De-Stress the Simcha

On Monday evening, we will celebrate Purim, the holiday that
commemorates the liberation of the Jews in ancient Persia, and reminds us of
the triumph of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, over Haman, the wicked
prime minister.

Purim is traditionally a time when families come together
and celebrate the holiday with a menu of dairy foods, veggies, nuts and seeds
of all kinds because, as the story states, Esther did not eat meat while in the
king’s court.

This year I will serve some family favorites that I recently
taught at a cooking class for the University of Judaism. My students were
enthusiastic and they loved the Beet Borscht and Blintzes, the traditional
dishes that I usually prepare for Purim.

The Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht is easy to make. It can be
prepared several days ahead, served hot or cold and garnished with sour cream
or sliced cucumbers. The addition of balsamic vinegar in the recipe instead of
the usual lemon juice heightens the sweet-and-sour flavor.

Blintzes are very versatile, depending on the filling, they
can be served as an appetizer, a main course or for dessert. In class, I
demonstrated how to prepare blintzes with the traditional hoop cheese mixture,
fry and serve them with sour cream and preserves. Using the same blini recipe,
but filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, they are baked and served with a
tomato sauce similar to Italian Crispelle. Both recipes can be made in advance,
filled, folded and refrigerated or frozen until ready to heat and serve.

During the class, the students made hamantaschen, the
traditional Purim pastry that is combined with either poppy seed, prune or a
chocolate-nut filling. But, for a contemporary American version, I often fill
the hamantaschen with peanut butter and jelly, a favorite of my children and

A Purim custom still observed is called shalach manot (the
giving of food). Just pack your delicious Hamantaschen in colorful gift boxes
and share them with family and friends.

Purim Menu:

Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht

1 pound beets (about 4 medium), tops removed, peeled and

6 cups water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1¼4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1¼4 cup balsamic vinegar

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Sour cream, for garnish

Sliced or diced cucumber, optional

 Place beets in a large nonreactive pot and add water. Bring
to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat butter over medium heat and sauté
onion until softened, about five minutes. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring
constantly, about three minutes. Add to cooked beets along with balsamic
vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, about
20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle the soup into cups or soup bowls. Top each
with a dollop of sour cream and cucumber if desired.

Serves 6.

Cheese Blintzes

Usually cheese blintzes are rolled into an oval shape, but I
like to fold the pancake over the filling like an envelope so the result is a
flat blintz. This makes them much easier to fry, and the sour cream and
preserves can’t roll off the top of the blintzes.

1 cup flour

1¼4 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

13¼4 cups milk

2-3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brandy

Cheese Filling (recipe follows)

Butter for frying

 In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and salt.
Blend together eggs and milk and add to flour mixture a little at a time,
blending after each addition, beating until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the
melted butter and brandy. Put through a fine strainer to avoid a lumpy dough.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Prepare the cheese filling, cover and refrigerate.

In a small skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the
butter over low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in 1¼8-1¼4 cup of
the batter and rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as
possible, pouring off any excess. (The first blintz will be thicker than the
rest.) Cook on one side only, until lightly browned around the edges and turn
it out onto a towel to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the
cooled blintzes on a platter with a square of waxed paper in between each one.

Makes about 24.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the cheese filling into the center
of the brown side of each blintz. Fold the blintz around the filling like an
envelope, completely enclosing it. Place the blintzes on a large platter, cover
with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the blintzes for serving: In a large skillet,
heat 1¼4 cup of butter and brown the blintzes lightly, about 1-2 minutes per
side. (Do not crowd.) Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed.
With a metal spatula, carefully transfer the blintzes to serving plates. Serve
with bowls of sour cream, sugar and preserves.

Cheese Filling

2 pounds hoop, farmer or pot cheese

2 tablespoon sugar

1-2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

In a large bowl, mix the hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs
until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, chill in the refrigerator until ready
to assemble the blintzes.

Makes 4 cups.

Crispelle With Ricotta and Spinach

24 Blini (see recipe)

1 pound ricotta

8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped

Freshly grated nutmeg

Salt, to taste

Prepare blini cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If
ricotta is very soft, place in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes
to drain. Mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt in a large
bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the
Ricotta-Spinach Filling over the entire surface of each blini. Fold 1¼2 inch of
each side over the filling and roll up tight. Cut each roll into four pieces
and place on lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about
five minutes. 

To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center
of each plate. Arrange four or five rolled crepes, cut side up, on top of the

Serves 12. 

Poppy Seed or Chocolate Filled


1¼4 pound unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine, softened

1¼2 cup sugar

3 eggs

Grated zest of 1 orange

2 cups flour

11¼2 teaspoons baking powder

1¼4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling

Preheat the oven to 375 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer,
beat butter and sugar until well-blended. Beat in two of the eggs and the
orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy
seeds and blend until dough is smooth.

Transfer to floured board and divide dough into three or
four portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your
hand and roll it out 1¼4 inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter,
cut into 21¼2-inch rounds. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of
each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle,
leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal

Place hamantaschen 1¼2 inch apart on a lightly greased
foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Bake
for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes 5 dozen-6 dozen.

2003 Passover Recipe ContestContest

The Jewish Journal is once again sponsoring a Passover
recipe contest. Send in your favorite kosher-for -Passover recipe with a brief
story. The winning recipes will appear with the chef’s photo in an upcoming
Jewish Journal. The winners will also receive a personally autographed copy of
Judy Zeidler’s cookbook “Master Chefs Cook Kosher.”

All entries must be received by April 1 .

E-mail recipies along with yout name and phone number to; or write to: Passover Recipe Contest c/o Marni Levitt,
The Jewish Journal 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

No phone calls, please.