Hag Pesach sameach! Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, because it has the most and the best foods. I adore matzoh ball soup, I love the horseradish and the beets and the parsley, matzoh brie is delicious, I even like gefilte fish (but seldom eat it because nobody else does). However, I don't like traditonal Ashkenaz haroset, at all. There's something about out-of-season apples and walnuts cooked in sweet red wine that's unappealing, even more so if the cook adds raisins.
Sephardic harosets, however, are made with a more appetizing selection of dried fruits and nuts. So I was thinking about making one when we went to our local middle eastern market (La Bouffe) and found that they had green almonds in stock. (tip: your local tiny ethnic market is probably safer than the supermarket right now)
Green almonds are the immature fruit that will become almonds in the fall, an when you look at their fuzzy green flesh you can see how almonds are related to peaches and nectarines. Depending on how mature they are, you either eat the whole fruit, or the kernel in the center, which is the part that will become the almond nut. The flesh is tart and firm, and the kernel tastes mildly almondy with no bitterness.
I realize that green almonds are not an ingredient everyone can get, but if you can grab some from your local farmer's market or middle eastern grocery, Passover-time is exactly when they'll be in season. And then you can make this delicious haroset.
Green Almond & Date Haroset
1 lbs green almonds
12-16 dates, around 1/2 lbs
2 mandarin oranges
2/3 cup mild red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
Pit the dates and dice them fine. Put the date pieces, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in a small saucepan. Pour over the red wine, and press down so that all date pieces are wet.
Put on the stove and simmer over low heat until almost all the wine is either absorbed or boiled off, 5-10 min. Set aside to cool.
While the dates are cooking, prep the almonds and oranges. Separate the almonds into two equal piles, one having the smaller/younger almonds, the other having the older/bigger almonds. Stem the smaller almonds, and chop them fine, both green fruit and inner nut. Split the bigger almonds, extract just the kernel (nut), and roughly chop.
Peel the mandarin oranges, separate them into sections, and cut each section into 4-5 pieces.
Remove the cinnamon sticks from the dates. Put everything in a bowl and mix together. Set aside for at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld (or overnight in the fridge).