In the United States and worldwide, Purim begins on the evening of Monday, March 9, and continues through the day of Tuesday, March 10. (Shushan Purim, celebrated in walled cities like Jerusalem, starts a day later, on Tuesday through Wednesday.) The holiday is rooted in Jewish survival in the Persian Empire, thanks to the bravery and Jewish pride of Mordechai and Esther. In the face of destruction and Haman’s evil plots, Jews not only survived, but flourished.

The holiday also takes place in the Jewish month of Adar, known for celebration and happiness.

Outside, there’s crazy dancing to blaring music, often on the tops of cars if there’s no room on the streets or sidewalks. Costumes range from traditional kings and queens, to animals, sports stars, superheroes and more. Anything goes. In fact, if you’re not dressed in a crazy outfit, you tend to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. At the Machane Yehuda open-air market in Jerusalem, I once saw a group of kilted Scots whirled to the skirl of bagpipes. As my Israeli cousins handed me a bottle of something fizzy they chortled “It’s Purim,” It’s loud, deliriously happy, and everyone is your friend.

Inside, the main symbols of Purim are festive eating and drinking, which can be interpreted as getting drunk and sampling hamantaschen after filled hamantaschen. It is written: “One must drink on Purim until that person cannot distinguish between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai” (Megillah 7b). In Israel, there is no need to bake. Every store, restaurant and corner cafe displays heaps of the three-cornered pastries, symbolic of the wicked Haman’s hat. As Queen Esther is said to have eaten a vegetarian diet in order to keep kosher while living in the palace of King Ahasuerus, enterprising cooks may serve up Aromatic Chickpeas and a Poppy-Seed Vinaigrette to pour over fresh avocados. In response to requests for the Hasty Hamantaschen recipe, the kid-friendly version is included below.

Of course, there are also some required activities: four mitzvahs associated with the holiday. Jews are supposed to hear the Megillah read; give to the needy (matanot la’evyonim); arrange and give gifts of food to friends and neighbors (mishloach manot); and share in a festive meal.

Happy Purim! Chag Purim Sameach!

Carrots. Credit: Pixabay.

Carrot, Orange and Ginger Soup (Pareve)

Serves 6-8

This is always on the menu at Trattoria Haba, deep in the heart of Machane Yehuda.

Cook’s Tips:

*Zap the carrots in microwave for 2 minutes to soften before using.

*Buy chopped onion, which is time-saving and easier on the eyes.

*Use store-bought vegetable stock.

*Use store-bought shredded carrots.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2½ cups shredded carrots

½ medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 orange, unpeeled and seeded, cut in chunks

1 cup cooked yam, cut in chunks

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3-4 cups vegetable broth

1-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated

Salt and white pepper to taste

Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Directions:

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.

Add the carrots, onion and orange. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, until carrot and onions are softened. Cool slightly before placing mixture in blender jar or food processor.

Add the yams, lemon juice and 3 cups broth. Return to pot.

Stir in the ginger and bring to simmer over medium heat. If too thick, stir in more broth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with a little sesame seeds and serve.

Avocado With Poppy-Seed Vinaigrette. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Avocado Salad With Poppy-Seed Vinaigrette (Pareve)

Serves 6

Cook’s Tips:

*To avoid avocado becoming brown, sprinkle with lemon juice.

*For a dairy meal, top with sour cream or plain yogurt.

*Instead of dicing avocados, mash to coarse consistency.

Ingredients:

4 medium avocados, peeled and diced

4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried mint

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Nondairy sour cream

Directions:

Place the avocados in a serving bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Toss gently. Set aside.

In a cup, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice with the olive oil, mint and poppy seeds.

Pour over the avocados. Toss gently. May cover and chill for an hour or so.

Divide into 6 bowls.

Top with a spoonful of nondairy sour cream and serve.

Aromatic Chickpeas. Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

Aromatic Chickpeas (Pareve)

Serves 6-8       

Adapted from a recipe in Phyllis Glazer’s “Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking.”

Cook’s Tips:

*Keep a jar of minced garlic on hand in the refrigerator.

*Zatar, a blend of sumac, sesame and thyme, is available in most supermarkets, spice stores, health-food places and specialty-food outlets. It packs a Mideast punch in soups and savory dishes. Keep in a glass container, as it can leach out of plastic bags.

Ingredients:

2 (14½ ounce) cans chickpeas, well-drained

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons zatar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

½ cup finely snipped parsley, packed

Directions:

Place drained chickpeas in a saucepan.

Warm over medium heat 5 minutes. Set aside while you make the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.

Pour over the warm chickpeas. Toss gently.

Serve at room temperature.

”Baladi Eggplant.” Photo by Ethel G. Hofman.

‘Baladi’ Eggplant (Dairy)

Serves 2-3

A popular Middle Eastern eggplant dish. “Baladi” supposedly comes from the story of a Turkish imam who swooned at the aroma when presented with this dish.

