What kind of genius came up with the idea that prunes would make a great cookie filling, to be eaten without fail once a year?
Whoever they were, they were wrong.
But have no fear! We have a new hamantaschen option for you this year, and it’s as delicious as a cocktail, without the embarrassment that goes with actually being drunk at your family’s Purim party.
Alison Barnett has come up with a series of cocktail-themed hamantaschen that make regular old flavors seem like a too-sweet, dry and cakey distant memory.
“[The] two main things we consume on Purim are alcohol and hamantashen. I decided to combine the two into a real fun and creative dessert,” Barnett told the Forward. Her flavors include: White Russian, Tequila Sunrise, Mojito, Whiskey Sour and Cosmopolitan.
A mid-day snack tasting session by the Forward’s staff saw some clear favorites emerge: Whiskey Sour, treated with suspicion at first glance because of the ominous-looking maraschino cherry embedded in the crust, was actually a surprisingly pleasant mix of almond-sugar crust and citrus filling — not too sweet, not too tangy; White Russian was, as expected, a smooth combination of Kahlua and coffee flavors (though the extra icing drizzled onto the crust was unnecessary). Finally, Tequila Sunrise packs a citrus kick strong enough to lift any remaining winter blues.
Barnett first started experimenting with the idea three years ago. This is her first year actually selling the final product (to order on Etsy, click here). $21 will get you a dozen of these goodies — try getting that deal at a bar.
According to Barnett, she’s already thinking up new flavors for next year’s round. Irish coffee, anyone?
Until then, try your own version of the Tequila Sunrise at home (and take a few extra sips on the side — we won’t tell).
I’ve started noticing hamentaschen showing up in local bakeries, and it made me wonder if one of the reasons we say “Purim Sameach/Happy Purim” is because we know that we’ll be eating lots of hamentaschen, the traditional Eastern-European Purim dessert. This joyous day celebrates the repeal of the death decree against the Jewish inhabitants of ancient Persia (“They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”).
Hamantaschen and JCarrot have a long and loving relationship. We’ve brought you a Brazilian hamantaschen story, and written about the virtue of hamantaschen as hidden food. We’ve taught you how to make hamantaschen the Kibbutznik way with a recipe from Zucker Bakery and how to give them an Asian twist.. If you are looking for more ideas on how to spruce up your hamantaschen, look no further. Here are you seven recipes that will raise eyebrows — and pants sizes — at your Purim party.
1) Purim begins this Saturday night, so get in the mood by giving your Friday night dinner a Purim-themed twist: The Challah Blog has a recipe for Hamantaschen Challah.
2) The Sushi Hamantaschen from Busy in Brooklyn are actually a Japanese dish called Onigiri, but sushi almost counts as traditional Jewish food these days, right?
3) If you want to go down the multicultural route further, Bon Appetit has five savory recipes, ranging from savory Piroshkitaschen with cream cheese and smoked salmon to Masatschen with chipotle-beer squash.
4) Campfire romance meets the spirit of Purim with this S’more Hamantaschen recipe from Couldn’t Be Parve.
5) From Valentine’s roses to Angry Birds, there’s barely a motive that hasn’t been made into a cake pop yet. Here we go, then — Hamantashen Truffle Pops from Joy of Kosher.
6) Most likely, these Rainbow Hamantaschen from Kitchen Tested are more beautiful that Haman’s ear, or pouch, has ever been. In the comments section, people have posted their own creations.
7) Have you ever wondered what happens when you use jelly worms as hamantaschen fillings? The Lady of the Arts tried it. Warning: Contains graphic images of jelly worms in distress.
