Honey and apples, eaten together to begin the Jewish year, make us hopeful and expectant of a sweet, happy year. But it is when honey shows up again in charoset at Passover that we really rely on its sweet, nourishing warmth to take us through reconnecting with our heritage at the seder and into the sweetness of spring. So why stop at honey cake when indulging our craving for honey at Pesach? I propose a few more sweet morsels to help us through Passover week.
Honey is naturally kosher, because although it is produced by an insect (non-kosher to eat), it doesn’t actually go through the bee. It’s created by the combination of enzymes secreted by the bee mixed together with pollen, and is “grown” in the honeycombs of the hive. However, some companies that sell honey may not have kosher packaging at their factory, so all kashrut honey is labeled with a hechsher, or a kosher symbol. Honeys specifically packed for Passover will have a capital “P” to the right of the hechsher, but most sources indicate that any kosher honey is kosher for Passover.
If you are lucky enough to run into some kosher honeys that are not just the run-of-the-mill clover blends, try some other enticing and beautifully scented flower honeys. Look in the Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and other health food stores’ collections to find some that will be lovely new treats, just drizzled on warm matzoh. Blackberry honey is slightly astringent with a floral scent, making it open up in layers of flavor on your tongue, while buckwheat honey (my favorite) is deep dark amber in color with a bold, wheaty fragrance and a brandy-like flavor — a little will go a long way! Lavender honey doesn’t smell at all like lavender, but is lightly sweet and fine textured with a fresh scent and a grassy, herbal taste.
To start off, throw together a five-minute dried fruit and honey marmalade for making easy Passover treats; spread it on apple or pear slices, or on matzoh, or mix it into yogurt or sour cream, or as a topping for sorbet or ice cream.
1 cup dried fruit (apricots, peaches, mangoes, etc.)
1-1/2 cups honey
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup walnuts, almonds or other nuts
Soak the dried fruit in hot water for 10 minutes, drain and put into the bowl of a food processor. Process until coarsely chopped, add the honey and process till the mixture is smoothed out but still lumpy. Add the vanilla and nuts and pulse until as smooth as desired. Put into a clean container, cover well and let sit at room temperature overnight. Yum! By the way, this marmalade is great baked into the centers of acorn squash or served on hot boiled or roasted beets.
Yield: 3-1/2 cups
This is a beautiful color-collage salad to serve for spring! It’s fine for a buffet or for a passed salad, but make sure to make the dressing just before serving so the avocado won’t have a chance to change from brilliant green to drab olive.
Asian Pear, Orange, Olive and Almond Salad with Avocado-Honey Dressing
2 heads romaine hearts or heads of Bibb lettuce, or a combination
2 med. Asian pears, peeled, quartered and cored
3 med. oranges, peeled
1 cup raw almonds
6 oz. oil- or brine-cured black olives
1 large ripe avocado, or 2 small
1/2 cup olive oil, light flavored
Juice of 3 med. or 4 small limes
Orange juice from slicing the oranges for the salad
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint or tarragon leaves, plus several small sprigs for garnish
First, toast the almonds: heat the oven to 350º, place the almonds on a cookie sheet in one layer, and place in the oven for 7 minutes. Remove, let cool and chop coarsely.
Wash and dry the lettuce leaves, tear into bite-sized pieces and chill until 15 minutes before serving. Cut the pear quarters into thin lengthwise slices and cut the oranges into thin crosswise (across the segments) slices; save the orange juice for the dressing. Pit the olives by pressing each with your thumb firmly into the cutting board, then pulling the pit out of the softened olives. Chop very coarsely.
Make the dressing 20 minutes before serving: Slice the avocado(es) in half lengthwise, remove the pit and scoop the flesh out of each half-shell with a tablespoon. Chop the avocado flesh roughly and place in a blender jar. Add the rest of the ingredients except the herb sprigs and blend on medium until completely smooth. If more liquid is needed to facilitate the blending, add more lime juice and 2 Tbs. of water. Taste the dressing and add more of the major ingredients to bring the flavor into balance; more honey if too tart, more lime juice if super sweet, more salt or herb if it seems a bit bland.
To make the salad, toss the lettuce with 2/3 of the dressing and arrange on a large plate or platter. Arrange the pear and orange slices on top and sprinkle with the olives. Grind several turns of black pepper from a grinder on top and drizzle all over with the rest of the dressing. Garnish with the toasted almonds and the mint or tarragon sprigs and serve right away; the dressing may turn a little off from its brilliant green if it sits too long.
Here’s a very simple and quite addictive little dessert that can be served with sour cream mixed with honey, and perhaps a few raspberries or sliced strawberries scattered on top.
Chocolate Ricotta Honey Torte
3 matzohs, toasted 5 minutes in a 350º oven and ground in a food processor until it reaches graham-cracker crumb consistency
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
3 Tbs. honey
1/2 cup ground nuts (optional)
Mix all ingredients together and press into the bottom of a lightly greased 8-inch spring form pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350º and set aside to cool.
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup honey
1/2 cup cocoa powder
5 eggs, beaten well
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream together the ricotta, honey and cocoa. Add the beaten eggs, salt and vanilla and blend well. Pour into the prepared pan, place onto a cookie sheet and bake in the center of the oven till set and lightly golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool completely and chill. Remove the outer rim of the spring form pan and cut into even wedges to serve.
Serves 6 to 8