Not quite ready to say goodbye to Purim and hello to Pesach

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Now that the house is finally cleaned up from all the Purim festivities, we know what’s coming next. But Purim was fun and I don’t want to say goodbye so fast. It was unexpected, surprising and, as one visitor stated, more low key than in previous years. I am getting big on low key. When things are low key, there is room to improvise. Who knows, (“U-me yodea?” as it says in Megillas Esther), what might happen?

I don’t know about you, but for me, in order to ease into a new experience, rather than run smack dab into it, I look for a ‘hinge’, something that two separate events share in common. So let’s say I was looking for a hinge that I could get excited about, that links Purim to Pesach. Hmmm…both holidays share time with family and friends…wine…cleaning (lots of it) and of course, the ever popular Jewish holiday theme of; ‘We were oppressed, we fought and won, now let’s eat.’

But let’s go back to the “U-me yodea?” Mordechai asks. These simple words are posed to Esther when she is reticent to act on the opportunity that ultimately leads to her greatness. But, hold on, this question sounds familiar. Isn’t “Ehad me yodea?” (“Who knows one?”) one of our most beloved Seder songs? We have sung this song at very high speed, complete with hand actions, each year, evidently soused from four cups of wine.

If we stick with this line of reasoning a little longer, both Purim and Pesach are pointing to the same idea, but in a remarkable way. These holidays are all about the question. As the saying goes, a good question shmekts (is tasty). Does the converse hold true? Does a good taste make a question? Do people want to know what makes something taste good? Maybe inspiring curiousity is the inspiring hinge? And, if the question is the thing, how do we spark one? We all know rewards and praise are motivating, but how about the spark of a real question? How do we ignite that?

At this point, I have to say that this year I made a new hamentashen. I was experimenting with a twist on my classic green beans, based on a recipe by Mark Bittman, which called for a dressing of almonds, chilli, garlic and oil. It was thoroughly delicious. Emboldened by working with chilli, and ready to make hamentashen, I thought why not add some to the chocolate hazelnut filling? Cautiously, a small batch was made. Realizing that we had sampled a more-than-needed-to-test portion of the filling, we put down our spoons and declared a victory!

Here is the recipe for the hamentashen filling, which I urge you to make note of for next year.

3 cups hazelnuts, toasted, with the skins rubbed off
a 9 ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips
zest from the rinds of 2 oranges
2 fresh chillis, seeded
3-4 Tablespoons simple syrup (1 cup water simmered with 1/2 cup sugar for 10-15 minutes)

Mix all ingredients except the syrup in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients form a paste.
Add enough syrup to bind the chopped mixture together.
This is enough filling to stuff 2 dozen large hamentashen

Flavours were found that created something unexpected for Purim and that will add a deliciously different spark to Pesach and although I cannot use the chilli almond paste (recipe provided next week) with green beans on Pesach, you can be sure it will show up in a major way. And when it’s prepared, may our loved ones ask “Mmmmmm…What’s in this?”

Shabbat Shalom,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS Please join us for COR’s Pre Pesach Community Lecture at Clanton Park Synagogue on Tuesday March 5th at 8:00 pm. Please click on the link to view the poster for details
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