Consume a lot of alcohol on Purim. As the Talmud pushes, “A person is obligated to drink on Purim to confuse the difference between the phrases ‘cursed be Haman)’ and ‘blessed be Mordecai.’ Megillah (7b). That would be a lot of drinking and any number of intoxicants could fulfill this mitzvah. This year you may wish to consider delectable chocolate liqueurs.
photos by Molly Yeh
When I was a kid, hamantaschen came in two varieties: poppyseed (what the sophisticated grown-ups ate) and fruit. It didn’t matter what kind of fruit, it all tasted the same — overly sweet and sticky, and most importantly, difficult to scrape out with a spoon in order to get to the goods — the sugar cookie that encased it.
These days, the internet is bursting with wild varieties of hamantaschen: gummy bears and dulce de leche are tucked into dough, and a trend of savory hamantaschen has resulted in fillings like balsamic caramelized onions and roasted lamb with pine nuts.
I want them all. And what do you expect from a holiday that has basically one distinguishing food item? It’s not like Hanukkah, when anything fried is fair game, or Passover with all of its matzo brittle and macaroons. Purim gets booze, costumes and hamantaschen. And I’d just like to say that I’m proud of Jewish bakers everywhere who have refused to submit to culinary boredom when it comes to this holiday.
Last year, I gave my two cents to this hamantaschen craze with a black sesame filling and a savory gruyère filling. This year, I’m giving you two more: The first is filled with red bean paste, a popular ingredient in Asian desserts. Made from adzuki beans (which you can find at Asian grocery stores), it has almost a peanut butter quality. The second hamantaschen is inspired by the oatmeal pie at the Brooklyn bakery Four & Twenty Blackbirds: Imagine an oatmeal cookie wrapped in a hat of sugar cookie, it’s hamantaschen heaven. You will never think about scooping out the filling again.
The costumes line the streets and Purim is in the air. It’s really one of my favorite holidays, made more so by the preparations for our community’s traditional English-speakers Tzfat Purim shpiel. I excitedly anticipate the unique mishloach manot (gift packages) that my Sepharadi neighbors send – their homemade Moroccan Purim challahs, Djerbian orange-flavored donuts, Tunisian muffletot and Iraqi Sambusks are a highlight of the holiday. I make my own strawberry jam, since spring is strawberry-time in Israel (wash and crush 2 kilos of strawberries, add a tiny bit of sugar and let it simmer for several hours on the stove till it turns into a jam) so that I can present my neighbors with strawberry hamantashen.
From the destruction of Sandy, a Far Rockaway bagel shop rises. [Eatocracy]
A look at Katz’s through the years. [EV Grieve]
It’s almost Purim. Check out this guide to hamantaschen in NYC. [Village Voice]
10 beautiful and edible gifts to give Purim. [Food 52]
Which brisket was crowned king? [Serious Eats]
Head to Mile End when you feel like Montreal-Jewish-Sichuan. [Bon Appetit]
“I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion - that standing within this otherness - the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.” – Mary Oliver
Sometimes I marvel at how hard it can be just to be myself, to be the person I expect of myself, to be the version of myself that others probably expect, too. I end up staring off into space, dreamily fixed elsewhere, thinking abstractly about where I’ve been and how far I still have to go in a world that paints me flat. Sometimes my friends privately settle on the word ‘melancholy’ after they’ve known me for a few months. They present the word to me carefully, like a confession of their judgment, holding it by its edges, setting it carefully into my hands. Melancholy. It’s as if the word itself, a little gift, might capture and hold my disquietude, the parts of me that clamor against patters, expectations, what’s tried and true, and if I hear it, perhaps – poof! – fulfillment and happiness! Thinking of this, I don’t want to write another ‘perfect’ or, even, the ‘best’ hamantaschen recipe, the tried and true the ones we all love, and know. And what we all expect. I want something else today.
On Purim, we celebrate Jewish survival and redemption. It is one of the most popular Jewish holidays because it is built on hope. Purim is a reminder that no matter how bad the circumstances, or whatever we fear around the corner, things will turn out well in the end. It’s greatly loved for the merriment to be had celebrating Esther’s victory with the king, her great success, not to mention her great skill and tact. It is with this in mind that Jews observe Purim. The day before Purim is a fast day, followed by two days of celebration: dancing, merrymaking, feasting. Jews will linger in temple into the early morning hours, drinking and masquerading, dressed in full costumes – drunkenly assuming new identities.
