As I've noted before, I'm a great fan of cooking out of season (besides Aunt Ester's sugar cookies, of course) so I'm not embarrassed to admit that the recipe below is traditional Passover food.
I've been hoarding a recipe for haroset from A Finger in Every Pie since last Passover. Now seemed like a good time to break it out, because Sam at Becks&Posh is hosting Sugar High Friday, with a paradoxical challenge to make a dessert minimizing the use of refined sugar. This haroset is tooth-numbingly sweet without the help of a single grain of sugar. In the photo above, you'll see that I've served it on a leftover panna cotta. To better fit the spirit of this virtuous SHF, though, it happily stands alone in tiny quantities, or spread on (sugar-free) matzohs.
Haroset is promiscuously symbolic. It stands for all sort of different things depending on which tradition you're working from, or what the person in charge of discussing the various symbols feels like talking about. The one I like the best is that the fruit and honey are supposed to sweeten our lives, to make easier the bitter things in life, and to remind us of things that are already sweet about our existence. That's a thought worth reflecting on at the dinner table anytime, I say.
This recipe is in the Sephardic tradition. The Ashkenazi recipe seems to be simpler--apples, honey, nuts--and chunkier. My Jewish mother-out-law makes a nice version with which I would rather not compete.
Venetian Charoset or Haroset
adapted from "The Jewish Holiday Kitchen" by Joan Nathan (Schocken Books)
1/2 cup chestnut paste
2 figs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup pine nuts
Grated rind of one orange
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup brandy or sherry
Honey (or, in my case, agave nectar*) to bind
Combine all the ingredients except the booze and stir. Add liquid until the mixture sticks softly together. Chill. Serve garnished with toasted white sesame seeds.
*Agave nectar is neat stuff. It's extracted from the same wonderful plant that gives us tequila (surely evidence that there is indeed a just and merciful god). It has a low glycemic index, which makes it a handy sugar substitute for diabetics. It's parve, which makes it kosher (so to speak) for the haroset. It's also 30% to 40% sweeter than sugar, so you don't have to use much, and low-calorie to boot. All of which is in keeping with the general effort at healthy alternatives to sugar that made this Sugar High (Low) Friday an interesting challenge.