How to make hamantaschen favors from paper plates


A Purim celebration wouldn’t be complete without hamantashen, and every celebration needs party favors. So, here’s a hamantashen-shaped party favor made from paper plates, which you can fill with candy, toys — and more hamantashen. The whole family can join in the fun of putting them together. 

What you’ll need:

  • Paper plates
  • Watercolor paint, markers or crayons
  • Pen
  • Stapler
  • Tissue paper

 

1. Paint the back of the paper plate

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Purim recipe: Fruity Pebbles hamantaschen


Pastry dough studded with colorful crispy fruity pebbles will bring both the kids and adults to the table. 

Servings: about 20 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup fruity pebbles plus more for decorating
  • Strawberry jam for filling

 

Directions:

Cream together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla.

Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix together.

Add fruity pebbles and combine with dough.

Roll out dough on floured surface (about 1/4 to 1/8 thick. Not too thick since then the circles are hard to shape and will open up. Not too thin since then it will rip when shaping or filling.) If the dough is slightly sticky rolling it out on floured surface will help smooth it out.

Cut out circles using a large circle cookie cutter or the rim of a large glass cup or mason jar.

Fill center of circle with strawberry jam (about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp), fold* and bake on 350′ for 12 to 15 minutes depending on how soft or crispy you want them. I like them super soft so took them out around 10 to 12 minutes.

Once hamantaschen have cooled off drizzle melted white chocolate or icing on top. (Icing is powdered sugar with water or milk mixed together until you have desired consistency.)

Immediately top with fruity pebbles.

*How To Shape Hamantashen: Place filling in center than slowly fold over one side. Then the next and finally bring the bottom on top. Gently pinch the corners. You can also simply bring up the sides, forming a triangle by pinching the corners together.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Purim recipe: Chocolate peanut butter Reese’s Puffs hamantaschen


Chocolate and peanut butter unite to create this decadent hamantash garnished with a sprinkle of cereal on top.

Servings: about 22 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs (for vegan dough use 2 tablespoons ground flax seed combined with 6 tablespoons water)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate spread
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup Reese’s Puffs cereal

 

Directions:

Cream together eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla.

Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix together.

The dough might be crumbly, use your hands to smooth it out and combine it.

Roll out dough on floured surface (about 1/4 to 1/8 thick. Not too thick since then the circles are hard to shape and will open up. Not too thin since then it will rip when shaping or filling) and cut out circles using a donut cutter or the rim of a large glass cup or mason jar.

Fill center of circle with 1/2 teaspoon chocolate spread and bake on 350′ for about 10 minutes.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave on 30 second intervals.

Melt peanut butter in microwave as well, for 30 seconds.

Allow hamantaschen to cool off then drizzle melted chocolate chips and peanut butter on top and garnish with cereal.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Purim recipe: Nacho hamantaschen


Purim is a joyous day. The food we eat on it, should be as fun and colorful as the holiday we are celebrating. Give the traditional hamantaschen a modern remix with this unique and adventurous recipe.

Nacho Hamantaschen

Crispy hamantaschen filled with meatless veggies crumbles topped with layers of creamy nacho sauce, salsa and guacamole make for a delicious holiday appetizer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz. package of Mexican Style Veggie Crumbles (Lightlife Smart Ground)
  • Frozen ravioli dough pre-cut into circles, defrosted (or wonton wrappers cut into circles)
  • Creamy nacho sauce (recipe below)
  • Guacamole for serving (fresh or store bought)
  • Salsa for serving (recipe below)

 

Nacho Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 

Melt butter then add flour and whisk together until well combines and a paste forms. Add milk and over a medium flame whisk until sauce thickens then add shredded cheese and continue whisking until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.

Salsa:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 red onion
  • Juice of 1 lime

 

Pulse together in a processor until smooth. Optional, add 2 jalapeno peppers without seeds for spice!

Directions:

Place 1 tsp of veggie crumbles in center of each circle of dough.

Wet edges of dough with water then fold left side over, followed with right side and finally folding the bottom layer over shaping and sealing the triangle.

Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in oven on 350′ for about 8 to 10 minutes until golden and slightly crispy.

Place baked nacho hamantaschen on a platter lined with parchment paper (for easy cleanup) then layer guacamole, salsa and creamy nacho sauce on top. Optional, top with freshly chopped cilantro.

Serve immediately.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch.

Hamantaschen for Purim inspires dozens of variations


The most recognizable symbol for the Jewish holiday of Purim is a three-cornered cookie, called a hamantaschen.

Purim, which begins March 4, is a particularly joyful festival, nicknamed the Id-al-Sukkar, or the sugar holiday, by Muslims because sweet treats are plentiful. It is a sweet spirited holiday, notwithstanding the ancient Persian tale associated with it featuring complex plot twists of deceit, prejudice, politics, sexual intrigue and revenge.

Purim is a time for celebratory imbibing of alcohol, vibrant costumes and joyful, raucous parties with comedians cracking jokes all night, called a Purim schpeil.