Cook’s Tips:

*To brush eggplant with oil, soak a paper towel with 1½ tablespoons olive oil. Rub over eggplant before baking.

*Tahini, a creamy sesame paste available in supermarkets, spice stores, health-food places and specialty-food outlets.

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

⅓ cup tahini

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup snipped parsley

2-3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Cumin to sprinkle

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.

Coat eggplant with olive oil and prick all over with a fork, 6-8 times.

With a sharp knife, make a cut, about ½-inch deep, from end to end. Place on baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft when pressed with finger. Cool slightly.

Press lightly to open. Dust the softened eggplant with cumin. Spread a layer of tahini over.

Top with yogurt, then snipped parsley.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Note that amounts of tahini, yogurt and parsley will increase for a larger eggplant.

Israeli “shakshuka.” Credit: Calliopejen1 via Wikimedia Commons.

Family-Style ‘Shakshuka’ (Dairy)

Serves 6-8

For Purim festivities at home, shakshuka is a tasty, make-ahead dish for a crowd. May double the recipe and bake in two dishes.

Cook’s Tips:

*Don’t be put off by long list of ingredients. Most are ready prepared, opened and dumped!

*Peppers, onions and mushrooms may be purchased already chopped and sliced. Place any remainders in a plastic bag and freeze for later usage.

*Instead of challah, any bread maybe used.

*For a pareve dish, omit the Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped or 1 cup ready chopped

1 medium red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped, or 1 cup ready chopped

1 (4 ounce) can of mushroom stems and pieces, drained

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 (24 ounce) jar marinara sauce

1 (14½ ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 slice (½-inch thick) challah, crumbled

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons paprika

½ cup snipped parsley, loosely packed

6-8 eggs

2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray a 9×9 inch ovenproof baking dish with nonstick vegetable spray.

In large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, mushrooms and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Do not brown. Add the remaining ingredients, except the eggs and cheese.

Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir often.

Transfer to prepared baking dish. Cover loosely with foil.

Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Remove from oven.

Using a tablespoon, create 6-8 wells in the hot tomato mixture. Crack each egg into a cup before placing gently in each well. Return to oven.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until eggs are set and yolks are runny.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serve hot with warm pita bread.

Scottish Strudel (Pareve)

Makes 30-36 pieces

Served in many Jerusalem’s cafes, inspired by the large Scottish Jewish community. This dessert consists of a spongy cake dough instead of traditional filo leaves.

Cook’s Tips:

*Do not substitute olive oil for vegetable oil! The dough will wind up too soft.

*Instead of self-rising flour, use 3¾ cups all-purpose flour mixed, with 4 teaspoons baking powder.

*May substitute any dried fruit in place of raisins and currants (i.e., dried apricots, glazed cherries, dates, mini-chocolate chips). For a dairy strudel, some Scots sprinkle a little cheddar cheese over the filling before baking.

*For easy clean up, line baking sheet with foil.

*To make cinnamon-sugar: In a small container with tight-fitting lid, mix 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. May substitute nutmeg for cinnamon-nutmeg sugar instead.

Ingredients:

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 cups self-rising flour

6 tablespoons marmalade, melted

1 cup raisins

¾ cup currants

⅓ cup chopped walnuts or other nuts

Cinnamon and cinnamon sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar till pale, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in oil. Gradually fold in the flour to blend.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Divide chilled dough into 3 pieces. On a floured board, roll out one piece into a rectangle about 6×10 inches. Spread 2 tablespoons marmalade over. Sprinkle with ⅓ cup raisins, ¼ cup currants and 2 tablespoons nuts. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Roll up as for a jelly-roll. Dust with cinnamon.

Place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Bake in preheated oven 35 minutes. Cool.

Use a serrated knife to cut into ¾-inch slices. May be frozen.

Hasty Hamantaschen. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.

Hasty Hamantaschen (Dairy)

Makes 10 

Cook’s Tips:

*Use prepared poppy-seed filling from most supermarkets, spice stores, health-food places and specialty-food outlets.

*In a pinch, substitute grated orange rind for lemon rind.

*To make pareve, use prepared puff pastry. Cut out circles using a water glass.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup prepared poppy-seed filling

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 (12 ounce) package refrigerated biscuits

2 tablespoons honey, warmed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl, combine poppy-seed filling, lemon rind and cinnamon. Set aside.

Separate biscuits. On a lightly floured board, press each biscuit into a round about 2½ inches in diameter. Place 1 rounded teaspoonful poppy-seed mixture in center of each biscuit.

Moisten edges with water. Fold up over filling to form a three-sided pyramid. Make sure to leave some of the filling uncovered.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven 12 minutes, or until golden at edges. Brush with honey, if desired.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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