Top tastes of Purim wrapped up together

The theme for our family Purim dinner this year will be blintzes, but the preparation will be a little different and will include ingredients that are symbolic for the holiday.

The inspiration for the menu began when my daughter, Susan, her husband, Leo, and our granddaughters were visiting from out of town, and we went to lunch at Zeidler’s Cafe at the Skirball Cultural Center. We ordered blintzes, and, although they were delicious, Leo said they didn’t compare with his grandmothers’. He remembered her crepes being so thin that you could almost see through them. Whether you call it a blini or crepe it is still a type of very thin cooked pancake usually made from wheat flour.

I hadn’t made cheese blintzes for several years, but that was the way I remembered them, too. When we got home that afternoon, I found my recipe, bought the ingredients and together we made blini that were the thinnest ever. Filled with farmers’ cheese, I fold them over like an envelope that results in rather semiflat blintzes. This helps prevent topping that is spooned over the blintzes from sliding off. The extra blini can be cut into strips and used in soup or for pasta.

It reminded me of the time chef Josie La Balch, owner of Josie’s Restaurant in Santa Monica, was a guest chef on my TV cooking show. She made a variety of filled blini, and served them in several ways. Included is one of her recipes, Crespelle with Ricotta and Spinach, which is filled with a ricotta cheese mixture, baked and served with a tomato sauce.

I have also included a recipe that substitutes thin slices of eggplant for the blini that are stuffed with a mixture of sauteed chopped vegetables, baked with tomato sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. This is especially appropriate for Purim because it reminds us that Queen Esther, in order to eat only kosher food in the king’s palace, followed a vegetarian diet consisting primarily of grains, nuts and vegetables. The vegetable filling can also be substituted in place of the traditional cheese blintzes.

For dessert, serve sweet blintzes filled with diced apple that have been cooked in an apricot-sugar syrup. Fold into triangles, which represent the traditional shape of the Purim hamantaschen pastries, and fry in a skillet.

Classic Cheese Blintzes
Cheese Filling
Butter for frying
Sour cream and preserves

Fill the brown side of each blin with the Cheese Filling and fold, tucking ends in envelope fashion. (May cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.)

Melt about 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, nonstick skillet. Cook the blintzes on both sides, about three to four minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed. With a metal spatula carefully transfer the blintzes to a serving platter.

Serve with bowls of sour cream and preserves.

Makes about 24 blintzes.

Cheese Filling
2 pounds hoop cheese, farmers or pot cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

In a medium mixing bowl, add the cheese, sugar, salt and eggs and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brandy

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended. Add the flour and salt and beat well. Slowly add the milk, blending until smooth. Stir in the melted butter and brandy. Pour through a strainer to remove the lumps that may form. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, optional.
In an 8-inch round nonstick skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in about 1/8 cup of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as possible, pouring excess batter back into the bowl. Cook on one side only for about one minute, or until the edges begin to brown. Turn onto paper towels and transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining batter and stack the Blini with wax paper in between. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill.
Makes about 24 blini.

Crespelle With Ricotta and Spinach
Ricotta-Spinach Filling
Tomato Sauce
Blini (see Classic Cheese Blintzes recipe)

Prepare the Ricotta-Spinach Filling and the Tomato Sauce, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare Blini.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Brush a baking dish with olive oil. Spread 2 tablespoons of the Ricotta-Spinach Filling over the entire surface of each blin and roll up tightly. Place on prepared baking dish and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.

To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center of each serving plate. Arrange one or two Crespelle (the Italian equivalent of crepes) on top of sauce, spooning additional sauce on the remaining Crespelle.
Makes six to eight servings.

Ricotta-Spinach Filling
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped
Nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt, to taste

Place the ricotta in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes to drain. In a large bowl, mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 can (26 ounce) whole plum tomatoes with liquid
1&’8260;2 cup dry red wine