Now, all that is fun, but honestly, for Jews of Ashkenazi descent — especially those who aren’t particularly religious or observant — it’s all about that triangular cookie — that gloriously crisp sweetness embracing an unctuous, fruit filling.

Or maybe it’s about a plush, thick-rimmed yeast pastry version that is punctuated by the intriguingly textured sweet poppy seed filling. Or maybe it’s a savory three-cornered pastry, perfect as an amuse-bouche.

Hamantaschen, you see, are anything but boring. And they are nothing new. The first version was likely the poppy seed or mohn filling, even giving the cookie its name — ha-mohn-taschen, or haman’s hat (Haman was the villain in the ancient tale). Classic versions are wonderful and worthy of your time, every time, every year.

But like any cookie, the classic recipes inspire tremendous creativity among cooks. A survey of some of the web’s cooks, writers, bloggers, recipe developers and chefs reveals a wide swath of variations so numerous and enticing that it will seduce your palate and leave you eagerly awaiting next year’s treats.

Check out these websites for creative variations of the classic hamantaschen recipe:

Apricot-infused bourbon for Purim and beyond


Hamantaschen get all the Purim glory, and rightfully so. These soft triangular cookies can be filled with anything from the traditional apricot, poppy seed or prune to non-traditional varieties like red velvet or Neapolitan. The only limits are your imagination and your oven space.

While the children are noshing on hamantaschen and dressing up in their Purim finest, the adults get to play with another tradition. I’m talking, of course, about the boozing. It’s a mitzvah to drink on Purim, so that one is intoxicated enough that they cannot tell the difference between the evil Haman or hero Mordechai. You don’t have to tell me twice. But what to drink?

I took inspiration from hamantaschen flavors and infused bourbon with apricots, and then poured the finished product over ice in a poppy seed rimmed glass. You can also get creative with the finished bourbon. Maybe make a bourbon caramel to drizzle over hamantaschen, or an apricot hot toddy? As a bonus, this recipe also makes boozy apricots. Which I recommend eating straight from the jar or serving over vanilla ice cream. Not a bourbon fan? You can substitute vodka or gin, and mix the final product with a splash of pomegranate juice to take the edge off.

Note: The apricots will absorb some of the bourbon so the yield will be less than two cups. You can easily double this recipe. I recommend it!

Apricot-Infused Bourbon for Purim and Beyond

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups dried apricots, halved the long way (they stay pretty that way)
  • 2 cups good quality bourbon (I used Bulleit)
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • Corn syrup
  • Poppy seeds

 

Directions

Put the apricots on the bottom of a mason jar and pour the bourbon in, along with the brown sugar and cinnamon sticks.

Close the lid tightly and shake to mix up. Let rest in a dark, cool place for 4-7 days, shaking daily to mix flavors. I let mine infuse for a full week; the longer you wait the stronger the flavor will be.

Strain the bourbon, and serve over ice. To line the jar’s rim, dip in corn syrup and then rip in poppy seeds (before filling with liquor!) Store infused bourbon in a cool, dark place and refrigerate leftover infused apricots in sealed container for up to two weeks.

Purim recipe: ‘Pop Tart’ Hamantashen


This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Ingredients:

  • 2 T ground flax seed combined with 6 T water (you can also use two eggs instead but it will not be vegan)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup raspberry Jam (or your fav flavor!)
  • Frosting (recipe below)
  • Sprinkles for decorating

 

Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 T almond milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract

 

Directions (preheat the oven to 350):

1. Cream together flax seed water mixture, sugar, oil, and vanilla.

2. Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix together.

3. The dough might be crumbly, so use your hands to smooth it out and combine it.

4. Roll out dough on floured surface.

5. Cut out triangles using a cookie cutter. If you do not have a triangle shaped cookie cutter, simply cut out circles using a round cookie cutter, donut cutter or glass cup. Once you have your circles, cut out a triangle shape.

6. Fill center of triangle with 1/2 tsp. jam then cover with another triangle gently pressing the edges down. Using a fork crimp the edges down all around.

7. Bake on 350′ for about 8 minutes.

8. Once cookies have cooled off, combine frosting ingredients and frost the center of each triangle and immediately place sprinkles on top before the frosting hardens.

Nina Safar is the founder and foodie of Kosher in the Kitch! She started her blog in search of the best recipes and realized, you don’t need to be a chef to cook a good meal. With the right recipe, or blog, you can enjoy delicious cuisine right from your home!

Purim recipe: Taco Hamantaschen


This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Taco Hamantaschen (meatless dairy tacos) for Purim!

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz. package of Mexican Style Veggie Crumbles (Lightlife Smart Ground)
  • Frozen ravioli dough pre-cut into circles, defrosted (or wonton wrappers cut into circles)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Guacamole for serving (optional)
  • Salsa for serving (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat veggie crumbles up on stovetop.

