Harosi: For the Seder Plate and Then Some

 

Come Passover, whatever’s on a Sephardic Seder plate makes its way into the meal, too, and onto the table throughout the entire week. In my family, harosi is one of the holiday’s most treasured extended pleasures.

Making the harosi each year was one of my grandpa’s favorite cooking projects, as far back as I could remember and surely long before that. He made huge batches of it. Vats! At the Seder we always placed several generous bowls of it on the table, and later, on our way home, Papú would gift each of us a jar or two – personalized with our names, and swaddled lovingly in acres of paper towel and rubber bands – so we could each keep spreading the love throughout the weeklong holiday. We spread it on matza. We spread it on cake. On cheese. Over ice cream.  On spoons – it’s great straight from the jar.  Ottoman Sephardim already eat spoon sweets, and to us, harosi is one more.

Harosi represents the mortar used in building the Great Pyramids of Egypt. but please let any similarity stop there. As a little girl raised on Sephardic food, I was convinced that at the Ashkenazi religious school I attended, they believed the stuff needed to taste like mortar as much as look like it. Each year as part of our Passover lesson, they’d break out the paper plates and serve us a snack of grainy, grated apples, raw, wilted and brown from oxidation, with huge hunks of walnuts and waaay too much cinnamon. It never held together in any sense, and I truly didn’t mind whenever the dubious treat invariably fell from the matza and onto the floor. Even at five, six, seven years of age, in those moments I took great, if quiet, pride in the culinary distinction of my culture.

Granted, I don’t find my family’s harosi exactly gorgeous; there’s no way around it, you’re going to wind up with an opaque, purplish-brown mush. But it’s luscious and sweet, one of the unique, delicious foods of Passover. Savor it all week, with some cheese and a glass of chilled white, over ice cream or Greek yogurt, or straight from the spoon. If mortar really did taste like this, those Pyramids wouldn’t have had a chance.

The recipe’s this way.

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Holidays (fiestas judias), Recipes

4 responses to “Harosi: For the Seder Plate and Then Some

  1. Rochelle Mann

    Hi Janet
    It’s Rochelle Amateau Mann from california i loved reading your wonderful and informative article love you

  2. Mark L.

    Hi Janet,
    An Ashkenazi friend brought me her apple-and-walnut harosi when I was observing Pesach for the first time. She also brought me the Persian harosi, which she ordered by mail from Zabar’s in New York. I’m ashamed to say I gobbled the Persian variety, while I ate relatively little of her Ashkenazi version. And hers was homemade! But it’s just as you say- the Ashkenazi version was not to my taste, chunky and bland. Can I say that my Marrano ancestry prefers harosi like yours? LOL
    sincerely
    Mark

    • Janet

      Well now. Unless you mean to be derogatory, you shouldn’t call your ancestors Marranos, because it means swine. Converso works. Besides, a pig will eat anything you feed it!

      As for the harosi, don’t apologize for your taste buds. My Ashkenazi grandma never made us harosi (she knew when she was licked 😉 ), but boy oh boy, did we look forward each year to her stellar matza balls! Maybe your friend brought two kinds because she knew hers wasn’t exciting, but it wouldn’t have felt like Passover without it. It’s hard to break with tradition!

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