Passover's starting tonight! It’s my favorite Jewish holiday because it focuses on eating foods that are delicious and have symbolic meanings.
The holiday celebrates when the Jews were freed as slaves from Ancient Egypt. Families will have a dinner party called a Seder, where we take turns reading from a small book called a Haggadah.
It includes the stories of Moses parting the Red Sea, getting the ten commandments, and other familiar bible tales, as well as a few sing-along moments.
Children play a critical role at the Passover Seder, with the responsibilities of asking four essential questions and playing a ritual game of hide-and-seek.
One traditional Passover recipe is called charoset — it’s pronounced “haroset,” but imagine you have a hairball stuck in your throat when you say it.
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Charoset is meant to have a texture like mortar, which is to remind us of the mortar we were forced to use when building the pyramids in Egypt. But it's also sweet to remind us of the sweetness of hope, because even in horrible times, even in slavery, there’s still hope.
Recipes vary depending on different family traditions and where families originated from. In my family, we make charoset from chopped apples, chopped walnuts, and a bit of honey, red wine, and cinnamon.
In ZOE terms, apples and walnuts are very healthy foods, so charoset is likely to score high for everyone.
Baseline recipe for charoset (scores 83 for me)
Walnuts — 160 g
Cinnamon — 1 1/2 tsp
Honey — 2 tbsp
Apple — 546 g
Red wine — 60 ml
Toast the walnuts first if you want to. Otherwise, skip that step!
Chop the walnuts in a food processor until they're the texture of coarse gravel. Tip them into a large bowl.
Peel the apples, then chop them in the food processor until they're the texture of coarse gravel. Put them in the same bowl with the walnuts.
Mix together the apples and walnuts with honey, cinnamon, and red wine. The whole mixture will turn a lovely shade of purple.
Cover the bowl and place in the fridge until ready to serve. While you can eat it immediately, charoset tastes better when it’s allowed to sit for a while, so I always make mine the day before my Seder.
Tweaking the recipe
Even with my poor scores for both blood fat control and blood sugar control and my mediocre microbiome, the basic recipe scores a solid 83 for me. But I wondered how it might score for people with different scores to me, and how we might tweak the recipe to be even better.
So, I called together a few of my fellow ZOEntists to investigate.
Marie, who is cheerfully smug about her excellent scores for both blood fat and blood sugar and a good microbiome, started with a score of 85 for the baseline recipe.
Rhea, also blessed with excellent scores for all three of her metrics, blood fat and blood sugar control and microbiome, started with 89 for the baseline recipe.
Beatriz, who has a bad blood sugar response but very good blood fat control and a good microbiome, got 80 points for the baseline recipe.
I wasn’t surprised that we all had great scores for this dish, because, like I said, apples and walnuts are excellent foods. But I was amazed at the tiny differences.
Why did Beatriz score worse than me when her blood fat control was better than mine? Why did Marie get only 2 points higher than me when her scores outshined mine by far? And how could we all tap into Rhea’s amazing health?
Next, we all tried tweaking the recipe to optimize our scores. I was able to raise my score by 9 points to 92 when I changed the walnuts to almonds, honey to dates, and slightly reduced the proportion of apples and wine.
Marie raised hers from 85 to 89 by swapping out honey for dates. Now it was my turn to feel smug for my higher score!
Rhea raised her score from 89 to 93 by swapping honey for agave, which scores much better for her. Given that huge boost, she boldly added in a bit of lemon juice, which might have dragged her score down again, but she counterbalanced that hit by swapping the apples for pears.
Beatriz was able to bring her score from 80 to 93 by swapping half the walnuts for almonds and half the apples for pears, and reducing the honey and wine a bit.
In the end, however you prepare your charoset, it’s bound to be both delicious and healthful. Happy Passover, or Sameach Pesach!