2. Place 1 tsp of veggie crumbles in center of each dough circle.

3. Wet edges of dough with water then bring up corners and pinch together to form a triangle.

4. Place shredded cheese on top then bake in oven on 350′ for about 12 to 15 minutes until golden and slightly crispy.

5. Serve with salsa and guacamole on top.

Nina Safar is the founder and foodie of Kosher in the Kitch! She started her blog in search of the best recipes and realized, you don’t need to be a chef to cook a good meal. With the right recipe, or blog, you can enjoy delicious cuisine right from your home! 

Purim recipe: Funfetti cheesecake hamantashen


This post originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Funfetti cheescake hamantashen for Purim

Servings: about 20 hamantashen

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles
  • 1 cup cheesecake filling (recipe below)

 

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (you could use 1/2 cup if you like it very sweet)
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract

Combine ingredients until smooth. Makes about 1 cup.

Directions:

1.Cream together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla.

2. Slowly add flour and baking powder. Mix together. The dough might be crumbly, use your hands to smooth it out and combine it.

3. Add sprinkles to dough (add the sprinkles in slowly, depending on how many sprinkles you want in the dough and don’t over mix them with the dough)

4. Roll out dough on floured surface (about 1/4 to 1/8 thick. Not too thick since then the circles are hard to shape and will open up. Not too thin since then it will rip when shaping or filling) and cut out circles using a large circle cookie cutter or the rim of a large glass cup or mason jar.

5. Fill center of circle with cheesecake filling (about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp) and bake on 350′ for 12 to 15 minutes depending on how soft or crispy you want them. I like them super soft so took them out around 12 minutes.

6. Once hamantaschen have cooled off drizzle melted white chocolate or cheesecake icing on top. Optional, top with more sprinkles! For cheesecake icing, I took leftover cheesecake filling and added some powdered sugar and milk to get a thinner consistency. Regular icing (powdered sugar and milk or water) would work great as well.

* How To Shape Hamantashen: Place filling in center than slowly fold over one side. Then the next and finally bring the bottom on top. Gently pinch the corners. You can also simply bring up the sides, forming a triangle by pinching the corners together.

Nina Safar is the founder and foodie of Kosher in the Kitch! She started her blog in search of the best recipes and realized, you don’t need to be a chef to cook a good meal. With the right recipe, or blog, you can enjoy delicious cuisine right from your home! 

Purim: Poppy seed pleasures


It all began with Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, who became a vegan when she married King Ahasuerus and moved into the palace. She favored fruits, beans and grains in her diet, and legend has it that poppy seed pastries were her favorite.

Over time, I have developed desserts inspired by the traditional poppy seed hamantaschen that are served during Purim, and my family celebrates the holiday with a variety of Purim desserts, which are either filled with poppy seeds or include poppy seeds in the batter.

This year I am making several cookie recipes, including one that combines poppy seeds with hazelnuts for a crunchy, distinctive flavor — a perfect dessert companion to accompany your Purim dessert table – as well as lacy, flourless Purim Seed Crisps.

My husband Marvin’s favorites are Korjas, paper-thin poppy seed cookies, a traditional family recipe that was given to me many years ago by my friend Della Spector. This recipe makes hundreds of cookies, similar in texture to potato chips. I never cut the recipe in half; the raw dough stores well in the refrigerator or freezer and is ready to roll out and bake at any time.

Poppy Seed Cheesecake is a creamy confection with an almond nut crust that is filled with poppy seeds and topped with sour cream. A small slice is so satisfying that one cheesecake can serve at least 20. For mishloach manot, or Purim gift baskets, make mini cheesecakes using the same recipe and muffin tins.

Start Purim day with a breakfast of Poppy Seed Pound Cake, which can be served toasted and topped with sweet butter or jam. It is a delicious treat that goes well with your morning cappuccino.

A tip for the baker in the family: I bake all my cookie recipes on a silicone baking mat to ensure that the cookies come off easily and never get stuck to the pan. You can store any of the cookie recipes in the refrigerator or freezer before baking; just defrost, roll out, and bake for everyone to enjoy.

PURIM SEED CRISPS

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons millet seeds

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and milk in a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the butter is melted and all the ingredients are combined thoroughly. Mix in the seeds. Transfer to a glass bowl. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and stored in the freezer for 1 month.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat. Using 1 teaspoon of batter at a time, shape batter into rounds the size of a nickel. Place rounds 2 to 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. (Bake six at a time, as the cookies spread significantly.)

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. (Watch closely — they brown quickly.) Let cool completely then carefully peel off of the foil, or, if using a silicone baking mat, remove cookies with a metal spatula.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.


KORJAS (CRISP POPPY SEED THINS)

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 ounces poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the milk alternately with the sifted dry ingredients to the oil mixture, beating after each addition. Blend in the poppy seeds. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and stored in the freezer for 3 weeks.)

Remove the dough a heaping teaspoon at a time onto a generously floured board or a sheet of wax paper. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, about 8 by 11 inches. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamond shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

Makes about 200 cookies.


POPPY SEED HAZELNUT COOKIES

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped hazelnuts,
toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer, and blend until creamy. Add egg and vanilla.

