Liquid Purim


Purim is a busy holiday: It starts with an evening reading of the Megilla 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 seudot Purim.

However, with Purim falling on  a Saturday night, 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 Ahashveros, Queen Esther ate seeds, nuts and possibly chickpeas, which are stirred into recipes. As turkeys are considered stupid animals and Ahashveros was a foolish king, 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 hamantashen, 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 cook ng, too. Among all Jewish celebrations, a seudat Purim calls for blissful revelry, noisemakers and fun.

Mordecai Martinis
Serves 6
1 lemon
2¼ 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 in martini glasses, white wine glasses or tumblers.

Queen Esther Cosmopolitans
Serves 6
¼ cup fresh lime juice from 1 or 2 limes
1½ cups vodka
¾ cup orange liqueur
1½ 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 in martini glasses, white wine glasses or tumblers.

Wine-Drizzled Turkey Breasts
Serves 6
Nonstick vegetable spray
½ turkey breast (1 piece) about 2½ pounds
¼ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
⅛ 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. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse the turkey under cold water. Pat it 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.

Roast the turkey breast 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.

Chickpeas, Tomatoes and
Serves 6 to 8
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
⅛ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
¼ teaspoon dried basil, crushed
Rice for 6 servings, for accompaniment

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds evenly on a roasting pan. Roast for 2 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 2 minutes.

Add the zucchini and sauté until wilting, about 2 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. 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.


Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Serves 6
Equipment: 8-inch round spring-form pan
Nonstick vegetable spray
½ cup margarine
½ cup sugar
1 generous teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of salt
⅛ teaspoon cardamom
¾ cup flour
1 egg, hand beaten in a small bowl
¼ teaspoon vanilla
⅛ teaspoon poppy seeds
Raspberry or strawberry sorbet for
optional accompaniment

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8-inch round springform 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.

Linda Morel is a food writer in Philadelphia.

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