A Hidden Purim Cooking School

Yes. It is nearly here. The Jewish holiday cycle is nearing a new completion. Purim is almost upon us, and the full moon will be closer to the planet Earth than it has been in over a decade.

Hamantaschens will be cookies to some, and fertility rites to others. But what is more exciting is the Wednesday before Purim, when newspapers across America print their annual features and recipes for all of us to read. Yesterday did not let me down.

The Roanoke Times in Southwest Virginia, published a Purim recipe with a story about Kathy Cohen, who grew up in Pittsburgh. Each Purim, she and her cousins would arrive at the living quarters above her Grandfather Schwartz’s dry goods store and feast on hamantaschen. Each child also got to fill a small bag of penny candy from the store. Kathy is now the rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Roanoke.

Susan Schwartz share new fillings for hamantaschen in the Montreal Gazette. The unique fillings she has recipes for? Blueberry filling, and an Apricot, Date, Pistachio filling. She takes it from Gil Mark’s (2010) Encyclopedia of Jewish Cooking.

The New York Times published a story by the chancellor of all Jewish food writers, Joan Nathan. She visits the Lehamim Bakery in Tel Aviv. Uri Scheft, the baker there fills his hamantaschen with marzipan, sour apple, dates with sweet red wine and cinnamon, halvah, and chocolate chip cream. Other bakeries use amaretto, meringue with cream, marshmallows, strawberries and orange jam, and pistachio with rosewater. The NYT also includes a slide show of Tel Aviv and Parisian Purim bakery treats.

Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, PhD., writing in The Forward, discusses HIDDEN foods for Purim. Rabbi Abusch-Magder writes that Persian Jews laid special claim to Purim and would eat special foods with “hidden treats” in honor of the holiday with “hidden actors.” Gondi is a meatball with the surprising filling of raisins and nuts in a sweet and sour sauce. Travadicos are sticky honey cookies filled with nuts. Italian Jews dine on spinach ravioli and manicotti. Her story includes the recipe for Sambusak B’tawah or Iraqi Chicken (or Tofu) Turnovers is adapted from Gilda Angel’s (Sephardic Holiday Cooking) Sambuska B’tawah recipe.

The Los Angeles Times focused on treats that Queen Esther would have dined upon, perhaps. Jewish cookbook author, Faye Levy, shares recipes for broiled eggplant salad with sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes; chickpea and noodle soup with Persian herbs, hamantaschen with poppyseed filling and creamy rice pudding with cardamom and almonds. Levy reports that Queen Esther would not have eaten a tomatoes, however, since this New World fruit wasn’t available in 5th century BC Persia. She garnishes with kashk, a flavorful Persian yogurt-like dairy product. (Hat tip to Charlie Sheen of “Two and a Half Menschen” for pointing out this story. Thanks Charlie)

Ruth Taber, in the El Paso (Texas) Times, that hotbed of Jewish culinary creativity, writes about stuffed monkeys and shares a recipe from Gil Marks. She writes that Victorian London confectionery shops featured “stuffed monkeys” or bolas (small fritterlike cakes) for Purim. Originally from Iberia, medieval bolos were a yeast dough croquette fried in oil. In the Netherlands, cheese was added. When Dutch Jews emigrated to the UK, the fried bolos — without yeast — became a popular Purim treat.

The Austin papers at #SxSW had no Texas Purim recipes, but if you are hankering for some, please visit Temple Beth Israel in Austin.

Other recipes can be found in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Forward’s Jew and the Carrot Blog, and.. the best.. The Boulder Colorado News’ article titled “HAPPY PURIM — HAPPY COLON.”

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