I love eating meat. While I am aware of how harmful conventional industrial meat production is to the environment and to our health, to say nothing of the issues of cruelty to animals and fair treatment of workers, I cannot imagine going without meat entirely. I even tried being vegetarian a couple of times, but always fell off the wagon rather quickly. By now, in the wake of the scandals at Agriprocessors, most of us know that kosher meat is not necessarily ethically superior to its non-kosher counterparts.
Some have suggested eating meat only on special occasions like Shabbat and holidays. While this practice puts healthy limits on one’s consumption of meat, and makes the consumption a meat part of the celebration and sanctification of religious occasions rather than a simple hedonistic indulgence, in some ways it seems backwards: if I think that the meat I’m eating is so morally problematic, is it really appropriate to reserve its consumption for holy occasions like the Sabbath or other holidays? If I’m going to eat meat whose production involve mistreatment of animals and workers, and degradation of the environment, it might be better to save that meat-eating for ordinary weekdays, and make more ethical (and therefore more holy), food choices on Shabbat and holidays
In the fall of 2008, we re-launched the food bank at my synagogue, Valley Beth Shalom. The economy had started to crash, and the synagogue responded, in part, by reinvesting in this project to help San Fernando Valley residents who needed a hand. Little did I know that within a few weeks, our little food bank would grow to reach hundreds of families a month–including members of my own community. During the Great Recession and subsequent (albeit slow) recovery, I spoke with congregants who told me their stories: Before the recession, they were successful in business and had “done everything right,” but the bank later took their home. They needed a little extra food each month to bridge the gap between their paycheck and bills.
It’s times of social and economic upheaval when we recognize our own vulnerability, despite our hard work and planning. One day we have it all, and the next–perhaps, nothing.
For our children, Purim is the silliest day of the Jewish year. In fact, it also celebrates life’s unpredictability. The Book of Esther, for example, showcases sudden reversals of fortune: At one moment, the Jewish community faces annihilation by genocide, and the next—the King of Persia executes our would-be killers. Or in the words of the Megillah, our lives were “turned inside out from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a day of celebration.” (Esther 9:22)
Since being aurally haunted by hundreds of toy noise makers during one Purim celebration in my childhood, Purim has been banned from my top 10 list of favorite holidays (making way for more quiet and civilized holidays where you soberly eat matzo ball soup with your family). In my wimpy eyes its only point of redemption is hamantaschen. This year, I have reinterpreted the triangle cookies two ways — one sweet and Asian inspired and the other savory and filled with delicious rich cheese.
My favorite varieties of classic hamantaschen can be found at a few hidden deli counters in New York and in care packages from the mother of a dear college friend, Brian. When we were in college, Brian’s apartment was good for three things: throwing wild patio parties, eating spray can cheese, and hosting impromptu hamantaschen eating parties as soon as his Purim care package arrived. His mother’s hamantaschen were soft, doughy, slightly smashed from the shipping process, and swimming in powdered sugar (perfect for the morning after those legendary patio parties). So when I decided to make hamantaschen this year — with a personal twist — the obvious starting point was tapping Brian’s mom for her recipe.
One of these recipes draws on my Asian heritage and uses black sesame seeds in place of the traditional poppy seed filling. Black sesames are common in Asian cooking and have a smokier and nuttier flavor than their white counterparts. The other is an homage to my cheese and spinach obsessions and is as perfect for an appetizer or party hors d’oeuvre as it is sacrilege.
