Sure, we adore those three-cornered cookies that recall the three-cornered hat supposedly worn by the evil Haman, and no Purim celebration would be complete without them, but add some lesser-known symbols of the holiday and shake up the celebration.
Vegetarians rejoice! When Queen Esther married King Ahasuerus and moved into the palace, according to tradition, she followed a vegetarian – dare we say vegan – diet consisting mainly of beans, grains and fruits so that she would not break the laws of kashrut. For this reason, it is customary in some communities to eat beans on Purim.
A simple way to honor this tradition, and the heroic woman who inspired, it is to include on your Purim table the salad whimsically titled “You’ve Been Chopped” from “Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Flavors to Feed the People You Love,” (Artisan, $29.95) by Einat Admony.
“This salad is basically a collection of random ingredients, inspired by memories of my days working at the Spanish restaurant Bolo in New York,” recalls Admony, “where they had what is probably the best chopped salad on the planet.”
Navigating New York streets on her hot pink Vespa, Admony, a winner on Food Network’s “Chopped,” and chef-owner of Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat, and the Taïm restaurants in New York City, is hardly what you might expect of a traditional balaboosta (Yiddish for consummate homemaker). “A balaboosta is, traditionally, a perfect housewife who runs a happy home, but today it’s trickier,’ she says. “Most women work outside their homes, managing careers and kids. I chose the name because it’s warm and reflects who I am, a modern balaboosta who figures out how to build a successful career without neglecting my husband and my family.”
The 143 easy-to-follow recipes reflect Admony’s Yemenite and Persian roots. Her chatty, engaging patter draws you into her kitchen as a welcome guest. Chapter headings mirror her exuberant personality: “Hurry, hurry, hurry: Quick and easy meals,” “Just the two of us: Romantic dishes,” “Fat like me: Healthier options,” Fancy-schmancy: Restaurant worthy dishes.”
“In “Food, Family and Tradition: Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances,” (The Cherry Press, $35) Lynn Kirsche Shapiro chronicles the story of her parents, Sandor and Margit Kirsche, holocaust survivors and founders of Hungarian Kosher Foods, the largest kosher supermarket in the Midwest, and by extension she celebrates the resilience and courage of all Holocaust survivors through food and stories.
“After I started putting this book together,” explains Shapiro, “I understood that my family’s recipes and history were part of a larger world: the traditional Jewish life in Czechoslovakia and Hungary before the Holocaust. Many books have been written to educate others and to bear witness to the events and atrocities of the Holocaust. My book also attempts to give a picture of the richness of Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust. Strong family traditions were the bedrock on which our parents, and so many of the Holocaust survivors, were raised.”
In addition to hamantaschen, for Purim Shapiro’s mother’s family traditionally baked a filled yeast cake called “kindle,” which calls for egg yolks, as well as meringue kisses, (which used up the leftover egg whites). “My mother and her mother baked for hours on end. This custom continues in our family today,” she says.
In her mother’s hometown of Vásárosnamény, Hungary, she recalls, it was customary, after the reading of the megillah on Purim, to have a Purim Schpiel, a satirical spoof. “My mother recalls the entire kehilla (community) was invited to the schpiel. To enhance the sense of peoplehood and community for Purim, families baked cakes and other goodies, such as hamantaschen, as well as aranygaluska (yeast dumplings,) kindle and meringue kisses to send as shalach manos (Purim baskets) to neighborhood friends. Traditionally, the children in my parents’ towns looked forward to delivering the food baskets and receiving a few pennies from each recipient. The yeshiva bochurim (students) would go from house to house dancing, singing, entertaining the families with small performances, and then, in the afternoon, each family enjoyed a Purim seudah, a festive meal with delicacies. We always waited eagerly for the roasted duck that my mother served each year.”
You’ve Been Chopped
“When there’s a little more time, fresh corn and freshly cooked black beans are better, but sometimes my grumbling stomach tells me otherwise,” says Admony.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
5-6 fistfuls baby spinach, sliced into thin strips (julienned, if you’re fancy)
1 cup drained canned corn kernels
1 cup drained and rinsed canned black beans
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup store-bought crispy shallots or fried onions
1 small avocado, cut into small cubes
1 jalapeño chile, cored, seeded, and cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or basil
1 Slowly whisk olive oil into lime juice. Whisk in salt, pepper, and sugar.
2 Toss all salad ingredients together with lime vinaigrette. It doesn’t get any easier than this!
Source: Balaboosta by Einat Admony
“Unlike other yeast-based pastries, the characteristic texture of kindle depends on the dough not rising,” says Shapiro. “This cake freezes well, and can be made in advance. “
Makes 2 (15-inch) rolls
For the filling:
1⁄2 cup preserves (raspberry, apricot, or lekvar)
1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2⁄3 cup raisins
2 tablespoons honey
For the dough:
3 cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄8 teaspoon baking soda
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 egg yolks
Scant 1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup seltzer water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1 Assemble filling ingredients. Mix together walnuts, sugar and cinnamon.
2 Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3 In large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In medium bowl, mix together lemon juice, zest, eggs and oil. Pour seltzer into small bowl. Dissolve yeast in seltzer.
4 Immediately (yeast is not allowed to rise) make indentation in middle of flour. Add egg and yeast mixtures and mix. Knead dough until smooth and comes off your hands. (Or mix in stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix until dough is smooth and comes off sides, making a ball.) Do not let dough rise.
5 Roll out dough on floured surface into 12 by 24-inch or 14 by 26-inch rectangle. Spread preserves in thin layer on dough up to one inch of edge. Sprinkle walnut mixture over preserves; scatter raisins over all. Drizzle honey evenly over filling.
6 Starting with long side, roll tightly. Moisten edge and pinch to seal. Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Cut cake in half and with your hands, spread gently to lengthen it to around 15-16 inches. Pierce top of each roll with fork every 2 inches along top. In small bowl, mix egg and water for egg wash. With pastry brush, brush top and sides of cake with egg wash.
7 Bake in center of oven until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool to room temperature and cut into thin slices to serve.
Adapted from “Food, Family and Tradition” by Lynn Kirsche Shapiro