In another bowl, stir together flour, poppy seeds, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, blending thoroughly. Add hazelnuts, mixing to distribute evenly. On a floured board, shape dough into three or four rolls, each 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap rolls in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until firm.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/8-inch thin slices: place slices about 1/2 inch apart on a foil or a silicone mat-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies.


POPPY SEED POUND CAKE

1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup poppy seeds
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 cup ground almonds

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cream butter, cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until creamy. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to cream cheese mixture.

Mix together poppy seeds, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, lemon peel and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Coat a 9 1/2-inch bundt pan with additional butter, all of the ground almonds and 3 tablespoons of the poppy seed mixture. Spoon 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture into pan.

Top cream cheese mixture with 1/2 of remaining poppy seed mixture. Spread another 1/3 of cream cheese mixture over the seeds and sprinkle with remaining poppy seed mixture. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until cake is dry when tested in the center. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Keeps for at least 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature or warm, sliced thin.

Note: Mixture also may be placed in 6 (5-by-3 inch) loaf pans and baked at 325 F for 1 hour.

Makes 1 (9 1/2-inch) cake, 16 servings.


POPPY SEED CHEESECAKE

Almond Nut Crust (recipe follows)
2 cups sour cream
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons poppy seeds
4 eggs

Prepare, bake, and cool the Almond Nut Crust; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add sour cream, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract to a small bowl. Blend well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. 

Add cream cheese, remaining 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons poppy seeds to the bowl of an electric mixer, and blend until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Pour this filling into the baked Almond Nut Crust.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden. Remove the cake from the oven. Spread the prepared sour cream mixture on top and return cake to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons poppy seeds. Cool. Remove from springform pan, and serve.

Makes 1 (9-inch) cheesecake, 18 to 20 servings.

ALMOND NUT CRUST

1 1/2 cups unpeeled whole almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix almonds and sugar in a food processor or blender, and blend until the almonds are coarsely chopped.  Add the butter and almond extract, and process just until the mixture begins to come together. Press the almond mixture evenly into the bottom and 1⁄4 inch up the sides of 9-inch springform pan.
   
Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Cool.


Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988), “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994)  and the recently released “Italy Cooks.” She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her Web site is judyzeidler.com.

Purim: Are you doing it right?


Purim is a festival renown for celebration, excessive drinking and wild, outlandish costumes; or, as Chasids in Brooklyn call it, Tuesday. It’s the story of the Jews escaping genocide in Persia, marking it as the last time the region has ever made Jews uneasy. For the uninformed, I have some facts and tips below.

*The Purim story is read from Megilat Esther, named after the heroine of the story. Esther heroically took it upon herself to eventually ask the king, her husband, not to kill all the Jews. Hey, heroism was a lot easier back in the day.

*It’s considered a mitzvah to drink to the point where you cannot tell Haman from Mordecai. “Already done,” report Reform Jews.

*Hamantaschen are a traditional pastry eaten on the holiday, and are named after the ears of the villain, which were large, pointy, and apparently, delicious.

*Another purim tradition is the booing of Haman’s name with noise-makers, finally allowing eight-year-olds to boo at least 1% as much as they would like during shul.

*Dressing in costumes is traditional for Purim. If you want to confuse everyone, go as Santa.

*Before speaking to the king, Esther had all the Jews fast for three days and nights. This is commemorated today with a one day fast because, come on guys, three days is crazy.

*In many synagogues, it’s customary to put on a Purim-Spiel or satirical sketch during th holiday. This is perfect, as few people are funnier than Jews, and fewer people are easier to make fun of.

*Haman wanted to exterminate the Jews as he was furious that Mordecai would not bow before him. Earlier drafts of the story explained he would have, but oy, his knees.

*Finally, it’s worth noting that Purim is fairly well confirmed by historical research, meaning the most historically accurate event may very well be the one your dad wears his rainbow suspenders for.

Hopefully this helps you put together a successful Purim celebration. As for me? I’ll be preparing for the raucous, drunken holiday every night this weekend. It’s only responsible.

A Yummy Hat Trick of Triangle Treats


The traditional shape of the quintessential Purim dessert, the hamantaschen, is a three-cornered filled pastry. Some say it even looks like George Washington’s hat, but I’m certain he wasn’t around in those early days. But, what about the shape? What does it represent? Is it the shape of Haman’s pocket, his hat or his ear? I think it all depends on the story your grandmother told you.

Ever since planning our first family Purim celebration, research into the origin of the traditional hamantaschen dessert has had me a little confused. In Hebrew the triangular pastries are called oznei Haman (Haman’s ears). And yet, the word hamantaschen, when translated means Haman’s pockets. In some countries they are called mohntaschen, simply meaning small pockets of pastry with poppy-seed filling.

I don’t have the answer, but I have always thought it must be shaped after the three-cornered hat that Haman is said to have worn, because that is what I learned at Hebrew school.

