I grew up in Pensacola, Florida—not the mecca of Jewish life by any means, but my parents did their best to infuse Jewish rituals into our daily lives by keeping kosher, going to synagogue for services and Hebrew School, having Shabbat dinners and, of course, celebrating the Jewish holidays. Passover was one of my favorites—rich in tradition, yummy foods (love that Hillel sandwich!), belting out Dayenu with tambourines in hand and celebrating our freedom as a people.
One of my favorite dishes of the Passover seder is haroset, a dish traditionally made among Ashkenazi Jews with apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine. I was the one who always kept eating the haroset even when we had moved on to the festive meal. And I always asked my mom to make extra so we could have it during the week.
So I was a bit thrown when I was asked by my synagogue’s sisterhood/Zhava chapter to come up with a creative version of haroset for this year’s Passover program. What’s wrong with traditional haroset? I didn’t think we should mess with it—it’s pretty delicious just as it is. But they wanted a spin on the original, so I thought back to my Floridian roots. How about a haroset with oranges and avocado instead of apples?
Even though haroset can be one of the healthier choices on the Passover table as is (fruit, nuts and spices, usually with no added sugar), as a nutritional counselor, I always embrace the idea of honoring traditional recipes, while trying to make the dish more nutrient-dense. Avocados are a favorite food of mine—both to eat personally and recommend that others eat for good health. This “good fat” is rich in folate, vitamin A and potassium, as well as an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated oils. Studies show that adding fat to one’s diet can help manage hunger, blood sugar and cravings, a key to maintaining a healthy weight.
In addition to the avocado, this recipe uses signature fruits from Florida such as oranges and lemons. My mother has been putting an orange on our seder plate for years now—why not use it in one of the recipes?
It also includes ingredients that are common in Sephardic haroset: figs and dates. I think this version has a fresh look and taste, and is especially good over frisée greens.
My family and I are heading down south this Passover, as we usually do, to spend the holiday with my parents and family. I am looking forward to my mom’s haroset and am excited to reveal this new version at our seder as well. Passover is all about celebrating the Jewish people’s emancipation from slavery. We were slaves in Egypt, but we don’t have to be slaves in the kitchen. Why not rejoice in our freedom and try something new?