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.
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…]
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…]
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…]
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
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
- Mix in the flour.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.
- When the dough thickens, turn off the flame.
- In a separate pot, bring the water and sugar to a boil.
- Add the saffron to release its golden color and aroma.
- Add the rosewater.
- Turn off the heat.
- Pour the sugar syrup into the dough.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Pour the halvah onto a serving platter.
- Flatten the dough with a spatula or spoon.
- Garnish with crushed almonds and pistachios.
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)
- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place for 60 minutes.
Prepare the filling:
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ground sumac
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup tahini paste
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt to taste
- Burning Bush® Kosher Hot Sauce to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot.
- Add the onions and cook over medium heat, until they are translucent.
- Stir in the ground lamb. When the lamb is browned, add the tomatoes.
- Season with salt, hot sauce, allspice, cinnamon, and sumac.
- Pour in the tahini paste and pomegranate molasses and remove the pot from the fire.
- Stir in the lemon juice and chopped parsley.
- Allow the filling to cool to room temperature.
- Pinch off a walnut-sized piece of dough.
- Sprinkle little flour on a clean surface.
- Roll out the dough into a 3-inch circle.
- Place two teaspoons of meat filling in the center of the circle.
- Pinch the dough into three corners, to form a triangle shape.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place the hamentashen on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
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.
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
- Cook the sugar and water in a pot until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Add the lemon.
- Stir the syrup over medium heat until it thickens.
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Mix all ingredients.
- Pour the batter into an oiled cake pan.
- Bake for between 40 and 45 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven and pour the syrup over it.
- Allow the cake to rest for a few hours so it may absorb the syrup.
- To serve, top with Clotted Cream.