Seder tastes: Better bitter, masterly mortar

Zahav Haroset.
Zahav Haroset.
Posted: April 14, 2011

As the playbook for the Passover seder, the Haggadah has two roles. It retells the story of the Exodus, and it gives the family cook an opportunity to dust off once-a-year recipes that are eaten to symbolize key parts of the narrative.

This recipe for horseradish sauce (symbolizing the bitterness of slavery) hails from the Alsace region of France, where horseradish may have first entered the Passover cook's repertoire, according to food writer Joan Nathan.

It's from her latest cookbook, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France. "Before grating the horseradish, just remember to open a window and put on a pair of goggles," she advised.

Our second update for the seder plate is a recipe for haroset (symbolizing the mortar used by enslaved Jewish masons in Egypt) from chef Michael Solomonov at Zahav restaurant in Old City. It combines Eastern European and Middle Eastern ingredients from the Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions.

Zahav is offering a $42 prix-fixe Passover menu nightly Monday through April 26. It includes homemade matzoh and six courses of haute holiday cuisine, but no seder ceremony.

- Becky Batcha

SAUCE AU RAIFORT (Horseradish Sauce)

1 fresh horseradish root,

about 1/2 pound, peeled

2 medium beets, boiled and peeled, cooking liquid reserved

3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar, or to taste

1/4 cup white vinegar or beet-juice water

Finely grate the horseradish and the beets, with a hand grater or in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Toss with the lemon juice and salt.

Put the sugar in the vinegar or beet-juice water in a small pan and set over medium heat to dissolve. Bring slowly to a boil and turn off after about 3 minutes. Stir this liquid into the horseradish and beets. If too dry, stir in some of the reserved beet-cooking liquid.

Put the horseradish and some of the liquid in a jar, and keep tightly closed in the refrigerator for a day. Then remove and taste, adding more salt, sugar or beet liquid as needed. Makes about 2 cups.

Source: Joan Nathan, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous.

ZAHAV HAROSET

1/4 cup shelled walnuts

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 Granny Smith or other crisp

apple, peeled and cut into small dice

1 shallot, finely diced

1/2 celery stalk, finely diced

1 tablespoon date paste (see note)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dried Urfa Biber

peppers, coarsely ground or

1/8 teaspoon ground dried

chipotles

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 additional tablespoon

extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Kosher salt

Toss walnuts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt, and toast in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. Remove the nuts from the pan and chop them in a clean bowl, then stir in the honey. Mix with all other ingredients and season with salt to taste.

Note: To make date paste, pour boiling water over 6 dried, pitted dates and soak about 5 minutes, then pulse in a food processor with just enough of the soaking water to form a paste. You will have more paste than you need for the recipe. Try it as a spread on toast with some tahini and salt. Yields about 1 1/2 cups haroset.

Source: Chef Michael Solomonov, Zahav.

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