Malice at the Palace

It is traditional during the Jewish political holiday of Purim (March 11-12) to present a playful Purim shpiel. Last year in the midst of the very contentious election season, I penned A Presidential Purim Parody, with the brave Queen Esther/Hillary, the righteous Mordecai/Bernie and their divisive opponent, Haman/Donald.

Things didn’t quite work out the way many had hoped. So allow me to present an epilogue in the spirit of Purim, featuring The “Not Ready for the Presidency” Players.

King Donald roams the palace halls,
Dressed in his royal robe,
Displaying “tremendous” touchiness,
Despite being a germaphobe.
[Read more…]

Festive Bukharan Purim Bread

Photo by PRODebraj Ghosh https://www.flickr.com/photos/debraj/

Photo by PRO Debraj Ghosh

Jews have lived in the Central Asian city of Bukhara since the reign of King David. One of their unique Purim specialties is an intricately decorated flatbread called Kulchi Ravghaniy. Flatbreads have been baked in Bukhara for over 12,000 years, and are described in one of the world’s oldest written stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh. In Bukhara bread symbolizes life. Jews celebrate the life of Queen Esther and the Jewish community by serving these festive loaves during the Purim feast. [Read more…]

Why Progressive Jews Should Oppose Gorsuch for the Supreme Court

Purim approaches, and so does the hearing and vote for the president’s choice for a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land. Our 45th president, as imperial and out-of-touch as Ahasuerus (ex-wives! beauty contests!), displays a callous disregard for constitutional values, separation of religion and state and the importance of a fair and independent judiciary. Like the courageous Mordecai and Esther, we cannot afford to stay silent when we see a clear threat to liberty, equality and justice for all. That’s why progressive Jews should be speaking out to say that Judge Neil Gorsuch is wrong for the Supreme Court. [Read more…]

Comedy Night Purim Celebration

So far this year, FIDF’s generous supporters have adopted the “Gadsar Golani” Battalion, funded a gym for the Yiftach Brigade of the IDF Northern Gaza Division, refurbished a club in Efraim Regional Brigade, and continue to support IMPACT! students with academic scholarships.

The Vegetarian Queen

Photo by Kotoviski https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kotoviski

Photo by Kotoviski

Purim is a week away but I have already rolled, stuffed and pinched too many circles of dough into cookies, called hamantaschens, that sort of resemble Haman’s three-cornered hat. I will bake many more batches to fulfill one of the four Purim mitzvot — distributing mishloach manot (gifts of food) to friends and family. I might even get to the point of “cheating” and fill my goody bags with store-bought (gasp!) hamantaschens. This year, perhaps in support of my family’s effort to decrease our sugar intake, I’d rather sidestep the dessert and celebrate Purim with a healthy, savory dish. [Read more…]

Persian Purim Halvah

What do Persian Jews prepare for each other to celebrate Purim? I have always wondered about this. The Persian Jewish community is very insular, and I have never had the opportunity to ask. Thanks to the development of social media, it was possible for me to approach a group of Persian Jewish women to inquire. The special Purim treat of the Persian Jews is saffron halvah.

Saffron halvah is not like the white sesame halvah I am used to from Israel. A base of flour and oil is cooked, and then flavored with nuts and spices. Its consistency is more akin to that of a brownie. The resulting halvah has a deep golden tone, and is redolent of saffron and rosewater. The soft pastry is accentuated with the crunch of almonds and pistachios. It is a Purim treat that truly harkens back to Queen Esther’s palace.

Saffron Halvah
Adapted from the Iran Chamber Society

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 7/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup rosewater
  • 12 threads of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon almonds, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon pistachios, crushed
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Mix in the flour.
  3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.
  4. When the dough thickens, turn off the flame.
  5. In a separate pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil.
  6. Add the saffron to release its golden color and aroma.
  7. Add the rosewater.
  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Pour the sugar syrup into the dough.
  10. Mix thoroughly.
  11. Pour the halvah onto a serving platter.
  12. Flatten the dough with a spatula or spoon.
  13. Garnish with crushed almonds and pistachios.

Spicy Hamentashen With Moses’ Sauce

Photo by @joefoodie

Photo by Joe Foodie.

What type of hot sauce would Moses use? I have found a locally made, kosher hot sauce that would have fit the bill.

