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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Hot Honey Pizza with Roasted Broccoli and Red Onion

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A damn good pizza idea:

Besides the usual dough, sauce, and cheese galore, add broccoli and red onions prepared as you would for roasting them (coated in olive oil, plus s&p). Broccoli florets should be quite small, and onions quite thin, to allow for a short cooking time.

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THEN, make the best pizza topping in the world (discovery thanks to Paulie Gee’s…aka the debatable best pizza in NYC): HOT HONEY. You can be all fancy and buy the official version (which we did at the recent Greenpointers Holiday Market, but, as per my rules, we Cannot Touch until Christmakkuh is celebrated…) OR make your own. Simply combine 3 parts honey to 2 parts hot sauce (unless your hot sauce is ridiculously hot) and mix well. Drizzle over pizza before popping into your oven (at the hottest possible temp).

Pizza is done when cheese melts sufficiently, broccoli is charred but still crunchy, and the edges begin to brown, about 12 minutes.

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We strayed a bit from this basic model by trashing our pizzas up with black olives, yellow peppers, leftover mushrooms (me), prosciutto (him), and of course fresh basil post-oven. None of this was at all necessary, though, and I recommend giving the broccoli-red onion-hot honey combo a chance before letting your fridge leftovers make the rules.

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Ingredients:
Sauce, dough, cheese, broccoli, red onion, olive oil, honey&hot sauce, s&p

Method:
Use your brain, silly! (Or, follow my first pizza post for more specifics!)

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Recipe inspired by Serious Eats and veggie-fying the Hellboy.
Snowflakes by us, proudly 🙂

Honey and Cinnamon Sautéed Apples with Ice Cream

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A nostalgic weekend away to visit your old college haunts should include:

-A well-loved CD played as many times as you can stand (thank you, Ingrid Michaelson)

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-Gorgeous views, foliage, natural beauty, and deep breaths of untainted air (thank you, upstate New York in general, and Saratoga Springs and Lake Luzerne specifically)

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-The obligatory visits to That Coffee Shop Where We Wrote Lots of PapersThe Bar Where We Met Boys (uh, hi mom), The Brunch Spot To Take Your Parents To, and, of course, the theater building where you spent most waking hours in college

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-The inevitable bumping into old classmates, complete with the understated but boastful (never skewed) recounting of where you live, what you do, how it fits into your goals from college, and why you’re so excited with where you are right now

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Apple pickingwine tastingbookstore wandering, thrifting, breakfast making, and maybe some salsa dancing.

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What it doesn’t need to include:

-An awkward moment where your boyfriend realizes he ordered a $30 glass of scotch while the rest of the ex theater majors sit there with their glasses of water. Oops.

-A superbly frustrating bout of misinformation from the car rental company, who claims the name on the credit card has to be the same as the primary driver. Why should they care so much where the money comes from, as long ask they get it?!?! It’s Zipcar from here on out.

-Any momentary glimpse or glimmer of a feeling approaching hunger. Every meal had an intro and a follow through. As the Rule says, upstate weekends Don’t shy away from unabashed butter consumption, Dutch cheese frenzies, or frequent pie detours. No shame, people, no shame.

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Honey and Cinnamon Sautéed Apples & Vanilla Ice Cream: The Best Thing to Do Post-Apple Picking (or, Pie Without Crust)

1-2 T salted butter (or unsalted and add more later)
2 T honey
3 apples, any crunchy variety, unpeeled and roughly chopped
1 t ground cinnamon
ground cloves, a sprinkle (or use allspice or nutmeg)
¼ t salt
vanilla ice cream (HIGHLY recommended, but use whatever makes you happy)

Melt butter in a medium pan over medium high heat. After it froths, add honey. Mix together and cook until mixture becomes bubbly, about two minutes. Add apples and stir so all pieces are covered with butter/honey mixture. This should smell amazing. Add cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Turn heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until apples are softened and sweet but not falling apart, and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Serve warm atop vanilla ice cream and swoon.

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Pure joy.