Rainbow Bites and Apple Nesting Salad

I'm not religious, and I'm not interested in Jewish law, but I do have a soft spot for my family's traditions. Passover, for us, is one night: both sides of cousins and aunts and uncles gather together around a large table, read the story of Exodus, sing songs and prayers, and eat a massive meal. 

It is forbidden to eat chametz on Passover - any grain that has been allowed to ferment and rise - because, to put it briefly, the Jews had to suddenly pack up everything they owned and flee Egypt before the Pharaoh killed them all, which didn't leave any time for them to let their bread rise (enter: matzah). Some members of my family do keep kosher for Passover, so in planning my own contributions to this meal, I wanted to be respectful and make something everyone could enjoy, and avoid causing this year's bread-related incident (the most memorable of which was when we figured out that the carrot souffle my aunt brought every single year to the seder since before I was born was literally made with bread crumbs). 

I researched the rules of Passover baking, and to my surprise, you can use any (kosher) flour your heart desires, but you can only bake something that will be completely done within 18 minutes of the flour coming into contact with liquid (based on the reasoning that this is how long the fermentation of a grain takes). Which rules out....everything. 

I thought of making my favorite Passover dessert, rainbow cookies (you can easily spot them in the picture above - they're fluorescent). We have them every single year. They are made with matzah meal in place of flour, which I couldn't in good conscience bake with as matzah meal is a white flour refined of its nutrients and shorn of its wonderful hull that helps us digest so nicely, and my mission is to civilize with whole grains! So, I turned to nuts. Here's what I came up with:

Rainbow Bites (inspired by rainbow cookies):

For the base (green):
2 1/2 cups raw pistachios
2 tbsp coconut oil (room temp)
3 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt

For the middle (white), with great thanks to the brilliant Minimalist Baker:
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup coconut cream (you can skim this off the top of a can of unsweetened coconut milk very easily - 1 can yields 1 cup cream - then save the milk for a smoothie!)
2 tbsp arrowroot
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons)
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup

For the top (red):
Box of strawberries (the standard box is 16 oz, and I used about 10 oz)
1/2 bar (50 grams) dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 70% because they make the best bar of dark chocolate you can get for around three bucks) or make your own!

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a 9x9 square baking pan or dish with parchment paper (you don't have to go crazy, you just want it to be easy to lift out the entire confection after it has solidified) and lightly grease it with coconut oil. Put the raw cashews in a glass bowl and cover them with boiling water. Allow them to sit for at least one hour, and then drain throughly.

While your cashews are soaking, put the pistachios in a food processor, and process until you have a fine grain. Add the coconut oil, coconut sugar, maple syrup and sea salt, and blend until the mixture starts to clump and hold together (about four minutes). Remove the mixture from the food processor and press it gently and evenly in the pan. The crust should be about 1/4 inch high. Put the pan in the oven for ten minutes to set, and then remove. 

While the crust is in the oven, put the drained cashews, coconut cream, arrowroot, lemon juice, lemon zest, sea salt and maple syrup into a blender (the more powerful your blender, the more luscious and silky this filling will come out - I have a Vitamix 7500 and I recommend it to everyone). Blend the ingredients together until you have a smooth, yogurt-like consistency, with no lumps. At this point, you can add more zest or maple syrup to taste. I like mine lemony and not too sweet. Pour the filling into the pan slowly, smooth it out with the back of a spatula and tap the pan on your counter to get rid of any air bubbles.

Put the pan into the oven for 50 minutes, until the filling is set, but not baked - the surface will be slightly darker in color. Let the dessert rest for ten minutes while you slice the tops off of the strawberries and then vertically from bottom to top. Arrange the strawberry slices in overlapping rows on the surface of the filling (this filling is very delicate and will never be fully solid, so just be gentle). Put the whole thing into the fridge, uncovered, for eight hours or overnight to fully set. 

Remove the entire cake from the pan and slice into 1x2 inch rectangles with a very sharp knife. Set them aside onto a baking sheet or any flat surface that will fit in your fridge, lined with a sheet of parchment paper. Dip the knife into warm water after every slice, dry thoroughly, and be careful not to disturb the strawberries too much. I recommend putting on some pacifying music (I went with the Grateful Dead) and taking this part very slowly. Put the bites into the fridge for ten minutes to firm back up.

While your bites are in the fridge, boil 2 cups of water in a pasta pot and place any heat resistant bowl on the top for a makeshift double boiler (or use a double boiler if you have one!). Break up the bar of chocolate into squares and melt in the bowl, stirring every so often. When the chocolate has completely melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Take the bites out of the fridge and drizzle the melted chocolate on top with a small spoon or spatula to whatever degree of chocolate coverage you desire. I used half of the chocolate bar, but I wouldn't judge you if you went back and melted the other half. Put the bites back into the fridge until you are ready to serve them.

These will keep fine in a covered container in the fridge for five days, but once out of the fridge, they begin to soften pretty quickly. Alternatively, you could freeze these for little frozen treats!

I also made a salad, as I knew raw vegetables would not be making an appearance at this meal. I had this whole plan to make a charoset-inspired salad, charoset being a traditional mixture of apples, nuts, wine and spices that is supposed to represent the mortar that the Jews used to stack the bricks of the pyramids with. I had my wine simmering into a reduction to dress the salad with, and then I zoned out for a few minutes and the whole thing boiled and burned. In my depression over wasting most of a $14 bottle of wine, I just massaged my kale with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of two lemons, arranged my other ingredients (golden raisins, raw pumpkin seeds, and pea shoots) on top, and called it a day. I diced two green apples and two red apples right before serving. 

I've already got a plan for next year, and yes, it involves racing against a timer set for 18 minutes.