, and enjoy.

BEER