Archive for October, 2010

Apple: Charoset – Jewish Apple Dried Fruit Nut Salad

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Apples are not only tasty and good for you, over the thousands of years that they’ve been around, they’ve grown to have cultural and religious significance.

For instance, this Jewish apple salad – charoset is eaten during the Jewish Pesach (Passover) festival. Charoset is also spelled “charosset,” “charosses” or “haroset”  and pronounced ha-ROH-ses or ha-ROH-set.

Depending on the provenance, the salad ingredients and texture will vary.

In the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) version, ingredients traditionally include apples, nuts, cinnamon, sweet red wine and honey – in a finely chopped salad spread over matzos. For the Sephardim (Mediterranean), the salad generally includes dates, other dried fruit, and spices like ginger – pureed into a paste and sometimes rolled into sticky balls eaten with sweetmeat throughout the holiday.

Charoset recipes are typically family recipes that also reflect an ethnic influence. Some recipes add bananas, pine nuts, chiles, cilantro or other local ingredients.

However, whether the salad is finely chopped or paste-like – it symbolically represents the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to build ancient Egypt and the salad is one of six items on the Sedar Plate along with bitter herbs.

Since I’m not Jewish, I’m inclined to eat this salad throughout the fall and winter months, when apples are at their peak and dried fruit is abundant. This version is more tart than sweet, made sweeter with the sweet red wine. However, I think the salad would also be lovely using olive oil in lieu of sweet wine and adding some fresh parsley and cilantro for a more savory salad. Or, I may make it simply using orange or apple juice and eat the leftovers in my oatmeal.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about apple salads or your family’s charoset version.

Tidbits on Apples:

  1. There are over 7,500 known varieties of apples.
  2. In some cultures, an apple is a symbol of immortality, love or sexuality. For example, throwing an apple at a person’s bed was an invitation for something racier than apple pie in ancient Greece.
  3. Some folklore credits apples with increasing a woman’s chances of conception.
  4. Apples have also been rubbed on skin to remove birthmarks.
  5. The proverb an apple a day keeps the doctor away, has some truth to it primarily because it helps aid digestion.


Apple: Moroccan Chicken Apple Stew

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

savory chicken apple stew tajine

Are you like the majority of Americans who only eat apples as a raw snack or in sweet dishes? If yes, you’re not alone – only a few years ago, I was the same.

More recently, I’ve taken cue from other cultures that use apples in savory dishes, much like one would use a potato – apples add a tart and sweet dimension to soups, stews and salads.

Last fall, I wrote about the Moroccan and North African cookery and how they use fruit such as apples, pears, quinces, apricots and raisins for savory dishes. This chicken and apple tagine is a twist of the Moroccan Lamb and Pear Tagine I posted. Of course, you could easily substitute pears or use both.

Although I still haven’t bought a tagine (the cooking vessel), this dish is a tagine – a reference to the rich Moroccan stew. The chicken version has more veggies (carrots, zucchini, and potatoes) and garbanzo beans. This is pure comfort food, especially when paired with couscous.

October is national apple month – so try apples in a savory dish. What’s your favorite non-sweet apple dish?

Tidbits on Apples:

  1. In 2004, U.S. per capita total apple consumption was 50.4 pounds per person, according to the U.S. Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. For fresh fruit, Americans eat 18.6 pounds of apples per person, second to bananas.
  2. The high pectin and malic acid in raw apples are good for digestion and elimination. Leave the skin on for extra nutritional benefits. The flavonoids found in apples are believed to help prevent cancer.
  3. The acid content of apples makes them a natural breath freshener.


Pumpkin Seeds: Mexican Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

As you know Fork Fingers Chopsticks just celebrated its 1 Year Anniversary. There are new things in the works – one in particular is my marketing campaign. To spread the word and create more Web love and buzz for this site, I’m taking on more opportunties – like this recent guest post at my friend Pamela’s blog My Man’s Belly. I met her at Campblogaway, a food bloggers conference last May. She’s very creative in the kitchen and as an extra beni – she gives relationship advice.

Check out my recipe for Mexican Pumpkin Seed Pesto. Use it over melted queso for an extra special appetizer, as a spread on bread or tortas (sandwiches), or as a base for a sauce to accompany your favorite meats, veggies or pasta.

I’ll be posting more pumpkin seed recipes after I finish a few more apple posts. Stay tuned – Moroccan Chicken with Apples coming soon.

Fork Fingers Chopsticks 1 Year Anniversary & Top 10 Posts

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Popular Posts Anniversary Fork Fingers Chopsticks

This week my blog is one! It’s hard to believe that a year has already passed since I started Fork Fingers Chopsticks.

It’s been a labor of love – all of it, except for the dirty dishes. I’m the researcher, recipe developer, cook, writer, photographer and marketer. I have no staff to manage and very rarely do I have the luxury of a sous chef. But, I dig it!

The nerd in me likes researching food history and finding the intersection of culture and food function, the unusual details of the exotic and the mundane. On this journey, I’ve become a hobbyist food anthropologist – digging deep on the different cultural uses of a particular ingredient.

When I created this blog, I wanted it to be different – I hoped to create a place for recipes and great content.  I have cooked every recipe that is featured on this site and sometimes I had to make a dish several times to get it just right for you. Let’s just say, we ate a lot of arroz con pollo at my house last April.

As I embark on the next year, I want to say thanks to all of you – friends and people whom I’ve never met from across the globe. You read my posts, try my recipes, and take the time to make comments. It means a lot, knowing that you find value in my food blog. I also send a special thanks to my husband for his support and for washing so many dishes.

If you haven’t done so, start following me on Facebook and Twitter. I frequently post other food-related news. In the next month, I will be adding a new feature on my Facebook page about pantry staples – such as spices, oils, chiles, etc.

In homage to FFC’s first year, check out this year’s most popular posts. If one of these is not your favorite, tell us which was and more of what you’d like to see in the next year.

Happy cooking and eating!


10.  Sweet Potato: Jamaican Sweet Potato Curry

9.  Lentils: Lentil & Plantain Salad – Ensalada de Lentejas Y Platanos

8.  Sofrito – Puerto Rican Fresh Bouillon

7.  Green Tomatoes: Chow Chow – Pickled Relish

6.  Quinoa: African Peanut Quinoa Soup

5.  Cabbage: German Russian Cabbage Burgers – Runzas & Bierocks

4.  Zucchini: Mexican Succotash – Calabacitas Con Elote

3.  Rice: Puerto Rican Rice with Chicken – Arroz con Pollo

2.  Rice: 5 Ways to Make Horchata- Mexico’s Rice Drink

1. Black Eyed Peas: Vietnamese Sweet Rice & Bean Pudding – Che Dau Trang