On Monday evening, we will celebrate Purim, the holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Jews in ancient Persia, and reminds us of the triumph of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, over Haman, the wicked prime minister.
Purim is traditionally a time when families come together and celebrate the holiday with a menu of dairy foods, veggies, nuts and seeds of all kinds because, as the story states, Esther did not eat meat while in the king's court.
This year I will serve some family favorites that I recently taught at a cooking class for the University of Judaism. My students were enthusiastic and they loved the Beet Borscht and Blintzes, the traditional dishes that I usually prepare for Purim.
The Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht is easy to make. It can be prepared several days ahead, served hot or cold and garnished with sour cream or sliced cucumbers. The addition of balsamic vinegar in the recipe instead of the usual lemon juice heightens the sweet-and-sour flavor.
Blintzes are very versatile, depending on the filling, they can be served as an appetizer, a main course or for dessert. In class, I demonstrated how to prepare blintzes with the traditional hoop cheese mixture, fry and serve them with sour cream and preserves. Using the same blini recipe, but filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, they are baked and served with a tomato sauce similar to Italian Crispelle. Both recipes can be made in advance, filled, folded and refrigerated or frozen until ready to heat and serve.
During the class, the students made hamantaschen, the traditional Purim pastry that is combined with either poppy seed, prune or a chocolate-nut filling. But, for a contemporary American version, I often fill the hamantaschen with peanut butter and jelly, a favorite of my children and grandchildren.
A Purim custom still observed is called shalach manot (the giving of food). Just pack your delicious Hamantaschen in colorful gift boxes and share them with family and friends.
Sweet and Sour Beet Borscht
1 pound beets (about 4 medium), tops removed, peeled and shredded
6 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1Â¼4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1Â¼4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sour cream, for garnish
Sliced or diced cucumber, optional
Â Place beets in a large nonreactive pot and add water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.
In a small skillet, heat butter over medium heat and sauté onion until softened, about five minutes. Add brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, about three minutes. Add to cooked beets along with balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle the soup into cups or soup bowls. Top each with a dollop of sour cream and cucumber if desired.
Usually cheese blintzes are rolled into an oval shape, but I like to fold the pancake over the filling like an envelope so the result is a flat blintz. This makes them much easier to fry, and the sour cream and preserves can't roll off the top of the blintzes.
1 cup flour
1Â¼4 teaspoon salt
13Â¼4 cups milk
2-3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brandy
Cheese Filling (recipe follows)
Butter for frying
Â In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour and salt. Blend together eggs and milk and add to flour mixture a little at a time, blending after each addition, beating until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and brandy. Put through a fine strainer to avoid a lumpy dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Prepare the cheese filling, cover and refrigerate.
In a small skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over low heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in 1Â¼8-1Â¼4 cup of the batter and rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as possible, pouring off any excess. (The first blintz will be thicker than the rest.) Cook on one side only, until lightly browned around the edges and turn it out onto a towel to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the cooled blintzes on a platter with a square of waxed paper in between each one.
Makes about 24.
Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the cheese filling into the center of the brown side of each blintz. Fold the blintz around the filling like an envelope, completely enclosing it. Place the blintzes on a large platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To prepare the blintzes for serving: In a large skillet, heat 1Â¼4 cup of butter and brown the blintzes lightly, about 1-2 minutes per side. (Do not crowd.) Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed. With a metal spatula, carefully transfer the blintzes to serving plates. Serve with bowls of sour cream, sugar and preserves.
2 pounds hoop, farmer or pot cheese
2 tablespoon sugar
1-2 teaspoons salt
In a large bowl, mix the hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, chill in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the blintzes.
Makes 4 cups.
Crispelle With Ricotta and Spinach
24 Blini (see recipe)
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste
Prepare blini cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. If ricotta is very soft, place in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes to drain. Mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Makes about 3 cups
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the Ricotta-Spinach Filling over the entire surface of each blini. Fold 1Â¼2 inch of each side over the filling and roll up tight. Cut each roll into four pieces and place on lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about five minutes.Â
To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center of each plate. Arrange four or five rolled crepes, cut side up, on top of the sauce.
Poppy Seed or Chocolate Filled
1Â¼4 pound unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine, softened
1Â¼2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups flour
11Â¼2 teaspoons baking powder
1Â¼4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 (8-ounce) cans poppy seed filling
Preheat the oven to 375 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until well-blended. Beat in two of the eggs and the orange zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder, salt and poppy seeds and blend until dough is smooth.
Transfer to floured board and divide dough into three or four portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with the palm of your hand and roll it out 1Â¼4 inch thick. With a scalloped or plain cookie cutter, cut into 21Â¼2-inch rounds. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal them.
Place hamantaschen 1Â¼2 inch apart on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and brush with the remaining egg, lightly beaten. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.
Makes 5 dozen-6 dozen.
2003 Passover Recipe ContestContest
The Jewish Journal is once again sponsoring a Passover recipe contest. Send in your favorite kosher-for -Passover recipe with a brief story. The winning recipes will appear with the chef's photo in an upcoming Jewish Journal. The winners will also receive a personally autographed copy of Judy Zeidler's cookbook "Master Chefs Cook Kosher."
All entries must be received by April 1 .
E-mail recipies along with yout name and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to: Passover Recipe Contest c/o Marni Levitt, The Jewish Journal 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010.
No phone calls, please.