Usually hamantaschen are made of cookie or yeast dough and filled with poppy seed or dried fruit and served for dessert. But, this year I thought it would be fun to design a Purim dinner based on the hamantaschen shape. Why not serve a variety of triangular dishes, fitting for the carnival-like atmosphere of the holiday?

One of my new Purim ideas is a grilled sandwich, or panini, as it is called in Italy, where they are served at the autogrill on the autostrada. The display case has at least 10 different combinations of these panini, served on a variety of breads and rolls that come in many sizes and shapes. The basic components are simple: bread, cheese, vegetables or meat and greens. When you make your selection, you are asked if you want it grilled, and in a few minutes you are handed a hot panini, wrapped in parchment-like paper. When cut diagonally they become perfect for your Purim meal.

The best way to make the panini at home, is to use a table-top grill that resembles a waffle iron. But, a frying pan with a heavy weight placed on top of the panini works fine.

Have platters of assorted cheeses, vegetables, smoked fish or meats available, depending on your menu, and let your guests, as well as the children, create their own panini.

For a main course, create and serve individual hamantaschen using filo dough and fill them with roasted veggies, a take-off of a vegetable strudel. After baking, just garnish with a dollop of sour cream, and this will be a new treat for Purim.

Every family has their own preference for hamantaschen pastries, but our family loves the traditional hamantaschen made from cookie dough and enhanced with specks of orange and lemon zest. Fill them with poppy seed or prune fillings, then bake until they are golden brown and crisp. Don’t skimp on the filling, and its OK if it oozes out a little.

When baking for Purim don’t forget the ancient tradition of shalach manot, which suggests that we share the holiday foods with the community. Arrange a batch of assorted hamantaschen to take to friends and also share with others. You’ll enjoy both the good deed and the compliments you receive.

My Favorite Autogrill Panini

The great thing about this panini recipe is that the eggplant, peppers and/or cheese are interchangeable with your own personal favorite veggies. Prepare all the fillings in advance and simply set them out in bowls for everyone to make his or her own selections.

8 slices from sandwich loaf (preferably challah)

1?4 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
4 slices fried or grilled eggplant (zucchini may replace the eggplant, using 2 slices per panini)
4 slices roasted peppers
4 slices Swiss cheese

Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Set four of the slices buttered side down and cover each of them with eggplant and roasted peppers. Then top with cheese slices.

As you layer vegetables and cheese be sure to cover the bread and allow some of the vegetables to extend just beyond the edge of the bread so they become crisp while grilling. Put the remaining slices of bread on top of filling, buttered side up. Grill the panini on each side until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Transfer to cutting board and slice diagonally.

Makes four panini.

Veggie Hamantaschen

1 package filo dough
1 pound unsalted butter, melted and clarified
1 cup fine bread crumbs
Vegetable Filling (recipe follows)
1/4 cup sesame seeds or poppy seeds
Sour cream

Prepare the Vegetable Filling and set aside.

Place a damp towel on a work area and cover with waxed paper. Remove one sheet of filo from the package. Keep the remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and a damp towel to prevent drying out.

With scissors, cut the sheet in half lengthwise. Brush one half with melted butter, sprinkle with bread crumbs and top with the other half sheet of filo. Place one-quarter cup of vegetable filling at one end of the sheet, leaving a 2-inch border to fold over the filling. Continue folding it over in a triangle along its length to make a neat triangular package. Place each triangle as it is finished on a baking sheet lined with buttered foil. Repeat with the remaining filo and vegetable filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Brush the tops of the triangles with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds. (The Veggie hamantaschen can be frozen at this point, if you like. Place them in the freezer uncovered, until the butter hardens, then cover with foil, seal and freeze. Defrost frozen ones before baking them.)

Bake for l5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 Veggie Hamantaschen.

Vegetable Filling

1?4 cup olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium eggplant, finely diced
2 medium zucchini, finely diced
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 large tomato, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until soft. Add the eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, and tomato, mix well, and sauté until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool.

Makes four cups.

Poppy Seed Hamantaschen

1/4 pound unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, softened
2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups flour
1-2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 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 2 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 to one-quarter-inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter, cut into two 2-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 them.

Place hamantaschen 2 inches 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 five dozen to six dozen hamantaschen.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999).

Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

Yeladim


 

The Ugly Bug Ball

In Parshat Shemini, we learn which animals are kosher. A young friend of mine asked: Why did God create both kosher and non-kosher animals? The sages of the Talmud ask the same question. They said there is something we can learn from every animal – kosher or not.

For example, the Sages say we can learn honesty and industriousness from an ant. Ants are hardworking, and they are “honest” in that they don’t steal from each other.

King David tried to uncover the meaning behind each animal and he succeeded – but he couldn’t figure out the spider. So, God showed King David how the spider could even save a life. When running for his life from King Saul, David hid in a cave. King Saul and his soldiers were searching everywhere. God sent a spider to spin a web over the opening of the cave in which David was hiding. When the soldiers came to his cave and saw it was covered with a spider’s web, they moved straight past, not realizing that the web was freshly made.

