Spring is here, finally. Easter and Passover are around the corner and the weather is trying ever so much to warm up. It’s actually pleasant to walk around a farmers market without the cold wind pushing you along. This week on my stroll through the Union Square Green Market the first table that caught my eye was Holy Schmitt’s. The Schmitt family has been farming produce on Long Island for nearly 150 years. Their horseradish is just out of this world. After sampling a few varieties I settled on the cranberry-horseradish jar. Instantly I knew what I wanted to create: my own version of charoset. Every year we get invited to a Passover dinner at our friend’s home and it’s all I can do to not gobble up the charoset on the table. They serve the Ashkenazi version with chunky apples, walnuts and a touch of cinnamon. Spread on a shard of matzo and topped with a dollop of nose tingling beet-horsradish maror. Honestly, its so addictive, I could eat just that for the whole meal.
My creative process is pretty much the same for every new blog post and recipe I write, it all starts from a single ingredient. In this case it was the tart and spicy Holy Schmitt Cranberry Horseradish.
Apples are a given and for this I used the Crispin (mutsu) variety. It’s a crisp, sweet apple and perfect in a salad. I decided just for fun to add in red carrots and pink beets. They looked so darn pretty at the market! I really wasn’t sure how they would work, but had an inkling.
My goal was to get the same texture more or less so I cooked the beets a bit and quickly blanched the carrots. It is certainly a few extra steps and ingredients from the original, but well worth it in the end.
Borrowing from the Sephardi tradition I decided to add dates. For no other reason than I always have them in the cabinet. Everything is mixed and then tossed with my horseradish concoction. Generally at Passover you see the two served separately, and combined at the table. For my reimagined version I incorporated the horseradish into the dressing. (Yes, it totally works!)
Here is where your knife skills get some play. Work hard to get all the pieces the same size. It will make a difference in the final dish and “wow” your guests. Just for good measure, to give the whole dish a little sexiness, I added some beautiful micro Ruby Red Chard from Windfall Farms. It’s perfectly fine as is, but does look really pretty plated.
Traditionally you would serve your charoset with matzo, but I could not resist the idea of a special bread from She Wolf Bakery. Every week I hit this table and get a different bread for the week. It’s another must-try at the Union Square Greenmarket. Using the Miche bread pictured I sliced it nice and thin and toasted. Beautifully crunchy with a slight sour dough taste.
This is truly a farmer’s market dish. Don’t feel too tied to the beets and carrot. You can easily substitute for more apple if you desire. Remember, the original starts with apple and walnuts.
Farmers Market Charoset
Makes about 6 cups
1 pink chiogga beet, about 6 oz., yielding about 1 cup
1 – 2 red carrots, about 6 oz., yielding about 1 cup
2 apples, about 1 lb., yielding about 3 cups
1 cup walnuts
8 medjool dates, about 6 oz., yielding about 1 cup
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange, plus 2-3 tablespoons of orange juice
1/3 cup Holy Schmitt Cranberry Horseradish
1 tablespoon honey
- Scrub and rinse the beet and place in 4 cups of cold water with 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool slightly. Rub off the skin and dice in 1/8″ cubes.
- While the beet cooks bring a small pot of water to boil and add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Dice the carrots to 1/8″. Drop the carrots in to the boiling water and cook for 30 second. Drain and set aside. (See not below about the carrots.)
- Toast the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and roughly chop. While the walnuts are toasting dice the apple. Set in a bowl with cool water with 1/2 lemon squeezed and dropped in.
- Pull the pit out of the dates and chop in small pieces. The dates will be sticky, so take your time. Set that aside.
- When all of your components are cooked and diced place them into a very large bowl. You will need to separate the dates with your fingers to evenly distribute. They are sticky and you don’t want them to clump up. Toss it all with your hands to combine evenly.
- In a small bowl add the lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, horseradish and honey. Whisk and taste. Add a little salt and adjust the seasoning. Add the dressing to the mix and combine with a big spatula. Cover and set in the ‘fridge to marinate. The longer is sets the better it will taste. Serve with additional Cranberry-Horseradish.
* Feel free to add more cranberry horseradish to taste. The final dish has great flavor, but not overpowering.
* In my first version I left the carrots raw. After three days they took on the same texture as the apple. So if you make this ahead consider not blanching them. If you plan to eat it within a day or two go ahead and blanch. (Unless you are cool with the crunch.) By the way, after three days the dish was pretty delicious. All the flavors came together beautifully.