Eat, drink and be merry on Purim

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Purim has been summed up in this way: They tried to kill us, we won, so let’s eat!

Of course, the actual story is a bit more complex than that, but the simple fact is that for Jews who love to cook and eat, this holiday is a favorite.

In a little bigger nutshell, the tale behind Purim — which is celebrated March 8 — involves a Persian king; his prime minister, Haman (the bad guy), who had it out for the Jews; and a community leader named Mordecai. Basically, Mordecai and his stepdaughter Esther, who became the queen (of the good guys), save their people.

The fun that goes along with the celebration of Purim can’t be overstated. Events and traditions include the reading of the Purim story along with audience-participatory noisemaking to drown out the name of the bad guy each of the 54 times it is mentioned.

Then there’s the food. The Book of Esther tells celebrants they should practice charity and goodwill (which in the story helped save the Jews from peril), by helping those who are less fortunate, and by the making and giving of food gifts called mishloach manot. Then, of course, there needs to be a feast to celebrate the victory.

Vegetarian Turkish red lentil balls are a delicious, healthy and easy way to include a taste of Persian cuisine in your own Purim feast. (Associated Press)

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Vegetarian Turkish red lentil balls are a delicious, healthy and easy way ... more >

There’s even a proscription for adults to drink wine until they can’t tell the difference between the names of the bad guys and good guy. So much for dull holidays.

Jewish food expert Joan Nathan, most recently author of “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France,” said the giving of food gifts makes Purim one of most enjoyable and satisfying holidays for families to celebrate with their children.

Ms. Nathan said gift baskets often include fruit and plenty of baked goods, which traditionally were made to use up a household’s flour before the beginning of Passover (when baked goods are restricted).

Moshe Morrison, director of kosher foods for New York grocery chain Fairway Markets, said that some of the more popular items for Purim gift baskets include the sesame candy, halvah; Elite brand chocolates (a favorite from Israel); and of course, hamantashen, a triangular filled cookie that represents (depending on your interpretation) either Haman’s (the bad guy) ears or his tri-cornered hat.

If you like, these cookies, such as our orange-poppy seed hamantashen, are fun and easy to make at home.

For the big meal, known as the Feast of Esther, many foods are included, but vegetarian dishes made with nuts, grains, seeds and legumes often are eaten to pay tribute to the fact that Queen Esther avoided eating meat; the animals were not slaughtered according to kosher tradition at the palace.

These vegetarian Turkish red lentil balls are a delicious, healthy and easy way to include a taste of Persian cuisine in your own Purim feast.

ORANGE-POPPY SEED HAMANTASHEN COOKIES

Start to finish: 2 hours 40 minutes (40 minutes active)

Makes about 30 cookies

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