Recently, I was approached by my friend and luminary, Rabbi Ruth, of Be’chol Lashon and Jewish&, as she was putting together a multi-cultural blog post about charoset. I considered submitting my family’s classic apple charoset recipe, as I make heaps of it to rave reviews every year. As I was wracking my brain for just the right recipe I realized that while many of my family’s Passover traditions stem from my father’s Ashkenazi roots, so much of my Jewish identity stems from my mother’s Cuban heritage.
This year, for my new charoset recipe, I found inspiration from the Sephardic tradition of forming the charoset paste into bite-sized balls, and used the flavors that I remember so well from my visits to the family in Cuba. Now, I know how my family reacts to change, so I won’t be pulling a bait and switch with their beloved spiced-apple charoset. For my family members who are reading this post, fear not. I promise that this recipe will certainly not replace our favorite charoset on the seder table, but perhaps I’ll serve it alongside the classic dish as a second option. Isn’t that how new traditions start? Also, since it is naturally quite sweet, it could even double as an acceptable dessert. That’s what we like to call a double-whammy!
For more charoset inspiration, check out the 7 different recipes Rabbi Ruth collected from around the world, by clicking here.
This Cuban-style Charoset is inspired by the island flavors that influence so much of my cooking. While most Charoset is served as a paste, I drew on the Sephardic tradition of making Charoset into small balls for this unique take on a classic dish.
5oz dried unsweetened mango, coarsely chopped
8oz dried unsweetened pineapple, coarsely chopped
½ cup almond slivers, toasted
2 cups shredded coconut, toasted and separated
In a small bowl, soak the mango in hot water for ½ hour.
Drain well, and add to a food processor. Add pineapple, almonds, and 1 cup of the coconut to the mango in the food processor, and pulse only until the mixture starts to form a ball. There should still be some visible chunks.
Form the mixture into bite-sized balls, and set atop a pan lined with wax paper.
In a small bowl, add the last cup of shredded coconut. Roll the balls in the coconut until they are lightly coated, and return them to the wax paper.
As the year is quickly drawing to an end, I notice my friends reflecting on the year that was, and hoping and planning for the year that will be. In the spirit of taking stock of my life, I have a confession to make. I, the one and only Cuban Reuben, have an obsession with, of all things, Christmas carols. That’s right. White Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Let it snow…you name it, I love it. But while some of my friends choose to tease me about this unconventional fascination, my good friend, Meredith, made an astute observation. My list of favorite Christmas carols? They were all written by Jews. “Of course you love them,” she says! So, maybe it’s not so sacrilegious after all to love Christmas carols as much as I do. It’s true that Jewish holiday music doesn’t elicit the same degree of jolly cheer as your average good ol’ carol, but that’s where Coquito comes into play.
What better way to help bring out your jollies than to imbibe on a sip or two of the rum-spiked creamy Puerto Rican festive drink, Coquito? Particularly if you are being held hostage by a snowy blizzard, this creamy coconut cocktail that tastes like a tropical vacation in a glass, will not only help warm your insides, but might even loosen you up to the point of joining your friends as they go caroling down the neighborhood. Liquid courage never tasted so good.
I’ve also served this for several New Years’ Eve celebrations to rave reviews. By now, my friends have requested it to help them ring in the new year. And for those of you whose resolution includes to shed a few pounds, don’t worry about the rich nature of this drink. I’ve tried this recipe using the reduced fat versions of the ingredients, and it still comes out quite tasty, though not as creamy.
Happy holidays to all of my readers here at The Cuban Reuben. Let’s toast to a happy and healthy new year!