All Creatures Great and Small

Did You Know?

The word for “kindness” in Hebrew is chesed. In the Torah, the Hebrew word for stork is chasida. The rabbis say that the stork was given this name because this bird is very kind and generous with its food and shares with other birds.

1. Where are koala bears from?

a) United States

b) Russia

c) Australia

2. Whales and dolphins are large fish.

a) yes

b) no

c) both

3. What is the largest flying bird alive today?

a) Bald eagle

b) Penguin

c) Condor

d) Albatros

Answers From Last Week

Tell Me a Story: Hamantaschen

 

Topsy-Turvy


How do you feel about what’s going on here in Israel? How do you think you’re supposed to feel?

What’s gone on lately in our country has been very confusing for a great many people, not least those of us on the ground. To get a better handle on the matsav — Hebrew for situation, and the word everyone here is euphemistically employing to describe our state of high anxiety — let’s consider a beloved Jewish festival now upon us.

If ever a holiday fit the paradigmatic Jewish haiku of "They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat," it’s Purim. Wicked Haman plots to destroy the Jews; his plot is thwarted by Mordechai and Esther — "The Avengers" of yesteryear, the original John Steed and Emma Peel — and he is hanged on the gallows he prepared for Mordechai. And his 10 sons to boot. Not to mention 75,000 additional enemies, women and children included, slain by the Jews (see chapters eight and nine of the Megillah). Pass the hamantaschen.

The trouble with this familiar story is that it makes many Jews uncomfortable. Hanging Haman, fine. But the rest seems like overkill. Some argue that the Purim story is a vital reminder of our age-old need to be vigilant and strong, since in every generation there’s a new Haman. Other Jews take solace by reading the Megillah as a fantasy, not as a historical chronicle, and distilling its theme from a few key words in chapter nine, verse one:

"Now in the 12th month, which is the month of Adar, on the 13th day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, on the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them; whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them."

Whereas it was turned to the contrary. On Purim, everything is topsy-turvy. Jews dress up as something utterly different from themselves — pirates, cowboys and, before there was a State of Israel, soldiers — and, in compliance with a cherished Talmudic dictum, get very drunk. In other words, Jews act for a day the way they have historically and stereotypically characterized gentiles as behaving. All year round, Jews are victims. On Purim, they are the opposite. They take revenge and take no prisoners.

Nor, teaches the Megillah, do they take booty. For even when dreaming of revenge, Jews have a claim on the moral high ground. There are things we do not do. There is, for example, no death penalty in Israel. The only person ever executed here — hanged, in fact — was Adolf Eichmann, and we know where he fits into the Purim story. But Israel has, in recent months, pursued a military policy of strategic, surgical assassinations of Palestinians that Israeli security forces have identified as terrorists or the deployers of terrorists. The United States has criticized this policy. Does the U.S. have the moral right to criticize Israel for that, or for the use of what they term "excessive force" in the interrogation of Palestinian prisoners who, if they spill what they know, might enable Israel to prevent the next terrorist bombing?

These are not easy questions, and reasonable people disagree, but arguably, assuming it is crystal-clear in these cases who the guilty and innocent are, it’s possible to look at the Purim story and say, "They are trying to kill us, and we have to kill them first." But is it always clear who they are? Let’s return to the last portion of the verse quoted above: "The Jews had rule over them that hated them." Which comes first, the hatred, or the rule? Or is it a mixture of both?

In recent days — in the aftermath of the horrific attack by the bus driver from Gaza, who plowed into a crowd of Jews south of Tel Aviv, killing eight young people — leading Israeli military officials have questioned the wisdom of Israel’s traditional response to such acts, which is to totally seal off the Palestinian territories. Closing the territories, after all, which involves preventing Palestinians from working in Israel or exporting their produce, cutting off their access to food, medicine and hospital care, only increases the Palestinians’ suffering, their poverty, their desperation, their hatred, their thirst for revenge. Indeed, can we, as Jews, countenance collective punishment?

Not long ago, Ha’aretz reported the case of a 10-year-old girl from a West Bank village who suffered acute abdominal pains but was prevented by an Israeli military roadblock from reaching a hospital, not in Israel proper, but in the Palestinian city of Nablus. The next morning, she died of a ruptured appendix.

Was that roadblock essential to Israel’s survival? When I put that question to a friend, a religious Zionist who, like so many Israelis, had supported the Oslo peace process but was driven sharply to the right by the murderous response of Yasser Arafat to Ehud Barak’s peace overtures, my friend said: "Are you sure that story about the little girl is true?"

I am not sure of anything, except for this: When anyone tells me exactly how to feel about what’s going on here in our ever-troubled land of two peoples, or that he or she knows exactly how to handle Israel’s existential problems, I beg to differ. To suggest, as some people have, that Arafat’s perfidy demonstrates once and for all that the only thing that Arabs understand is force, seems to me a betrayal of my Jewish ethical values. And to argue, as some others have, that the current crisis is principally of Israel’s making is to ignore the long and complex, tragic and heroic, Jewish story that made the State of Israel what it is. Any solution will entail compromise, but what kind, and with whom, no one can say for sure.

