I jokingly refer to the Jewish holiday of Passover as the “horseradish holiday.” (As a wholesale distributor of fresh produce, it has always been an easy way to inform our retail clients that this is the time of year to stock up on this knobby root.)
That is, of course, because horseradish is one of the symbolic “bitter herbs” served as part of the traditional Passover Seder dinner. This year, the first night of Passover starts at sundown on Monday, March 29, and Jews all over the world will be sitting down for a dinner filled with traditional foods.
Supermarkets are pretty savvy, and they have chosen to increase their offerings of Jewish/Kosher foods for each of the major Jewish holidays. So, even if you are not Jewish, this is the time of year when you can stock up on matzoh (large 8-inch square crackers), almond macaroons, and all sorts of Kosher and traditional sweets.
And, if you shop in the produce department, you may suddenly notice a very ugly, knobby and oftentimes dirty root vegetable. That would be fresh horseradish root. Hopefully, it will be in the refrigerated section, and if you’re lucky, it will be in the “greens” section, where it will get misted regularly with water. Like all root vegetables, horseradish tends to lose its moisture if not kept cool and damp.
First of all, don’t be afraid if the roots are a bit dirty. (They do grow in the dirt, after all!) When you get your horseradish root home, store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and don’t wash it until you are ready to use it. (Actually, we encourage retailers to stock horseradish that is already pre-wrapped, to keep it fresh.)
Fresh horseradish is incredibly pungent, so get ready for the smell! Peel off the outer skin with a potato peeler. The inside will be a creamy beige color, similar to a parsnip. Grate coarsely if you want to serve as is, or puree in a food processor until finely blended, and add sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise (your preference) to dilute the very strong flavor. (Note: Like chopping onions, you may find yourself shedding a few tears as you cut into fresh horseradish.)
Fresh-grated horseradish served with homemade prime rib will impress your guests! (Most people serve the jarred, prepared horseradish.) You can also add finely grated horseradish to your mashed potatoes. (Oh, by the way, all the top chefs now call mashed potatoes “potato puree,” or simply “puree.”) The horseradish will give your “puree” a little zing.
I personally love the zing I experience when I add freshly grated horseradish to top a matzoh during our family Passover Seder. The meal is filled with many family memories of years past.
I would love to hear about your favorite way of using horseradish. Add your comments in the form below. (If you are reading this in your email, click on the headline to take you to the online version so you can enter comments.)
From my family to yours, have a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter!