Shortcuts make Purim even merrier

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A group of Jewish women were recently asked what their favorite holiday was. Most said Purim. Why?  Because it is fun for all ages — and, oh, those delicious hamantashen.

For me, stuffed cabbage and hamantashen are the staples of Purim. I always look for easy-to-cook, shortcut recipes of the traditional dishes, but with the same flavors intact. Conveniences such as frozen puff pastry and advance no-cook cabbage leave time for more groggin’ and Purim play.


Tips:
Don’t bother cooking cabbage in advance. Simply freeze the whole head of cabbage overnight in a plastic bag.  Defrost it at room temp or in a microwave, core and use the leaves to easily wrap meat. No fuss or mess.

Have a box of frozen puff pastry sheets on hand. Prepare according to recipe below, sweet or savory.

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Buy some good bakery chocolate hamantashen and drizzle with your own from-scratch easy chocolate or vanilla frosting. It is then considered homemade.

Unstuffed cabbage (procus)
(Meat)


Ingredients
For the sauce:
1 large onion, diced
2 pounds cabbage, diced or shredded
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice or diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins, optional

For the meatballs
1 pound ground beef or turkey
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1/2 onion, grated fine
1/2 cup uncooked rice

Directions
Combine all sauce ingredients, except raisins, in a stockpot, bringing to a boil.

Combine all meatball ingredients. Mix well. The raisins can be added to the meat mixture or later in the sauce.

Shape meatball mixture into small balls and add to medium-boiling sauce. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Add raisins after 1 3/4 hours, and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes.
Serves 8

Easy sweet and sour stuffed cabbage
(Meat)

Ingredients
1 large head of cabbage, boiled to soften, or previously frozen overnight and defrosted (see tips above)
2 pounds ground turkey
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 large can peeled tomatoes, broken up with your hands
1 can tomato soup
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 onion, small dice
1 tablespoon salt
6-8 gingersnaps, crumbled (look for pareve ones, if kosher)

Directions

Cut out cores of cabbage.

Season ground turkey with the garlic salt and pepper. And add rice.

Separate the cabbage leaves and place about 2 tablespoons of the meat in each leaf. Fold in edges and roll. Set aside.

For sauce, combine other ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add the cabbage rolls and lower to simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Serves 8 to 12

Easy Internet hamantashen
(Dairy/Pareve)
Ingredients
1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk or pareve almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg, milk, vanilla and lemon zest until thoroughly mixed. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet mixture until well combined. If the dough is too soft, add more flour until firm. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for between 1 and 24 hours.

When ready to use, if after 24 hours, let dough sit at room temperature for 25 minutes. Dust surface with powdered sugar and roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or glass dipped in powdered sugar, cut circles to place on cookie sheet.

Fill each round with your favorite filling and pinch corners together to form the traditional triangle shape.
Optional: You can brush the dough with egg wash before baking for a shine.
Bake for 7 to10 minutes.
Depending on size of your cookie cutter, this makes plenty.

Puff pastry hamantashen

Defrost the puff pastry sheets from a one box and cut into triangle shapes. Place on cookie sheets, brush dough edges lightly with egg wash.

Carefully press centers to fill after baking so the centers will not puff up too much during baking. Bake according to directions on box.

After removing from oven, you may have to press centers down gently or remove some dough.  Fill the centers with either sweet or savory filling.

Ilene Spector is a Maryland-based consumer, food and travel writer.

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