Enjoying the ‘Hidden’ Taste of Purim—All Year

February 21, 2013 2:13 am 0 comments

Chocolate and white hamataschen by chef and television personality Jeff Nathan. Photo: Jeff Nathan.

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 JNS.org. “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 JNS.org. “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 JNS.org. “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...

  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.