Burning Bush® Kosher Hot Sauce is made by roasting the finest hot peppers, and then combining them with a blend of Middle Eastern herbs and spices. I decided to try it out in a savory hamentashen recipe for Purim. I was inspired by fatayer, which is a type of savory meat pie from Lebanon.

Moses’ Spicy Hamentashen

Adapted from Just a Pinch.

Prepare the dough:

  •  3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110°F)
  1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place for 60 minutes.

Prepare the filling:

  1.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
  2. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, until they are translucent.
  3. Stir in the ground lamb. When the lamb is browned, add the tomatoes.
  4. Season with salt, hot sauce, allspice, cinnamon, and sumac.
  5. Pour in the tahini paste and pomegranate molasses and remove the pot from the fire.
  6. Stir in the lemon juice and chopped parsley.
  7. Allow the filling to cool to room temperature.

Assemble:

  1.  Pinch off a walnut-sized piece of dough.
  2. Sprinkle little flour on a clean surface.
  3. Roll out the dough into a 3-inch circle.
  4. Place two teaspoons of meat filling in the center of the circle.
  5. Pinch the dough into three corners, to form a triangle shape.

Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Place the hamentashen on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes.

Purim Poppy Seed Cake

It is said that Queen Esther kept kosher in the palace of Shushan by eating a vegetarian diet.

Seeds and nuts have been an integral part of the diet of the Near East since ancient times. Poppy seeds featured prominently in many recipes, and are believed to have been especially favored by Queen Esther.

Photo by Neptuul

Photo by Neptuul

One delicious treat that you can bake for your Purim celebration is a traditional Turkish cake called revani. Revani is a poppy seed-semolina cake which is drenched in syrup and garnished with clotted cream.

Poppy Seed Revani

Adapted from Selcen Koca Sari 

Preparing the Syrup

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • juice from half of a lemon
  1. Cook the sugar and water in a pot until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the lemon.
  3. Stir the syrup over medium heat until it thickens.
  4. Turn off the flame, and set aside.

Baking the Cake

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup ground poppy seeds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix all ingredients.
  3. Pour the batter into an oiled cake pan.
  4. Bake for between 40 and 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the syrup over it.
  6. Allow the cake to rest for a few hours so it may absorb the syrup.
  7. To serve, top with Clotted Cream.

Queen Esther’s Foods of Seduction


“Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast,” by Rembrandt, 1660.

— by Ronit Treatman

How did Queen Esther make King Ahasuerus fall in love with her? By her looks, intelligence, or sense of humor? Or did she concoct some sort of love potion?  

Persian cuisine is known for its complexity and subtlety. A message of desire may be transmitted in a cup of tea.

An ancient legend recounts that a Chinese emperor accidentally discovered tea when some leaves from a tea tree blew into an outdoor cauldron of boiling water. The fragrant brew attracted him, and after his first sip, he was hooked. This new beverage traveled from China to India, and tradesmen brought it from India to Persia.  

Persian tea is steeped from whole dried tealeaves, and is always served piping hot. It is never accompanied by milk. Tea is traditionally flavored with sugar cubes, sour cherry jam, honey, raisins, dry mulberries, dates, or limes.

Two recipes after the jump.
One special type of Persian tea is called “saffron love tea.” In her book Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, Iranian-American chef Najmieh Batmanglij wrote that when a suitor asks for a woman’s hand, if her parents offer him a cup of saffron tea, then the answer is “yes”!

Perhaps the real secret of Esther’s success in seducing King Ahasuerus was a perfect cup of Persian saffron love tea.

Persian Saffron Love Tea
Adapted from Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, by Najmieh Batmanglij    


  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 cardamom pods

Place all of the ingredients in a pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

The perfect accompaniment to this tea is a type of Persian frittata called kuku. This one is made with pistachios:

Pistachio Kuku
Adapted from Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Grind the pistachios in a food processor.
  3. Heat the rose water.
  4. Sprinkle the saffron threads into the hot rose water.
  5. Place the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, eggs and milk in a large bowl.
  6. Mix everything well, and then add the saffron-rose water mixture.
  7. Blend in the ground pistachios and the brown sugar.
  8. Take a heavy, oven-safe skillet and heat the olive oil over low heat in it.
  9. Pour the batter into the skillet.
  10. Cover the skillet with a lid, and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid, and place the skillet under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.
  12. Garnish with powdered sugar.

I prepared this afternoon tea for my family. The kuku was delicious, crunchy, and not too sweet. The youngest person who tasted the saffron tea said, “It is warm and sweet, just like love.”