The Taste of Purim, Year Round

March 5, 2012 2:25 pm 0 comments

Homemade hamantaschens. Photo: wiki commons.

Hamantaschen, as three-cornered pastries representing the evil Haman’s ears, are most “timely” when consumed on Purim. But like other foods associated with the holiday, they can inspire year-round creativity in the kitchen.

According to Jeff Nathan, chef-host of public television’s “New Jewish Cuisine” program, Purim’s joy is all about disguises and surprises.

“Little kids dressed in costumes, the best clothes of a beauty pageant and foods to represent the holiday,” Nathan told JointMedia News Service. “The food is my favorite part.”

Nathan, who has won a matzo ball soup “Throwdown” challenge against Food Network personality Bobby Flay, explained that he offers Purim foods with a surprise inside.

“No, not a box of Cracker Jax,” Nathan said. “Instead, I serve a Chinese style egg roll, with house smoked brisket inside. A light winter soup has quick simmered kreplach filled with pulled chicken, ginger and Asian vegetables. At home I do a savory hamantasch of grilled vegetables, olives and cheese. My favorite little sweet for the holiday is the traditional three-cornered hamantasch filled with pineapple, poppy and cherries. Not your bubbe’s style, for sure!”

Nathan said that holidays remind us of our heritage when we allow ourselves to take the time to cook the foods of our past.

“In doing so, we feed our souls and that’s why we make latkes throughout the year,” he said. “We may call them fritters or griddle pies, but they’re latkes nonetheless. Matzo Brie is often a Sunday breakfast well into August, and Purim allows us the freedom to drink just one more, indulge in just another bite of something sweet and smile at why we do it. For me, I like to pull the mystery of Purim foods into my year-round cooking. The mystery of ‘what’s hidden inside,’ ‘what’s that hint of an ingredient’ is intriguing to me, and to my customers.”

Phyllis Glazer likes the humor and frivolity of Purim, and the challenge every year of creating food that encompasses the themes of “masquerading,” “foolery,” Queen Esther’s vegetarian diet, and the Persian roots of the holiday.

Famous in Israel as a guru of healthy cooking, Glazer is a celebrated chef, journalist, TV personality and cookbook author. She is the author of five best-selling health-promoting cookbooks in Hebrew, a biblical cookbook published in German and Italian, and The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, written with her sister Rabbi Miriyam Glazer.

Asked about new ways to make Purim favorites such as hamantaschen, kalischbrod, and poppy seed treats, Glazer focused on health.

“We are all very health conscious these days, and I think that Purim favorites should reflect that, but without going overboard, like substituting whole wheat pastry flour for anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 the white flour when making hamantaschen or traditional challot,” Glazer told JointMedia News Service. “There’s a Moroccan version that is sweet and contains anise seeds, not only kalishchbrod. Poppy seeds don’t only have to appear in hamentaschen. I use them in a salad of avocado, banana and persimmon with a sweet and sour poppy seed vinaigrette, or in vegetable curries.”

A special Purim challah, known in Russian as keylitch, is sometimes made. This challah is oversized and extensively braided. The braids on the challah are intended to remind people of the rope used to hang Haman.

Glazer said another little-known culinary custom she enjoys is “Haman’s shoes,” derived from Greece/Soloniki. There are other Sephardic versions as well, she noted, of the challah-dough shaped into shoes with an egg on top held in place by “laces” of dough.

“I’ve heard of ‘Haman’s fleas’ as well, but have never encountered any recipes,” she said.

Another Purim fun food favorite of Glazer’s is “sushi” made with fruit leather and stuffed with cream cheese and pistachios, or chocolate cakes that contain “hidden” ingredients like beets or zucchini. Glazer agreed with Nathan that people should be able to enjoy the foods of Purim all year long.

“By creating healthy vegetarian dishes for Purim, we can use them the year round, and make a major contribution to the American diet,” she said.

To some Jews, like Ruth Abusch-Magder, the foods of Purim not only reflect the nature of the holiday—joy, frivolity, generosity, community—but also the seemier side of human nature.

Abusch-Magder wrote her PhD dissertation based on old Jewish cookbooks, and is now the rabbi-in-residence at Be’chol Lashon, an organization that celebrates the ethnic and racial diversity of the Jewish world.

“Through food we literally embody the story that we are meant to recall,” Abusch-Magder told JointMedia News Service. “We are obligated to have large feasts and drink plenty of alcohol. Our modern feasts recall those of ancient times. It reminds us of the celebratory feast that Jews had once the danger passed. But they also recall the feasts held by the King, feasts that led to trouble and danger. From the start, the holiday pushes us to see both the dangerous elements of ourselves as well as the powerful elements. The food is both a symbol of joy and danger. We share gifts of food with friends, mishloach manot, literally sent food, which helps to tighten bonds of community. Community is critical to surviving when danger threatens. Again food embodies the message of the holiday.”

To Abusch-Magder, the holiday of Purim is a chance to look at our darker side.

“It helps us cope with the fundamental capacity that even well intentioned people can have to be difficult or evil,” she said. “It is telling that we are meant to read the story in full and not miss one word of the story. We cannot skip over the good or the bad of the story, or of our lives. Costumes allow us to hide from ourselves and from others, but the fullness of ourselves is always there. At every turn we have to make the choice which part of ourselves to reveal to others.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the morale of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.