Purim, Tuesday, is a holiday filled with joy and has always been an occasion for feasting and merrymaking. It celebrates the downfall of the tyrant Haman, who wanted to destroy the Jewish people. The heroine of this holiday is, of course, Queen Esther, who persuaded the king to spare her people.
Because Queen Esther was a vegetarian, menus accent fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds and grains. In keeping with the merry spirit of this holiday, wine is an important part of the festivities and is often added to traditional recipes.
I have planned a festive Purim menu that incorporates all of the traditions, but has an added advantage for the busy homemaker--much of the preparation can be done in advance and none of the recipes require much time. The challah recipe is a real timesaver because it uses rapid-rise yeast and takes less than one hour from start to finish. The result is crisp mini challah twists sprinkled with poppy seeds.
Easy to Find
The first course is an unusual salad, combining Jerusalem artichokes with crisp, colorful vegetables and a vinaigrette dressing. Actually, this artichoke is really a member of the sunflower family and not nearly well known enough; they are easy to find in most markets, where they are also known as sunchokes.
Next, I will serve a veal stew with fresh, succulent spring vegetables. All of the ingredients cook quickly and the stew's flavor will improve if prepared a day before and then gently reheated. With it, plan on serving a biblical grain: barley. It cooks quickly in chicken stock and the addition of garlic, green onions and mushrooms make it perfect for this holiday menu.
As usual, I go all out for desserts on Jewish holidays. The two I have chosen are entirely new versions of traditional favorites--the first is hamantaschen (named after the hat of the cruel prime minister, because they are triangular in shape). The dough has melted chocolate added and the filling is a real surprise--a crunchy mixture of caramel and nuts. My other recipe is a rich lekvar (prune jam) Linzer Torte. The lekvar filling is nothing like grandmother used to make--it comes in a jar or can and speeds up preparation time. Both of these sweet treats can be made in advance and the recipes can be doubled, so you can share them with friends and family.
Purim is a favorite holiday for children and grandchildren. Masquerade parties are often held in homes or synagogues. Other customs include the rattling of groggers (noisemakers); Purim plays and Purim songs.
While the grown-ups drink wine with dinner, the children can enjoy a colorful grape juice punch. Revive the old holiday customs or start some new traditions for your family this year along with a sure-to-please menu that will make you feel relaxed and happy, rather than too weary to enjoy the fun.
FAST BUT FANCY PURIM MENU Fast and Festive Poppy Seed Challah Twists Jerusalem Artichoke Salad Red Wine Vinaigrette Veal Stew With Spring Vegetables Barley-Mushroom Pilaf Chocolate Hamantaschen With Caramel-Nut Filling Lekvar Linzer Torte Wine Grape juice punch Coffee and tea FAST AND FESTIVE POPPY SEED CHALLAH TWISTS
1 package rapid-rise yeast
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup warm water
Safflower or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1 egg white
Combine yeast, 3 cups flour, sugar and salt in bowl of electric mixer. Combine water, 2 tablespoons oil and eggs in another bowl. Stir warm liquid into dry mixture and blend well.
Place remaining 1 cup flour on wooden board and place dough on top. Knead dough, working in enough of flour on board until dough is no longer sticky. Brush top of dough with oil. Cover with towel and let rise 10 minutes.
Break off small pieces of dough (about 20), form into long ropes, twist into knots and place on greased and cornmeal-dusted baking sheets. Cover twists with towel. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Brush with egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Makes about 20.
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SALAD
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes
2 large cucumbers
Red Wine Vinaigrette
1 bunch fresh watercress or 4 cups arugula
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
Peel Jerusalem artichokes and cut julienne. Peel cucumbers and halve lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and cut julienne. Peel and cut carrots julienne.
Toss artichokes, cucumbers and carrots in large glass or stainless bowl. Pour in Red Wine Vinaigrette, toss well and marinate 30 minutes.
Chop several sprigs watercress and set aside. Arrange bed of watercress sprigs on serving platter. Drain excess vinaigrette from vegetables with slotted spoon and mound on watercress. Sprinkle with reserved chopped watercress and sesame seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Red Wine Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper