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Purim is certainly full of fun, with festivities involving costumes, skits and songs, noisemakers, and food gifts!
Purim is a joyful holiday that honors and affirms Jewish survival and resilience throughout history.
The main communal event consists of a public reading of the Book of Esther (M'gillat Esther), which relates the story of the holiday: Under King Ahashverosh's reign, Haman, the king's adviser, plans the extermination of all Jews in Persia.
His plot is thwarted by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai, who eventually rescue the Jews of Persia from annihilation.
The m'gillah reading is usually a rowdy affair, punctuated by booing and noise-making as Haman's name is read aloud.

Purim is an unusual holiday in many respects. First, Esther is the only biblical book in which God is not mentioned. Second, Purim, like Hanukkah, is viewed as a minor festival according to Jewish custom, but has been elevated to a major holiday as a result of the Jewish historical experience. Over the centuries, Haman has come to symbolize every anti-Semite in every land where Jews were oppressed. The significance of Purim lies not so much in how it began, but in what it has become: a thankful and joyous affirmation of Jewish survival.

In the Book of Esther, we read that Purim is a time for "feasting and merrymaking," as well as for "sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor" (Esther 9:22). In addition to reading the M'gillah (Book of Esther), celebrants dress in costumes, have festive parties, perform Purim spiels, send baskets of food (mishloach manot) to friends, and give gifts to the poor (matanot l'evyonim).

Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen (Yiddish for Haman's pockets) are three-cornered pastries filled with poppy seeds (mohn in Yiddish), fruit preserves, chocolate, or other ingredients that are traditionally eaten on Purim. In Israel during the weeks leading up to Purim, the aroma of freshly baked hamantaschen can be smelled on every block. Their triangular shape is thought to be be reminiscent of Haman's hat or ears.

Costumes

As part of the carnival-like atmosphere of Purim, many children and adults wear costumes. Some attribute this tradition to the fact that Esther initially “masked” her Jewish identity. Now a vibrant and widely practiced custom, some choose to dress as characters from the Purim story, while others select Jewish heroes from throughout history.

In Israel, the celebrations are especially extravagant and exciting.  People of all ages take to the streets, rejoicing with parades, parties, costumes and carnivals. The parade through the streets of Tel Aviv is known to be especially wild. At the Kotel (the Western Wall) volunteers for Women of the Wall read M'gillat Esther in the women’s section.

Savory Persian Herb and Cheese Hamantaschen

Recipe by Amelia Saltsman

 Hamantaschen, the traditional triangular Ashkenazic Purim pastries, are typically a sweet treat. I’ve taken a savory approach here, using spring herbs, a Persian favorite, to honor Esther and Mordechai’s heritage, as well as the season.

With their flaky dough, these Haman’s hats (or pockets or ears) are reminiscent of burekas, the small hand pies popular in Israel and the eastern Mediterranean. You can make snack-size hamantaschen or large ones for a vegetarian main dish (see the variation at the end of the recipe).

 

INGREDIENTS

For the pastry:

1 1/2 cups (190 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (60 g) whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (170 g) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces

1/2 cup (120 ml) ice water

 

For the filling:

1 bunch each Persian or regular mint, leek or garlic chives, pepper cress, green onions, and tarragon

3/4 cup (170 g) labneh, homemade or store-bought

6 ounces (170 g) feta cheese, crumbled

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

 

DIRECTIONS

 

To Make the Pastry:

•    In a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt with a fork.

•    Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and, using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand with some flattened pieces of butter still visible.

•    Stir in the ice water, a little at a time, until the dough just sticks together when pressed between your fingertips.

•    Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and flatten into a thick rectangle.

•    Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated; let it rest at room temperature until soft enough to roll out, about 15 minutes.)

    

 

To Make the Filling:

 

•    Finely chop enough of each of the herbs in any combination preferred to total 1¼ cups (75 g) lightly packed.

•    In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together the labneh and feta.

•    Stir in the egg, then stir in the chopped herbs.

    

To Assemble the Pastries:

•     Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Have ready 2 sheet pans. If you like, line them with parchment paper.

•    Divide the dough in half and rewrap and refrigerate half of it. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other half into a rectangle or circle 1/16 to ⅛ inch (2 to 3 mm) thick. Cut out 12 circles each 3½ inches (9 cm) in diameter, rerolling any scraps as needed.

•    Mound 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each dough circle. Fold the sides of the dough up over the filling to form a triangle, leaving a nickel-size bit of filling exposed. Pinch the three corners of the triangle very firmly to seal. Arrange the pastries on a sheet pan, spacing them about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Refrigerate the first batch while you make more with the remaining half of the dough and filling. Top off the pastries with any leftover filling. Brush the pastries with the egg wash.

•    Bake the pastries for 12 minutes; the bottoms will be light golden. Reduce heat to 375°F (190°C) and continue to bake until the crust is a rich gold and the filling is puffed and browned in places, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Using an offset spatula, transfer the pastries to a wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftover hamantaschen; they can be reheated in a 350°F (180°C).

 

Main Dish Variation:

To make 6 large hamantaschen, cut three 6-inch (15-cm) circles from each piece of dough. Use about ⅓ cup (70 g) of filling for each dough circle and fold as directed. As you complete shaping each hamantasch, use a wide offset spatula to move it onto the baking sheet. Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 15 minutes and at 375°F (190°C) for about 25 minutes.

 

Kitchen Note:

Unbaked hamantaschen can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to one week. Brush frozen pastries with egg wash just before baking, and increase oven times to 15 and 18 minutes, respectively.

 

Tue, June 22 2021 12 Tammuz 5781