Peering at the newspaper, at the TV or computer screen, watching Israelis and their leaders lurching from right to left to right again, trying to make some sense of the domestic political imbroglio and the machinations of Knesset members, weeping at the spectacle of freshly dug graves of the victims of terror, and yes, also aching over the suffering of Palestinian families, American Jews can hardly be faulted for feeling, "Thank heaven I don’t live in Israel." Nor can I condemn anyone for backsliding these days into a simpler, less bewildering Jewish worldview that paints Israeli history as Haman vs. Mordecai. If only, I sometimes say to myself, I could do the same.

As you hear the chanting of the Megillah this Purim, do us a favor and pray for peace. Not everything on that merry day need be a mere fantasy.

An Acquired Taste


A friend told me about a scene he witnessed recently at a delicatessen. There was a woman who apparently was not Jewish standing in line at the bakery counter. When they called her number she pointed to the prune and poppy seed hamantaschen and asked for a dozen.

“No, you want these,” said the elderly Jewish woman who was serving her, pointing to the apricot hamantaschen instead.

“No, I want those,” the woman reiterated pointing again to the prune and poppy seed variety.

“Honey, these you will like” the Jewish woman replied pointing to the apricot flavor, “Those,” she said looking at the prune and poppy seed tray, “need an acquired taste.”

An acquired taste — enjoyment or understanding resulting from regular exposure — is something Jews have appreciated from the beginning. Remember what happens this week in the Torah at Mount Sinai? A cloud descends from the mountain top; a strange brew of mist and ash. Moses appears from out of the cloud, takes a long, sweeping look before he speaks and then, in one mighty blast, laws tumble forth from his stony face; an avalanche of statutes and ordinances, thou shalts and shalt nots. When Moses finishes, as if in some great, unrehearsed symphony, the 600,000 Jews listening to him shout “Na-a-seh v-nish-ma” (We will do and we will listen).

From the start, Jews affirmed that in order to really understand Judaism they had to practice it. I often tell my students who study with me in order to convert to Judaism that becoming a Jew is like learning to swim — a textbook only takes you so far. A student behind a desk can read every book ever written on swimming, see every instructional video, hear the best motivational speakers and then, no matter how lengthy or extensive their training, enter the deep end of a pool and quickly drown.

Everyone understands the difference between learning and doing when it comes to swimming and to a lot of other things, too. How many times have your kids stared at something on their plate and heard you say, “Try it — it’s good?” How many of us really enjoyed our first beer? We readily accept that our first trip to the symphony might not captivate or inspire us, but if we work at it each concert gets better. We have to study, read up and ask questions. Any skill that enhances our life and brings us pleasure — painting, playing the piano, even a decent game of tennis — takes time, effort and practice. It’s a fact of life most Jews understand; except when it comes to Judaism.

Many people want simple answers to tough personal and societal questions. People want “spirituality” without taking the time to acquire the religious knowledge and the skill that real spirituality demands; they want the keys to inner doors of wisdom without first unlocking the outer doors of study and practice.

I hear it almost daily; every rabbi does. “Rabbi, I’m not very religious and I don’t know or do very much but I feel Jewish and that’s the important thing.”

To this statement I usually reply, “I’m not very knowledgeable and haven’t practiced at all, but I feel like a doctor. Why not let me try bypass surgery on you?” The two statements, it seems to me, are equally absurd. It’s not that feelings are unimportant. Pride in our heritage as Jews is crucial. But if it’s pride without any real understanding or commitment then it’s false pride. Feeling Jewish is not enough.

New Age religion, minimalist Judaism, easy answers and liberal social policies are meager responses, mere avoidances of the real effort required to find meaning. Judaism isn’t easy. Seeking meaning involves living, praying, making Shabbat, giving tzedaka, mourning, celebrating and even eating like a Jew.

Our ancestors understood that doing preceded insight; effort necessarily came before reward. It’s an equation that seemed clear to them and seems equally clear to a lot of us in every aspect of life except our spirituality. Why do we deny that a Jew who wants to find meaning in his tradition has to put forth at least as much regular effort as the Jew who wants to improve his golf game?

The woman behind the deli counter was right. Judaism is an acquired taste. We have to try it over and over again in order to discover just how sweet it is.


Rabbi Steven Z. Leder is a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the author of “The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things” published by Behrman House.

Jockeying for Position


The luncheon menu reflected the confusion this week at the Washington policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group better known as AIPAC. The main course was hummus, falafel and baba ganoush, a Mediterranean medley that seemed to symbolize Israel’s integration into a New Middle East. Dessert, however, was hamantaschen — the Purim pastry that recalls Israel’s eternal battles against sworn enemies.