One of my favorite things about Jewish holidays is their vivid food symbolism. On Purim, this typically translates into triangular foods, like hamantaschen and kreplach, which represent Haman’s hat, pockets or ears, depending on who you ask. And, while Purim the is one of the few Jewish holidays that encourages drinking, that symbolism has yet to make its way into beverages. So this year, I’m getting in the spirit by concocting some holiday-inspired cocktails to serve up to my friends.
There are varying interpretations on exactly how drunk one should get on Purim, but the general idea is to get drunk enough that you cannot tell the difference between the hero Mordechai and his nemesis Haman. The Book of Esther even commences with a 180-day drinking festival. The biblical drink of choice would be wine, but it’s high time that Purim swills got a modern facelift.
Since Queen Esther is the heroine of the Purim tale, I wanted to invent a cocktail in her honor. The Esther Cocktail starts with pomegranate juice, since the arils of the fruit are reminiscent of the jewels in Esther’s crown. I added rose water, a common Persian ingredient, as an homage to the setting of the tale. Finally, a date honey and poppy seed rim makes for a nod to hamantaschen, as well as a dramatic presentation.
This year it seemed that even the Sugar Maple Trees at Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT celebrated Purim. We’ve been tapping about 30 trees over the last three weeks, during this short late-winter maple syrup tapping season. On the day before Purim, unlike any other day until now, some of the buckets were bone dry. Maybe the trees were reminding me to fast? Purim night, conditions were terrible for sap flow; the temperature stayed above freezing all night and by nine in the morning it was already over fifty degrees. The trees flow best when it dips below freezing at night and reaches forty degrees during the day, so I would never have predicted that by eleven o’clock on Thursday morning most of the buckets would be full to the brim with cool sweet sap.
Appropriately, on the night of Purim the trees couldn’t tell the difference between good conditions and bad conditions. Thursday morning, I did a mad dash to collect all the sap before the buckets overflowed.
Living in a small Brazilian village an hour’s drive from the northeastern city of Recife, it’s easy to forget the rhythms of the outside world. We had barely finished cleaning up from the revelry of Carnival, when an email arrived to remind me of the onset of Purim and that the costume wearing, drinking in the streets, and sweet treats, were yet to be over. Purim, at the back end of Carnival, seemed a perfect fit for my adopted Brazilian community. And just like that I was making hamantashen, the signature, three-cornered holiday cookie.
Now, it’s true that Recife was the first Jewish community in the New World, where Sephardic Jews found refuge when the area was a Dutch colony between 1630 and 1654. But if Jews ever stepped foot in my little shtetl, Paudalho, 22 miles inland, their presence is lost to the mists of history. Today — more than 350 years after the Recife Jews fled the conquering Portuguese for another Dutch colonial backwater, New Amsterdam — the Jewish population of Paudalho stands at exactly one. I am also the only American and the singular graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Purim might be over but you can still savor some hamantaschen out in Midwood, Brooklyn. [Serious Eats]
Or, feast like the Persians with a homemade feast. [Haaretz]
The Gefilteria, which will sell sustainably sourced gefilte fish and DIY gefilte fish kits, along with other updated Jewish classics will launch this weekend. [Grub Street]
Legendary cheese monger, Anne Saxelby, provides her picks for great places to eat on the Lower East Side, including some great Jewish classics like Kossar’s Bialy’s. [Edible Manhattan]
I have often wondered, during yet another endless Yom Kippur service, why we couldn’t do something more engaging of our full selves. Emulate, say, some Native American traditions and have a peyote ritual. Something sweaty, visceral, more likely to have me encounter the Divine than an endless repetition of blood spattering in the Temple. Put the “high” in High Holidays, if you will.
And yet I’m drawn to Jewish tradition. I find myself looking to contextualize new, powerful experiences in the language of Judaism, to ritualize them through the religion of my ancestors. I love deep fried food, hence “Deep Fried Shabbat” has become a staple event in our house for Shabbos Hanukkah.
