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Top tastes of Purim wrapped up together

by Judy Zeidler

March 20, 2008 | 6:00 pm

Mmmm . . . cheese blintzes

Mmmm . . . cheese blintzes

The theme for our family Purim dinner this year will be blintzes, but the preparation will be a little different and will include ingredients that are symbolic for the holiday.

The inspiration for the menu began when my daughter, Susan, her husband, Leo, and our granddaughters were visiting from out of town, and we went to lunch at Zeidler's Cafe at the Skirball Cultural Center. We ordered blintzes, and, although they were delicious, Leo said they didn't compare with his grandmothers'. He remembered her crepes being so thin that you could almost see through them. Whether you call it a blini or crepe it is still a type of very thin cooked pancake usually made from wheat flour.

I hadn't made cheese blintzes for several years, but that was the way I remembered them, too. When we got home that afternoon, I found my recipe, bought the ingredients and together we made blini that were the thinnest ever. Filled with farmers' cheese, I fold them over like an envelope that results in rather semiflat blintzes. This helps prevent topping that is spooned over the blintzes from sliding off. The extra blini can be cut into strips and used in soup or for pasta.

It reminded me of the time chef Josie La Balch, owner of Josie's Restaurant in Santa Monica, was a guest chef on my TV cooking show. She made a variety of filled blini, and served them in several ways. Included is one of her recipes, Crespelle with Ricotta and Spinach, which is filled with a ricotta cheese mixture, baked and served with a tomato sauce.

I have also included a recipe that substitutes thin slices of eggplant for the blini that are stuffed with a mixture of sauteed chopped vegetables, baked with tomato sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. This is especially appropriate for Purim because it reminds us that Queen Esther, in order to eat only kosher food in the king's palace, followed a vegetarian diet consisting primarily of grains, nuts and vegetables. The vegetable filling can also be substituted in place of the traditional cheese blintzes.

For dessert, serve sweet blintzes filled with diced apple that have been cooked in an apricot-sugar syrup. Fold into triangles, which represent the traditional shape of the Purim hamantaschen pastries, and fry in a skillet.


Classic Cheese Blintzes
Cheese Filling
Blini
Butter for frying
Sour cream and preserves

Fill the brown side of each blin with the Cheese Filling and fold, tucking ends in envelope fashion. (May cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.)

Melt about 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter in a large, nonstick skillet. Cook the blintzes on both sides, about three to four minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed. With a metal spatula carefully transfer the blintzes to a serving platter.

Serve with bowls of sour cream and preserves.

Makes about 24 blintzes.


Cheese Filling
2 pounds hoop cheese, farmers or pot cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

In a medium mixing bowl, add the cheese, sugar, salt and eggs and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Blini
3 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brandy

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended. Add the flour and salt and beat well. Slowly add the milk, blending until smooth. Stir in the melted butter and brandy. Pour through a strainer to remove the lumps that may form. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, optional.
In an 8-inch round nonstick skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in about 1/8 cup of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as possible, pouring excess batter back into the bowl. Cook on one side only for about one minute, or until the edges begin to brown. Turn onto paper towels and transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining batter and stack the Blini with wax paper in between. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill.
Makes about 24 blini.


Crespelle With Ricotta and Spinach
Ricotta-Spinach Filling
Tomato Sauce
Blini (see Classic Cheese Blintzes recipe)

Prepare the Ricotta-Spinach Filling and the Tomato Sauce, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare Blini.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Brush a baking dish with olive oil. Spread 2 tablespoons of the Ricotta-Spinach Filling over the entire surface of each blin and roll up tightly. Place on prepared baking dish and bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.

To serve, heat the tomato sauce and spoon some in the center of each serving plate. Arrange one or two Crespelle (the Italian equivalent of crepes) on top of sauce, spooning additional sauce on the remaining Crespelle.
Makes six to eight servings.


Ricotta-Spinach Filling
1 pound ricotta
8 ounces spinach, steamed, squeezed dry and finely chopped
Nutmeg, freshly grated
Salt, to taste

Place the ricotta in a strainer set over a medium bowl for 30 minutes to drain. In a large bowl, mix the drained ricotta cheese, spinach, nutmeg and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 can (26 ounce) whole plum tomatoes with liquid
1&'8260;2 cup dry red wine8 whole basil leaves, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic, onion, shallot and saute until soft and translucent, about three minutes. Add canned tomatoes and basil and simmer until soft, about five minutes. Using a wire whisk or fork, mash the tomatoes. Add red wine and simmer over low heat, until the mixture thickens into a sauce, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool. Place in a food processor and blend until a coarse puree. (The sauce may be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for several days and in the freezer for up to one month.)
Makes about 4 cups.

Vegetable Eggplant Rolls in Tomato Sauce
Tomato Sauce (see Crespelle recipe)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, finely diced
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup diced mushrooms, optional
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large eggplants
Flour
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese, grated

Prepare the Tomato Sauce, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and saute onion, garlic and zucchini until soft. Add cabbage and mushrooms, mixing well, adding raisins, parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking until cabbage is soft. Cool and cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Slice the eggplants lengthwise, 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Dredge the slices in flour, shaking off the excess.

In a large heavy skillet heat olive oil over medium heat, and saute the eggplant slices on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels.

Cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of vegetable filling (depending on the size of the slices), across the narrow portion of a slice of eggplant. Roll up the eggplant tightly around the filling. Place the eggplant rolls seams side down in an oiled baking dish. (You can cover them with plastic wrap and foil at this point and store in the refrigerator for one to two hours; do not freeze.)

Spoon the Tomato Sauce over the eggplant rolls. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Using a metal spatula, carefully place one or two of the eggplant rolls on serving plates, top with tomato sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Makes six to eight servings.


Hamantaschen Apple Blintzes
Blini (see Classic Cheese Blintzes recipe)
Diced Apple Filling
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Prepare Blini and the Diced Apple Filling, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Just before serving, place one blin on a large plate, browned side up, and spoon apple filling in the center and fold into a triangle, placing on a large baking sheet folded side down. Continue with the remaining blini and filling.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and fry the triangles folded side down, until lightly brown, turn and brown on the other side. Arrange Apple Hamantaschen Blintzes on serving plates with a spoon full of diced apples mixture. Serve immediately.

Makes six to eight servings.


Diced Apple Filling
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1&'8260;4 cup orange juice
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and marmalade have dissolved. Bring this syrup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer three to four minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

Place the diced apple in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. Add the apples and lemon juice to the syrup in the skillet and toss to coat the apples. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are soft. Transfer them to a glass bowl and cool to room temperature.

Makes about two to three cups.


Judy Zeidler is the author of "The Gourmet Jewish Cook" (Morrow, 1988) and "The International Deli Cookbook" (Broadway Deli, 2002). "Judy's Kitchen" appears on Jewish Life Television. Her Web site is www.judyzeidler.com.

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