Taraneh's Charoses 04.07.2012

We attended a Seder last night, and I was reminded (as I am every year at Seder) about flavors that are associated with Seder: I make a mental note to myself that I will eat those things on nights that are not Seder.  But I don't.  Oy.

Why is that that matzoh tastes so good?  Is it because we are all starving?  Possibly.

What really got me last night was the charoses -- it's a mixture of apple, nuts, wine, and cinnamon.  The dish is a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of buildings as slaves.  Well, let me tell you this:  my friend Taraneh's charoses was so delicious, I could have eaten a giant bowl of that for dinner and been perfectly happy.  We placed spoonfuls of it on matzoh bread:  heaven!

I'm thinking about using the charoses mixture in a pie, a la apple pie.  Doesn't that sound fantastic?

Here is Taraneh's charoses recipe.  I dare you not to fall in love with it!

Taraneh's Charoses Recipe

6 Fiji apples, chopped into little cubes
1 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of chopped dates
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup of fresh orange juice with pulp
Generous amount of cinnamon
1/2 cup of brown sugar
Handful of dried cherries
1/4 cup of Manischewitz wine

Mix all ingredients well
Place covered in fridge until you're ready to eat

It's just that simple.

One note about the cinnamon:  Taraneh says to keep putting it in until everything is cinnamony.  And if you had eaten her charoses last night, you would know exactly what that meant.  There was a lot of cinnamon and it was incredible mixed with all the other flavors.

Now, how to remind myself to enjoy Seder flavors on non-Seder nights?  I'll keep you posted.  I'm determined to make charoses pie.

Happy eating all!

The main meal:  Citrus Carrots, Kugel, Eggplant, Tender Beef, and Beans

Cuban Tacos and Fried Plantains 04.01.2012

Our friends Mike and Katya invited us to dinner Friday night and, per normal, they went all out:  Cuban tacos, rice and beans, and fried plantains.  I've never had Cuban tacos and had no idea what to expect. The recipe they used was from Bobby Flay and the result was fantastic. The rice and plantains were equally tasty.

Before I get into the food, I have to comment on the setting.  We are lucky to have a number of people in our lives who are great cooks and hosts.  (You know how I feel about good hosting.)  When we walk into Mike and Katya's home, it is always warm and inviting.  It feels incredibly comfortable and comforting.  There are candles lit around the house, and it is within a few minutes of entering we have drinks in our hands.  We leave feeling loved, pampered, and well fed.  Ending a day or a week like this is perfection.

So, on to the food.  The Cuban tacos were amazing.  According to Mike, it was all in the assembly:  soft taco shells topped with ham, Swiss cheese, pork loin (pre-grilled after being marinated in canola oil, orange juice, garlic, and oregano), and jalapeƱos.  After assembly, the tacos were folded in half and placed on the grill for 12 minutes (flipped continuously).  The result was a satisfying crunchy-soft taco.


Mike and Katya keep a large stable of hot sauces and I topped my tacos with one called Bacon Hot Sauce.  My mouth is watering at the memory of it.  It was wickedly delicious and spicy.

For the plantains, two large plantains were sliced at a diagonal and fried in oil and butter, laid on a paper towel for a bit to dry out, and lightly salted.

The rice and beans were made from long grain white rice with peppers, onions, garlic, and canned black beans.  The recipes for the plantains and rice are from the Viva la Vida Cookbook.


Katya cooking the plantains.

I asked Katya about their principles of hosting.  I'm a huge fan of mission statements (consulting anyone?) and was so happy she and Mike have one for hosting:  "We like to make our guests feel welcome."

And their top three principles of hosting to accomplish this important mission?

1.  Don't run out of booze.  Specifically, don't run out of the booze you know your guests enjoy.

2.  Before guests arrive, have things ready.  Do as much prep as you can.

3.  Don't clean up while your guests are still there.

I support the mission and the principles.

Warm details:  Katya placed these little red flowers in 
espresso cups on the dining table.