Purim’s always been the rebel, the James Dean of Jewish Holidays — you get drunk, dress up, get to go trick-or treating (ok, not really but that’s what you told yourself in yeshiva when your mom wouldn’t let you out of the house with so much as a decoder ring on October 31). So it was the natural place for me to create a new ritual, born of something utterly secular and fascinating.
It’s been over two decades since Zohar Zohar, the dark-haired, soft-spoken owner of Zucker Bakery, a new Israeli pastry shop and café in the East Village that serves Jewish delights, has lived on Kibbutz Sarid in northern Israel. She grew up there with her grandparents and parents (most of her extended family lived in Czechoslovakia and died in the Holocaust), running around the grounds with playmates as a child and working in the kitchen, cooking rice and chicken for the thousand person community, as an adult. Her most vivid memories were visiting her grandparents, relaxing in their living room and eating homemade cookies. “I think there is something special about the way you feel when you go to your grandparents,” she says. “And that’s the way I remember it.”
Although Zohar, who left the Kibbutz when she was 21, has lived in New York City for 17 years, finished culinary school, worked 90-hour weeks at prestigious restaurants such as Daniel and Bouley and raised two kids, she still craves those moments of being at her grandmother’s house on the kibbutz. With Zucker Bakery, which she opened in September, she’s on a mission to recreate them with treats like rugelach and babka, along with Israeli treats like honey almond fingers, each of which has a personal story behind it.
Growing up, I remember assembling shalach manot baskets with my mom as part of our synagogue’s Sisterhood tradition. After months of baking, and then freezing, thousands of hamentaschen, we would spend the week leading up to Purim assembling shalach manot packages for families in the synagogue. The shalach manot packages were always the same: two or three brittle, dry hamentaschen, some all-too-salty trail mix, super processed chips or pretzels, and a bottle of grape juice all packaged in a little box that wished people a happy Purim. Though the gestures of these were certainly nice, I have always felt that these mass-produced shalach manot were neither healthy, nor sustainable.
Many people observe the mitzvah of giving shalach manot to friends, family, and neighbors on Purim. This tradition is rooted in Megillah Esther, which tells people to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar by “[making] them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor (Esther 9:22).” This practice ensures that everyone has food provided for the Purim feast, regardless of economic standing, and serves to contrast Haman’s accusation that strife exists among Jews. Traditionally, shalach manot should be given to at least two people and should include at least two different food items, one of which you should prepare. This removes the burden of preparing food if someone is unable to do so.
In taking care of those around us, we must also be aware of the world around us. Sending shalach manot provides the opportunity to increase the sustainability of your Purim celebration. From packing your shalach manot, to what to put inside, Hazon offers the following tips (and more!) to make your Purim celebration healthier and more sustainable.
Now commonly seen – at least in America and Europe — as a sweet and innocent event for the enjoyment of children, in the past Purim was once quite different. For the Jews of 16th and 17th century Italy, the holiday was a quite an extravagant affair, celebrated (in the wealthier homes) with close to 30 course dinners accompanied with profuse quantities of wine. Dinner guests donned costumes and masks, inspiring the modern tradition of children playing dress up for the holiday. Several historians cite the celebrations of Carnival, the days up to lent which take place around the same time as Purim, as inspiration for these fests of gluttony.
Wearing costumes and masks while intoxicated was obviously bound to encourage all kinds of inappropriate behaviors, from promiscuous contact with non-Jews to episodes of violence. Still, some prominent rabbis of the time viewed all the wine and merrymaking as central to the spirit of the holiday, and went as far as to allow normally “taboo” activities, even mixed dancing.
TGI Shabbat: Check out this lovely challah recipe. [Food 52]
Kosher, vegan restaurant mini-chain, Blossom expands into the world of baking with their first bakery. [Diner’s Journal]
Incase you missed it, this Monday was Occupy Our Food Supply Day. Check out some essays on the day over at Grist.
Yiddish Cooking: Learn to make two types of hamantaschen with the Forverts cooking video (with English subtitles). [Forverts]