Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fruit and Nut Salad in a Spiced Wine Reduction

(To download a .pdf of this recipe, click HERE.)

Today’s recipe for Fruit and Nut Salad in a Spiced Wine Reduction was inspired by charoset, a delicious apples and walnut salad traditionally served as part of a Passover Seder. Since the time I was a child, it has interested me that people having charoset (pronounced char-OH-set, with the guttural ch as in “yecch!”) for the first time invariably single it out as the best tasting item on the table. And yet I have never seen it served except at Seders.

Friends, that’s about to change. Today’s recipe, a kind of charoset with an attitude, is meant for year-round use in any cultural setting.  (To paraphrase the old kosher hot dog commercial, there’s no such thing as a religious fruit salad.) The traditional sweet apples have been replaced with Granny Smith apples for their firm texture and tart taste, and balanced with pears. The customary walnuts are supplemented with almonds, and toasted for deeper flavor. Texture and flavor are added by using both dried apricots and raisins.

And then there’s the wine. Although you can use any red wine, the traditional choice is sweet and inexpensive Kosher concord grape wine as pictured. (Wine lovers, don’t be put off; while not all that good for drinking – and that’s putting it kindly – I’ve found this type of wine is surprisingly good as an ingredient in fruit dishes, desserts, and anyplace else where its high level of sweetness can serve a good purpose.) Rather than just adding the wine as is, this recipe makes it a spiced reduction to fortify the flavor, a key element to this recipe’s special taste.

(Note also that if you prefer not to cook with wine, grape juice is frequently used as a substitute.)

This recipe makes a little more than 4 cups of fruit salad.

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is preheating combine ¾ cup of sweet red wine, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon allspice, and ½ teaspoon ground ginger in a saucepan over low heat. Bring to a boil and continue to cook uncovered until the wine is reduced to about ¼ cup.
  • Hint: When making reductions, I’ve found a barbeque skewer marked with the original liquid depth and the desired reduced liquid depth to use as a kind of dipstick is very helpful.
Place ½ cup of chopped walnuts and ½ cup of chopped almonds on a baking sheet, and toast for a few minutes until the nuts are slightly browned and aromatic. Turn off the oven when done.

Combine 3 Tbsp of light brown sugar, 6 ounces chopped dried Mediterranean apricots, ¼ cup dark raisins, ¼ tsp salt, the juice and zest of one medium orange, 2 peeled and finely diced Granny Smith apples, and 2 peeled and finely diced pears in a bowl.
Add the toasted  nuts and the spiced wine reduction after both have cooled.

Mix well before serving. For best flavor, refrigerate the mixture overnight, and serve cold or room temperature.

As with any fresh fruit salad, this will hold for a couple of days. (Your family or guests will probably finish it all well before that!)

See you next week with another kitchen-tested, great-tasting recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

(To download a .pdf of this recipe, click HERE.) 


  1. This sounds delicious! I make a salad that's somewhat similar with apples, dried cranberies and walnuts in a viniagrette of walnut oil and sherry vinegar. I'll have to try this!

    1. Thanks, Sandy. And just think, you can enjoy it without having to deal with matzohs! I like the sound of your version too.