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...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.