Tonight begins Passover, the yearly ritual retelling of the Jewish story of Exodus. But mostly, it’s about eating.
A central element of the traditional seder dinner is eating a Hillel sandwich: a scoop of fruity-nutty-chutney called charoset and a spoonful of horseradish between two pieces of matzoh (unleveaned flatbread.) This sandwich, we believe, is the very first sandwich to be recorded and preserved through history.
Born in Babylonia but “the man” in Jerusalem, Rabbi Hillel was the preeminent figure of Jewish study in the 1st Century BC (BCE.) As a centerpiece of the Passover seder, he thought to combine the three major symbols of the meal into one compact bite: matzoh, bitter herbs and roast lamb.
Wait. What’s that about roast lamb?
The modern Hillel sandwich is a far cry from the sage Rabbi’s original creation. Over time, charoset has taken the place of the roast lamb, likely out of necessity and availability. Even matzoh, the iconic “bread” of Passover, has taken on a form that is likely quite different from the original Bedouin flatbread.
So tonight, as Jews eat their Hillel sandwiches, consider this: how badass could a real Hillel sandwich be — roast leg of lamb and chopped horseradish wrapped in a wood fired flatbread?
Tell us about your perfect Hillel sandwich in the comments.
Yield: 3 cups
* 6 peeled apples, coarsely chopped
* 2/3 c chopped almonds
* 3 tbsp sugar, or to taste
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* grated rind of 1 lemon
* 4 tbsp sweet red wine
Combine all, mixing thoroughly. Add wine as need. Blend to desired texture- some like it coarse and crunchy, others prefer it ground to a paste. Chill.
Source: “The Jewish Holiday Kitchen” by Joan Nathan 1988