Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Throw a Joyous Purim Party

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Purim is a busy holiday: It starts with an evening reading of the Megillah of Esther, followed by a morning reading of this story whose plot rivals the pace of a thriller.

There’s a brave and beautiful heroine, a clever uncle, a despotic king and a villain who plotted to annihilate the Jews but gets hung by his own wicked plans.

Portions of sweets and treats are exchanged among loved ones. Finally comes the highlight of any Jewish holiday — a delicious meal. But unlike most celebrations, where dining occurs at night, the Seudat Purim, the requisite feast, is a luncheon, often lingering until evening.

The idea of a midday celebration is credited to the fourth-century scholar Rava, who thought a lavish lunch would prevent Purim from becoming a regular workday. Bearing out Rava’s worst fears, this meal now passes under the radar screen. It is mostly observant Jews who host Seudat Purims.

However, with Purim falling on March 12, a Sunday, there is an opportunity for this celebration to reach a wider audience.

Seudat Purim foods are seasoned with symbolism. With no access to kosher food at the court of King Achashverosh, Queen Esther ate seeds, nuts and possibly chickpeas, which are stirred into recipes. As turkeys are stupid animals and the king was foolish, turkey is often on the menu.

Many families bake an especially long braided challah, symbolizing the rope used to hang Haman. The most famous Purim dessert is hamantaschen, because its triangular shape mirrors Haman’s three-sided hat. Many pastries are also studded with poppy seeds.

To express the joy of survival, of good triumphing over evil, serving cocktails and wine is not only suggested but encouraged. Liquor is drizzled into cooking, too. Among all Jewish celebrations, a Seudat Purim calls for blissful revelry, noisemakers and fun.

Mordechai Martinis | Pareve

Needed: 6 martini glasses, white wine glasses or tumblers

1 lemon

cups vodka

¾ cup dry vermouth

Ice cubes, a dozen or more

With a small, sharp knife, cut off six pieces of lemon rind. With your fingers, twist each one. Place them on a small plate and reserve.

Pour the vodka, vermouth and a generous amount of ice cubes into a pitcher. Stir the ice cubes through the vodka mixture until cooled, about 30 seconds. Pour the vodka mixture through a strainer and into the martini glasses. Discard the ice cubes. Drop a lemon twist in each glass and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Queen Esther Cosmopolitans | Pareve

Needed: 6 martini glasses, white wine glasses or tumblers

¼ cup fresh lime juice from 1 or 2 limes

cups vodka

¾ cup orange liqueur

cups pomegranate juice

Ice cubes, a dozen or more

Pour the lime juice into a pitcher. Add the vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate juice and a generous amount of ice cubes. Stir the ice cubes through the vodka mixture until cooled, about 30 seconds. Pour the vodka mixture through a strainer and into the martini glasses. Discard the ice cubes. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Wine-Drizzled Turkey Breasts | MEAT

Equipment: roasting pan and rack

Nonstick vegetable spray

½ turkey breast (1 piece) about 2½ pounds

¼ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio

teaspoon garlic powder

Kosher salt to taste

Paprika for dusting

Set an oven rack one rung below the center of the oven. Spray a roasting pan and rack with nonstick vegetable spray. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse the turkey under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

Place the turkey breast skin side down on the roasting pan rack. Drizzle half of the wine on the turkey. Sprinkle on half of the garlic powder, kosher salt and paprika. Turn the turkey over and place it on the rack, skin side up. Drizzle with the remaining wine. Sprinkle on the remaining garlic powder, salt and paprika.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast it for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife in the thickest part of the meat. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Zucchini | Pareve

¼ cup sliced almonds

15.5 -ounce can of chickpeas

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 zucchini, diced

5 Italian plum tomatoes, diced

Kosher salt to taste

cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc

¼ teaspoon dried basil, crushed

Accompaniment: rice for 6 servings

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds evenly on a roasting pan. Roast for two minutes, or until the almonds become fragrant. But watch them constantly, as almonds burn easily. Cool to room temperature and reserve.

In a colander, rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Reserve.

In a large pot, briefly heat the oil on a medium flame until warm. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes.

Add the zucchini and sauté until wilting, about two minutes. Then add the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until tomatoes begin to give off sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice according to package directions.

Add the chickpeas, wine and basil to the zucchini mixture. Stir to combine. Cover the pot and reduce the flame to low. Simmer for 20 minutes until the zucchini is soft and the tomatoes have released sauce.

Move to an attractive bowl. Sprinkle with the almonds. Serve immediately with rice.

Serves 6 to 8

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake | Pareve

Equipment: 8-inch round spring-form pan

Nonstick vegetable spray

½ cup margarine

½ cup sugar

1 generous teaspoon lemon zest

Pinch of salt

teaspoon cardamom

¾ cup flour

1 egg, hand beaten in a small bowl

¼ teaspoon vanilla

teaspoon poppy seeds

Optional accompaniment: raspberry or strawberry sorbet

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat the spring-form pan with nonstick spray.

Place the margarine, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a large mixing bowl. With an electric beater, beat until the ingredients are well combined.

Add the cardamom, flour, egg and vanilla and beat again.

On a low speed, blend in the poppy seeds.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cake is browning on the edges and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature and serve with a berry sorbet, if using.

Serves 6

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