A famous Jewish comedian once said that Purim was his favorite holiday because it reminded him of Mardi Gras. "Purim has everything," he said. "Singing, dancing, masquerades and a chance to drink lots of wine and enjoy some fabulous food."
This year the holiday (which commemorates the deliverance of the Persian Jews by Esther from a massacre plotted by a wicked prime minister, Haman) will be celebrated on Feb. 28, and the comedian's remarks inspired me to turn to New Orleans, home of the Mardi Gras, for new dishes to serve at our Purim dinner.
In keeping with the idea of the Purim festive spirit of drinking lots of wine, it would be appropriate to serve hot mulled wine with dessert.
1 (12-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small green pepper, finely diced
1 small sweet red pepper, finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
6 red radishes, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups mixed salad greens
Toss together corn, green and red peppers, green onions, carrots and radishes in large bowl. Add red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Toss salad greens with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season to taste with salt. Mound on salad plates and spoon corn mixture in center. Makes 6 servings.
PURIM CHICKEN JAMBALAYA
2 whole bay leaves, minced or ground
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried sage leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in 1-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large green pepper, diced
1 cup sliced fresh or frozen okra
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain rice
Combine bay leaves, cayenne, salt, white and black peppers, thyme and sage in small bowl and set aside.
Heat olive oil in 2-quart saucepan over high heat. Add chicken and saute 3 to 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Stir in herb-and-cayenne mix, garlic, onion, celery and green pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Stir in okra, tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock and rice, mixing well. Bring to boil. Simmer, covered, 30 minutes, until rice is tender but still bit crunchy. Ladle into heated, shallow bowls. Makes 6 servings.
1/2 cup unsalted margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Icing or 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces, optional
Beat together margarine and granulated sugar in bowl of electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in flour and salt until mixture holds together. With lightly floured fingers, press dough into 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes, or until brown around edges.
Combine eggs, brown sugar, coconut, pecans, corn syrup, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla in large bowl and beat well. Spread over baked crust. Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes, or until set.
Spread Icing evenly over pecan layer. Or omit Icing and sprinkle chocolate pieces over pecan layer while hot, let stand 5 minutes, then spread chocolate smoothly over top.
Cut into bars before removing from pan. Makes 24 bars.
3 cups powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, about
Beat together powdered sugar in small bowl along with enough lemon juice for spreading consistency.