November 16, 2018

A vegetarian buffet to celebrate Queen Esther [RECIPES]

What makes Purim so special? Maybe it’s the heroic story of Queen Esther. Whatever you decide, it is still one of the happiest of all Jewish holidays. Filled with accounts of bravery, it tells the story of Queen Esther and how she helped defeat the wicked minister Haman in ancient Persia. 

We plan on celebrating the holiday this year with an after-the-Purim-carnival buffet, inspired by the elaborate banquets served in biblical times. One long table can be set for all the guests, and each place setting will have a noisemaker to use during the retelling of the Purim story.

Buffets are especially appealing to children because they can select their own food. Creating a dairy meal is appropriate for Purim as a reminder that Queen Esther, in order to eat only kosher food in the king’s palace, followed a vegetarian diet that consisted primarily of vegetables, seeds, grains, nuts and beans.

Let guests start the evening by helping themselves to cups of vegetarian mushroom barley soup. It is even better prepared a day or two in advance to allow the flavors to blend. 

One of the typical foods served at a Purim carnival are pita roll-ups filled with tomatoes, onions, avocado, other vegetables and cheese. Don’t forget to include bowls of tabbouleh salad made with bulgur wheat, tomato, parsley and mint. 

Falafel — a spicy combination of bulgur wheat and garbanzo beans, fried until crisp and brown and served on skewers with a sauce of tahini (sesame paste) — is a perfect dish for your buffet table. Another family favorite is a noodle kugel filled with sautéed eggplant and squash, accompanied by a vegetable puree sauce.

Don’t forget dessert: Everyone is going to love hamantashen, rich with chocolate or caramel filling. Be sure to bake enough to share with family and friends for “shalach manot” (from “mishloach manot,” or “sending of portions”), the traditional custom of giving sweets during the holiday.

One other significant addition to a Purim celebration is wine, which plays an important part in the meal. It has been stated that one who does not drink wine does not observe the holiday. Enjoy!


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 onion, diced
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes more. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add stock, soy sauce, barley and sherry. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add additional stock or water as needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.



1 (12-inch) round pita bread
2 cups torn romaine lettuce
2 thin slices tomato
3 thin slices red onion
1 thin slice Jack cheese
1 piece roasted sweet red pepper
1/4 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts

Split pita bread in half and place 1 round half on 18-by-12-inch sheet of parchment or wax paper. Arrange lettuce across center of pita half. Top with tomato and onion slices, cheese, roasted pepper and avocado. Sprinkle alfalfa sprouts on top. Roll up tightly, jellyroll fashion. Place rolled-up sandwich on edge of remaining pita half, seam-side down. Roll up tightly, jellyroll fashion, enclosing completely. 

Place sandwich, seam-side down, on an angle, on parchment paper. Then fold corner of parchment paper closest to you over sandwich. Fold two sides of parchment over and continue to roll up tightly, envelope fashion. Using a very sharp knife cut pita in half, through parchment, exposing filling. 

Makes 2 servings.


1 cup bulgur, preferably fine-grade
1/2 cup minced green onions
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
4 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 heads romaine lettuce, small center leaves only
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

Soak bulgur in enough cold water to cover, until tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain well and squeeze as dry as possible in double layer of cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel.

Place bulgur in a large bowl. Add green onions, parsley, mint and tomatoes; toss well. In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice, oil, and salt and pepper to taste; add to bulgur mixture and toss gently. Pile salad on large platter and surround with romaine leaves to use for scooping. Garnish with lemon slices. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 


Tahini Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup bulgur, preferably fine grade
1 1/2 cups torn chunks pita bread or white bread
2 cups canned garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Prepare Tahini Sauce; refrigerate.

Soak bulgur in enough cold water to cover, for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak pita in enough cold water to cover until tender and moist, about 5 minutes. Drain pita, squeeze it dry, and set aside.

Put the garbanzos, lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender. Process until smoothly pureed. Add soaked bulgur and pita, and pulse until thoroughly combined. Moisten your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 1-inch balls. 

Fill a large heavy skillet with oil to a depth of  3 inches; heat oil to 375 F on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry the falafel balls in several batches, without overcrowding, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer falafel to paper towels to drain. Spear each falafel with a wooden skewer and serve hot with Tahini Sauce. 

Makes about 2 dozen.


3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tahini
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Process garlic, tahini and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Add enough water to make thin sauce. Add cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

Makes about 2 cups.


Vegetable Filling (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1-pound) package wide noodles
1/3 cup unsalted margarine
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare Vegetable Filling; set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add oil and noodles. Boil according to package directions, until tender. Drain in colander. Transfer noodles to large bowl. Add margarine, poppy seeds and eggs; mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Butter a 10-inch oven-proof glass tart pan. Pour half of noodle mixture into pan. Spoon about 2 cups Vegetable Filling on top, cover with remaining noodle mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

While kugel is baking, puree remaining Vegetable Filling in food processor or blender. Just before serving, place in saucepan and heat a few minutes; serve with kugel.

Makes about 8 servings.


1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, sliced in strips
3 tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 eggplant, peeled if desired, finely diced
2 zucchini, sliced

Heat olive oil in skillet, add onion and garlic; cook until tender. Add green pepper; sauté a few minutes. Add tomatoes, parsley and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add eggplant and zucchini; simmer until tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Cover and set aside until ready to use. 


Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
Caramel-Pecan Filling (recipe follows)
3 cups flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound unsalted margarine
3 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1 egg white

Prepare Chocolate Filling and Caramel-Pecan Filling; set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

In large bowl of electric mixer, combine flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar. Blend in margarine until mixture resembles very fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, blend water and cocoa; beat in egg. Add to flour mixture, beating until completely blended and mixture begins to form a dough. Do not over-mix.

Transfer to floured board and knead into a ball. Chill for 30 minutes. 

Divide into 6 or 7 equal portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with palm of hand and roll out, 1/4-inch thick. With scalloped cookie cutter, cut into 3 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon of Chocolate Filling or Caramel-Pecan Filling in center of each round. Fold edges of dough toward center to form triangle, leaving a bit of filling visible in center. Pinch edges to seal.

Place on lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and brush with egg white. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until firm. Transfer to rack to cool. 

Makes about 5 dozen. 


1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk, cream or coffee
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

In a bowl, combine cocoa, sugar, milk and walnuts; blend thoroughly

Makes about 2 1/2 cups. 


3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups toasted chopped pecans
7 tablespoons unsalted margarine
1/2 cup milk or nondairy creamer
1/4 cup honey

In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, mixing with wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add pecans, margarine and milk. Return to heat, stirring constantly, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in honey.

Transfer to ovenproof glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until set. 

Makes about 3 cups.