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A Traditional Purim Menu That Combines a Feast With Merrymaking : Recipes Also Save Time for Busy Homemakers

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Purim, Tuesday, is a holiday filled with joy and has always been an occasion for feasting and merrymaking. It celebrates the downfall of the tyrant Haman, who wanted to destroy the Jewish people. The heroine of this holiday is, of course, Queen Esther, who persuaded the king to spare her people.

Because Queen Esther was a vegetarian, menus accent fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds and grains. In keeping with the merry spirit of this holiday, wine is an important part of the festivities and is often added to traditional recipes.

I have planned a festive Purim menu that incorporates all of the traditions, but has an added advantage for the busy homemaker--much of the preparation can be done in advance and none of the recipes require much time. The challah recipe is a real timesaver because it uses rapid-rise yeast and takes less than one hour from start to finish. The result is crisp mini challah twists sprinkled with poppy seeds.

Easy to Find

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The first course is an unusual salad, combining Jerusalem artichokes with crisp, colorful vegetables and a vinaigrette dressing. Actually, this artichoke is really a member of the sunflower family and not nearly well known enough; they are easy to find in most markets, where they are also known as sunchokes.

Next, I will serve a veal stew with fresh, succulent spring vegetables. All of the ingredients cook quickly and the stew’s flavor will improve if prepared a day before and then gently reheated. With it, plan on serving a biblical grain: barley. It cooks quickly in chicken stock and the addition of garlic, green onions and mushrooms make it perfect for this holiday menu.

As usual, I go all out for desserts on Jewish holidays. The two I have chosen are entirely new versions of traditional favorites--the first is hamantaschen (named after the hat of the cruel prime minister, because they are triangular in shape). The dough has melted chocolate added and the filling is a real surprise--a crunchy mixture of caramel and nuts. My other recipe is a rich lekvar (prune jam) Linzer Torte. The lekvar filling is nothing like grandmother used to make--it comes in a jar or can and speeds up preparation time. Both of these sweet treats can be made in advance and the recipes can be doubled, so you can share them with friends and family.

Other Customs

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Purim is a favorite holiday for children and grandchildren. Masquerade parties are often held in homes or synagogues. Other customs include the rattling of groggers (noisemakers); Purim plays and Purim songs.

While the grown-ups drink wine with dinner, the children can enjoy a colorful grape juice punch. Revive the old holiday customs or start some new traditions for your family this year along with a sure-to-please menu that will make you feel relaxed and happy, rather than too weary to enjoy the fun.

FAST BUT FANCY PURIM MENU Fast and Festive Poppy Seed Challah Twists Jerusalem Artichoke Salad Red Wine Vinaigrette Veal Stew With Spring Vegetables Barley-Mushroom Pilaf Chocolate Hamantaschen With Caramel-Nut Filling Lekvar Linzer Torte Wine Grape juice punch Coffee and tea FAST AND FESTIVE POPPY SEED CHALLAH TWISTS

1 package rapid-rise yeast

4 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup warm water

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Safflower or vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

1 egg white

Poppy seeds

Combine yeast, 3 cups flour, sugar and salt in bowl of electric mixer. Combine water, 2 tablespoons oil and eggs in another bowl. Stir warm liquid into dry mixture and blend well.

Place remaining 1 cup flour on wooden board and place dough on top. Knead dough, working in enough of flour on board until dough is no longer sticky. Brush top of dough with oil. Cover with towel and let rise 10 minutes.

Break off small pieces of dough (about 20), form into long ropes, twist into knots and place on greased and cornmeal-dusted baking sheets. Cover twists with towel. Let rise in warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.

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Brush with egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Makes about 20.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SALAD

1 pound Jerusalem artichokes

2 large cucumbers

6 carrots

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1 bunch fresh watercress or 4 cups arugula

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Peel Jerusalem artichokes and cut julienne. Peel cucumbers and halve lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and cut julienne. Peel and cut carrots julienne.

Toss artichokes, cucumbers and carrots in large glass or stainless bowl. Pour in Red Wine Vinaigrette, toss well and marinate 30 minutes.

Chop several sprigs watercress and set aside. Arrange bed of watercress sprigs on serving platter. Drain excess vinaigrette from vegetables with slotted spoon and mound on watercress. Sprinkle with reserved chopped watercress and sesame seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together vinegar and mustard in small bowl. Add olive oil in slow stream, whisking to blend thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Makes about 1 cup.

