Passover is my very favorite holiday, Jewish or secular. I love the warmth, the connection with tribal history, and so many of the phrases that remind me everyone is welcome at this table, and that until all of us are free, none of us can be. Of course, all the stories about Passovers past, like the one in college when, after all 4 obligatory glasses of wine, V called his parents in Chicago to wish them Happy Passover, so I did (mine were in California), and the L called hers — good Southern Baptists… It was that same seder when, at the moment when we fling open the door to invite Elijah into our homes and our hearts, B stopped by, hoping to scrounge dinner. And so forth.
Then there are the foods, glorious foods! Most Ashkenazi Jews make charoseth (which represents the mortar the Hebrew slaves used to build the pyramids) from finely chopped apples, walnuts, sweet Passover wine, and a little matzoh meal (from the special kind of matzoh kosher for Passover, that has been carefully monitored to make sure there is no leavening). This concoction always set my teeth on edge. I dreaded it…until I discovered this recipe for Yemenite charoseth. It’s so sweet, I can eat only a little at a time, but bursting with flavor.
Yemenite Charoseth — about 12 servings
1 cup pitted, chopped dates (I use Medjool when I can find them)
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/3 cup sweet Passover wine (or fruit juice)
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tsp – 1 T ginger, either powdered dry or fresh, according to your taste
Dash – 1/2 tsp ground coriander
Dash cayenne — optional
2 Tablespoons matzoh meal (I use brown rice or sorghum flour as it needs to be GF)
Combine the fruit and wine. Add sesame, spices, and matzoh meal until thoroughly mixed. Roll into 1″ balls or serve in a mound.
The image is the first Nuremberg Haggadah, circa 1449 C.E.