The Seder is held on the first two nights of Passover, which begins at sundown on the 14th day of Nisan, the 7th month of the lunar calendar. It marks the time when Jewish people around the world commemorate the emancipation of the ancient Hebrews from the bondages of slavery in Egypt, several thousand years ago. The Jewish people left Egypt in such a hurry (and I would too if I were being chased by Pharaoh’s army), that they didn’t have time to let their bread rise. And so, modern-day Jews shun bread and all leavened products for 8 days.
Growing up my parents would host Seder in our home. Our friends and relatives would come over to read the Haggadah and partake in the ensuing festive meal. Every Passover I would look forward to my father’s famous Matzo Brei and Potato Bilkelach, and my mother would make matzah meal muffins and “rolls” which I thought were the greatest!
Passover memories are some of my fondest from childhood, and today I continue to embrace religious rituals that revolve around family, culture and food. The Seder tradition is something I’m passing down to my own children and this year I hope my youngest will be able to make it through all of the four questions!
To mark the exodus from Egypt I’m trying out a new version of the Seder staple, charoset. Charoset, which comes from the Hebrew word charas meaning clay, is brick-like in color and symbolizes the mud (brick and mortar) used by the ancient Hebrews to build their adobe huts. Traditionally we serve our Ashkenazi* charoset in a small bowl and spread it over our matzah, but these Sephardic** charoset truffles are different in both color and texture from the recipe of my childhood.
Unlike the standard Ashkenazi charoset, which has apples, wine, and walnuts, these truffles incorporate ingredients often associated with Moroccan/North African cooking. It contains dates, dried apricots, shelled pistachios, golden raisins and honey, which are all blended together to form a paste. They are then rolled in the palms of your hand, and once they are ball-like in shape, they are dusted in cinnamon and sugar.
You can easily make these truffles with your children too!
Enjoy and Happy Passover!
* Jewish people with German, Central and Eastern European roots.
** Jewish people with Iberian Peninsula roots (Spain and Portugal) whom after the Inquisition of 1492, generally settled in the North African countries of Morocco and Algeria (some also fled to France and other parts of Europe).
Sephardic (Moroccan) Charoset Truffles
(Courtesy of Tory Avery, The Shiksa Blog)
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1 1/2 cups dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup shelled pistachios
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
You Will Also Need: Food processor
Place dates, apricots, raisins, pistachios and honey and place in a food processor.
Pulse for about 2 minutes until the mixture is smooth but still has texture. You may need to break up the sticky mixture a few times if it collects in a ball in the processor.
In a bowl, mix together the sugar and the cinnamon.
Form date mixture into balls that are about ¾ inch in diameter. The balls will be sticky and soft. It will be easier to shape them if you wet your hands slightly.
Then dry your hands.
Dip the balls in the cinnamon sugar and coat thoroughly, and re-roll between your palms to smooth out any rough edges. Serve at room temperature.
These truffles are dense and they would go great with tea.
Words and Photos: Batya Stepelman
Recipe: Tory Avery, The Shiksa Blog
A New York City native, Batya relocated from Brooklyn to Denver in 2011. She practiced law for six years, but now spends her time writing about furniture design, architecture and lighting. When she’s not working, Batya enjoys blogging, hiking mountains, gardening, thinking about wallpaper … and making her kitchen messy with her two young boys.