VEAL STEW WITH SPRING

VEGETABLES

1 (4- to 5-pound) boned veal shank or shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 onions, thinly sliced

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken or veal stock

1 large tomato, diced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon paprika

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1 head garlic, unpeeled, separated into cloves

2 bay leaves

10 whole peppercorns

6 sprigs fresh parsley

8 sprigs fresh thyme, tarragon or oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme, tarragon or oregano

10 pearl onions, parboiled 5 minutes and peeled

8 baby carrots, peeled and parboiled 5 minutes

1/4 pound string beans, ends snipped off

1 cup frozen peas

Season veal to taste with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large, heavy pot or Dutch oven and saute garlic and onions until tender. Transfer garlic mixture with slotted spoon to bowl and set aside.

Place veal in pot and saute on all sides until brown. Add garlic mixture, carrots, parsnip and celery. Saute 5 minutes, stirring with wooden spoon to brown evenly. Add wine and simmer two minutes. Add stock, tomato, tomato paste, paprika, potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves and bring to boil.

Combine bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs and dried thyme in piece of cheesecloth. Tie with string and add to pot. Cover and simmer 2 1/2 hours, or until veal is tender. Last 30 minutes, toss in pearl onions, baby carrots, string beans and peas. Remove cheesecloth bag. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: Recipe may be prepared ahead and referigerated. Remove fat before reheating.

BARLEY-MUSHROOM PILAF

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 onion, finely chopped

4 cups chicken broth or water

1 cup pearl barley

4 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley or chervil

Heat olive oil over medium heat in medium saucepan. Add garlic and onion and cook until tender. Add broth, barley and mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid has absorbed. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

LEKVAR LINZER TORTE

Flour

2 cups finely ground almonds

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup unsalted margarine, cut in small pieces

2 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 (17-ounce) jar lekvar (prune jam)

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Blend 1 cup flour, almonds, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon and margarine in bowl of electric mixer until fine crumbs. Add egg yolks and almond extract and mix well. Place on pastry board and knead, adding additional flour until no longer sticky.

Working with 2/3 dough, with well-floured hands and finger tips, press dough over bottom and up sides of ungreased 11-inch tart pan (with scalloped edges) with removable bottom. Spread evenly with lekvar.

Using pastry bag fitted with 1/8- to 1/4-inch tip, pipe remaining dough in alternate strips (10 to 12 strips) across filling 1-inch apart in lattice design. Or transfer to floured board and knead into ball. Chill 30 minutes, for easier handling.

Pinch off pieces of dough and roll egg-size balls between well-floured palms to make rolls about 1/4 inch in diameter and 8- to 11-inches long. Place rolls on floured baking sheet and chill until firm. Lift strips and arrange lattice-style over filling. Seal ends of strips of dough to pastry edge by pressing lightly. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Bake at 325 degrees about 1 hour or until golden brown. Place on rack and cool before removing ring. Makes 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE HAMANTASCHEN

WITH CARAMEL PECAN FILLING

3 cups flour

1/2 cup finely ground almonds

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup unsalted margarine

1/4 cup hot water

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 egg

Caramel Pecan Filling

1 egg white

Combine flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer. Blend in margarine until mixture resembles very fine crumbs.

Blend water and cocoa in small bowl. Beat in egg. Add to flour mixture and beat until completely blended and mixture begins to form dough. Do not overmix.

Transfer to floured board and knead into ball. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling. Divide dough into 6 portions. Flatten each portion with palm of hands and roll out 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3 1/2-inch rounds with scalloped cookie cutter.

Place 1 teaspoon filling in center of each round. Fold edges of dough toward center to form triangle, leaving bit of filling visible in center. Pinch edges to seal.

Place on lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and brush with egg white. Bake at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until firm. Transfer to racks to cool. Makes about 5 dozen.

Caramel Pecan Filling

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

2 cups toasted chopped pecans

7 tablespoons margarine

1/2 cup liquid non-dairy creamer

1/4 cup honey

Bring sugar and water to boil in heavy saucepan, mixing with wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add pecans, margarine and non-dairy creamer.

Return to heat. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring constantly, or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in honey.

Transfer to oven-proof glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set. Mixture will keep at least 1 week.


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