Honoring Queen Esther With Purim Hamantaschen

By Chef Kim Katz Alvarez
Owner, Avenida Restaurant

Whether you are Jewish or not, it’s tough not to appreciate the celebration of Purim (Feb. 28-March 1 this year), a festival that commemorates the ancient Persian Empire story in which Haman the Agagite plotted to annihilate the Jews. It was recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther, the Queen, who is credited with saving the day.

Although there are plenty of springtime recipes we could share, we wanted to take the chance to honor that fabulous woman in history. (Learn more below.)

Hamantaschen are sweet, three-corned, cookie-like treats that sprinkle a proverbial little sugar on the Haman’s plot.

What you’ll need:

2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1 stick butter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. orange juice
1-1/2 t. baking powder
2-1/2 c. flour
2 c. filling: Choose your favorite preserve (cherry, blueberry, peach, plum)

Here’s how:

1. Cream sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add eggs, vanilla and juice.
3. Slowly combine wet and dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed into consistency of play dough.
4. Grab about 1/2 cup of batter and roll into a ball.
5. On floured cutting board, roll out and cut into large circles (about 8 inches around).
6. Drop filling into center.
7. Pull dough from the corners into the center of each circle to create a perfect triangle.
8. Bake in 375-degree oven for 20 minutes until slightly golden.

Did you know?

Although the history behind the story is quite dark, Purim is often considered the most cheerful and colorful of all the Jewish holidays. The story takes place in Shushan, the capital city of the Persian Empire, in the third year of King Ahashverosh’s reign. The holiday celebrates the Jews’ victory over oppression, which is recounted in great detail in the “Esther Megillah” (The Book of Esther).

This holiday is celebrated each year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar, following a day of fasting, which commemorates Queen Esther’s fast before she turned to the king for help. It is written that in Shushan, the Jews’ celebration took place a day later because traditionally, holidays were celebrated a day later in walled cities. Therefore in Jerusalem, Purim is celebrated on the 15th day of Adar even today. Once every three years, when an extra month is added to the Jewish calendar, Purim is celebrated in “Adar-B”, the second month of Adar.

The name “Purim” comes from the Hebrew word “Pur,” which means “raffle.” Haman wanted to hold a raffle to choose the date on which all the Jews would be killed.

Throughout the holiday of Purim, the Book of Esther is read once in the evening, and re-read during the next day. It is customary to wear costumes, eat hamantaschen and spin rattles while reading the scroll.
For more information, visit www.judaica-guide.com. www.judaica-guide.com

About Chef Kim Alvarez

A graduate of Syracuse University’s restaurant management program and the two-year chef program at the Culinary Institute of America, cooking has been Kim’s passion since she was 7. That’s when her mother enrolled her in a cooking class at Bloomingdales in Jenkintown, Pa.

It was Thanksgiving time, and the first assignment was to make homemade stuffing. Kim loved the tearing of the bread and combining it with the wet ingredients, using her fingers. It was the best stuffing she had ever tasted and to this day, she continues to make that stuffing recipe for her family: husband and co-chef Edgar, and children Emma and Alejandro.

In Kim’s 25 years as a chef, she has worked in some of the best kitchens in America including Brad Ogden’s One Market in San Francisco, and the Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, Calif. She was second-in-command at the Striped Bass, and head chef of Beaujolais in Philadelphia. She also worked in several gourmet markets in Philadelphia including Gerard’s and Patina.

Kim and Edgar (pictured above) are the owners of Philadelphia’s Avenida, where they are building a reputation as the go-to spot for fabulous Latin American cuisine in a family-friendly environment.