The Jewish community will observe Purim, a festive holiday in which food and wine play important roles, beginning at sundown, Saturday.
In earlier days, women living in European Jewish communities would get together in their homes to bake hamantaschen, the three-cornered pastries that are such a delicious feature of Purim, and to prepare other menu items.
This year, I am serving new, lighter versions of hamantaschen and other traditional recipes.
The menu begins with wine or grape juice and poppy seed bread sticks. Next comes a colorful fresh vegetable salad of shredded celery root, carrots and zucchini. The dressing features the traditional poppy seeds that are identified with Purim.
The main course is thin slices of lean beef brisket baked in a tangy wine sauce garnished with plump prunes. This dish is so hearty that tiny new potatoes flavored with garlic and rosemary is all that is needed to accompany it. Even the hamantaschen get a new light look, baked with crisp filo pastry and filled with a delicious apricot-coconut mixture.
There are many California Kosher wines available in local markets; for this menu a hearty red wine accompanies the brisket of beef.
UPDATED PURIM MENU
Poppy Seed Bread Sticks
Purim Carnival Slaw With Poppy Seed Dressing
Beef Brisket Slices in Wine Sauce
New Potatoes With Garlic and Rosemary
Filo Hamantaschen With Apricot-Coconut Filling
POPPY SEED BREAD STICKS
1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
1/2 cup poppy seeds, about
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup warm water until foamy. Combine olive oil and remaining 1/2 cup warm water in large bowl of electric mixer. Blend in yeast mixture and 1 cup flour, beating until smooth.
Beat 2 egg whites until stiff but not dry in large mixing bowl. Fold egg whites into yeast mixture. Add remaining flour, 1 cup at time, beating well after each addition, to make soft dough.
Knead dough on well-floured board 5 minutes and place in oiled bowl. Oil top of dough. Cover with towel and let dough rise 15 minutes. Punch dough down and let rise 15 minutes longer.
For hand-rolled bread sticks, pinch off ball of dough, flatten with palm of hand to 1/2-inch thick and roll out with rolling pin. Cut into 1/4-inch wide and 10-inch-long strips with sharp knife.
Carefully transfer each stick to foil-lined oiled baking sheet, placing strips 1/4-inch apart. Keep strips straight, while bending tops slightly. Pinch edges down to stick to foil. Repeat until all dough is used.
Cover with towel and let rise in warm place until round and puffy, about 15 minutes. Brush with remaining egg white and sprinkle with Kosher salt and poppy seeds as desired. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Carefully remove bread sticks to racks to cool. Makes about 6 dozen.
Note: For pasta machine bread sticks, pinch off ball of dough 2 inches in diameter and flatten with palm of hand to 1/2-inch thickness. Lightly dust with flour.
Set pasta machine rollers as far apart as possible. Guide dough between rollers and roll through. Coat with flour and feed sheet through wide noodle-cutting blades, cutting into strips about 1/4-inch wide and 10 inches long.
PURIM CARNIVAL SLAW WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING
2 medium celery roots
5 large carrots, peeled
2 large zucchini, unpeeled
Poppy Seed Dressing
Remove 1/4-inch of thick skin from celery roots with potato peeler or knife and dig out root spots with tip of peeler or sharp knife. Cut celery root in quarters.
Using processor with shredder attachment, shred celery roots, carrots and zucchini. Transfer to large bowl and toss together.
Add Poppy Seed Dressing, 1/4 cup at time, just enough to moisten. Toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve on bed of arugula. Pass any leftover dressing. Makes 16 servings.
Poppy Seed Dressing
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sugar or honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Freshly ground pepper
Stir together mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice in mixing bowl. Add poppy seeds and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
BEEF BRISKET SLICES IN WINE SAUCE
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 onions, thinly sliced
1 (8-pound) lean beef brisket
5 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 (28-ounce) can peeled whole tomatoes
1 to 2 cups red wine
1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
1/2 pound pitted prunes
Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add minced garlic and onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
Transfer garlic and onions to large roasting pot and place brisket on top, fat side up. Add carrots, parsley, tomatoes, wine and unpeeled garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bake at 350 degrees 2 to 3 hours or until meat is tender. Add prunes last 30 minutes of baking.
Transfer beef to cutting board and slice. Return to pot and keep warm. Makes 16 servings.