AIPAC holds a national conference in Washington every spring to flex its muscles and trumpet its closeness to the Israeli government. This year, it had the misfortune of scheduling the meeting for the very week when, as it happened, Israel wouldn’t have a government to speak of. The old government had just been defeated. The new one hadn’t been installed. Coalition negotiations were hot and heavy, and no Israeli politicians wanted to be away. And, so, instead of hearing at lunch from the two leading Knesset members invited to discuss the recent elections, delegates got to watch three Israeli spinmeisters blather via satellite. The hall was half-empty. Or half-full.

Ehud Barak’s unexpectedly decisive victory over Binyamin Netanyahu seems to have just about everyone disoriented and groping. Some folks are scared stiff and shouldn’t be. Others are floating on air when they should be sweating. Everywhere you go, people say they’re delighted. Suddenly, it turns out nobody liked Netanyahu very much. They just hid it well.

At the watering holes where the East Coast Jewish power elite gathers to meet and greet, there’s more jockeying for position these days than at the Kentucky Derby. Last Sunday, 500 guests turned up at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to toast Jordan’s young King Abdullah, at a reception hosted by Slimfast mogul S. Daniel Abraham and his dovish Center for Middle East Peace. A week earlier, barely 150 RSVP’s had come in. Once Israel’s ballots were counted, the guest list ballooned, as Likud supporters scrambled to be seen as friends of peace.

In conversations among Jewish liberals, the mood is one of giddy elation, but it’s often laced with anxiety. As Barak’s coalition plans unfold, reports from Israel suggest he intends to form a broad coalition with either Likud or Shas, the Sephardic fervently Orthodox party. Shas would support the peace process, but block progress toward religious freedom and pluralism. The Likud is far more open to civil liberties and pluralism, but might slow peace talks to a crawl. Suddenly, Peace Now types are eyeing Reform rabbis suspiciously, wondering who’s going to lose out to whom as they wait for Barak to make his move.

If most Reform rabbis aren’t eyeballing back, it’s only because most of them don’t yet know what’s going to hit them. Almost unanimously this week, Reform leaders were confidently citing Barak’s frequent statements in favor of religious freedom and pluralism as evidence that he would fight their fight.

That’s not how it looks to Israelis. “I’m extremely happy with his election, but I would be very surprised if he pushes pluralism,” said Rabbi Naamah Kelman, a Reform Jewish educator in Jerusalem. “It just isn’t a consensus position in Israel.”

“Barak is committed to religious freedom,” said a Barak aide, “but that’s not the same thing as what Americans mean by religious pluralism. He’s going to fight for issues that affect Israelis. Whether Reform rabbis can perform conversions affects people in Cleveland. I don’t think most Americans understand that.”

On Capitol Hill, where Netanyahu used to be greeted with cheers, “people are very positive” about Barak’s election, says Rep. Peter Deutsch, a Jewish Democrat from Florida. “The prime minister-elect has said all the right things, from the moment he was elected. It’s a very exciting time.”

Of course, you might say it’s easy for a Democrat to embrace the leader of a peace-and-social-democracy party. But what do Republicans make of him?

Why, no problem. “I don’t think there will be any difference in support for Israel,” says Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla. “I’ve been in Congress 18 years, and I’ve supported Israel right along regardless of the administration over there. We want to do what’s right.”

In fact, it now appears nobody in either party ever liked Netanyahu that much. “The majority of Republicans want to see the peace process move forward,” says Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat who’s a leader of pro-Israel legislative activity. “Nobody in Congress was ideologically committed to the Likud approach except Newt Gingrich, and he’s gone.”

Well, not entirely gone. Gingrich was a featured speaker at this year’s AIPAC conference. He delivered an inspirational talk to a private gathering of the lobby’s biggest donors. His message was the same one he’s delivered at AIPAC gatherings for years, usually to wild applause: that the world is “still a dangerous place” and the good guys should never let their guard down. Which is, come to think of it, Netanyahu’s message.

The lobby claims to be nonpartisan when it comes to Israeli politics. AIPAC leaders say they’re insulted by the charges from Barak aides that they’re “biased” in favor of Likud. “There’s just so much misinformation,” said AIPAC executive committee member Bernice Manocherian of New York. “We support the U.S.-Israel relationship, no matter who is in power.”

If AIPAC folks sound particularly touchy on the subject, it’s because their relationship with Israel’s new government is off to a bad start. Aides to Barak have let it be known that the prime minister-elect considers the lobby “biased” toward Likud. Others have said it before. But now it’s coming from Israel’s incoming prime minister. AIPAC needs the Israeli government behind it. That’s the whole point of being AIPAC.

Barak’s refusal to appear before the conference — even via satellite, even for a five-minute taped message — was a stinging rebuke. In the end, AIPACers took some comfort in a warm, last-minute letter from Barak that was read to the delegates, saying he looked forward to “enhancing the cooperation with you and with the entire American Jewish community.”

Barak’s aides warn against reading too much into the flap. The snub was intentional, and Barak does consider AIPAC biased. But now that he’s made his point, he has no intention of carrying a grudge into office. He’s convinced that he can work fine with AIPAC. His tent is a big tent.

Big enough for everyone he thinks he needs, anyway..


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.