One of my favorite parts of the Purim holiday is preparing and serving dishes that I consider fun, creative and a bit different. For Purim, I often make themed menus, international foods, or just recipes that I might not serve on Shabbos. These recipes are delicious, perfect for Purim, and a bit unique. They also have a great presentation to keep it all extra-special for a Yom Tov.

Zesty Spiced Imitation Crab Cakes

Serves 8 - 10

This make ahead appetizer is always a big hit. I make the batter the night before serving and fry them up before the guests arrive. They can be made a day ahead of time too and rewarmed. Some of the zestiness in this recipe comes from the Old Bay Seasoning which is a spice blend made by the national brand McCormick. It’s a blend that includes celery salt, red and black pepper, dry mustard, cloves, mace and a few others. It’s also great on chicken, meat and fish so it’s worth buying. If you live out of the country and cannot find it, make a homemade version below.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine or butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1½ cups diced celery
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 small yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • ½ teaspoon sriracha sauce or tabasco
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (available in National supermarkets)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound imitation crab meat
  • ½ cup plain bread crumbs
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • For frying:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted margarine/butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Serve with store-bought tartar sauce or cocktail sauce

Heat margarine and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, red and yellow peppers, parsley, capers, sriracha, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay Seasoning, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 10 - 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Chop imitation crab meat into ¼-½ inch pieces and place in a bowl. Add in the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard and eggs and mix well. Add the cooked vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to overnight.

Using about 2 tablespoons, shape into 2 ½ inch circular crab cakes.

In a large saute pan, heat margarine/butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the crab cakes and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; Serve warm with tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

Makes about 1 ½ tablespoons

  • 1 tablespoon celery salt.
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika.
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
  • 1 pinch ground dry mustard.
  • 1 pinch ground mace (may substitute a teensy pinch nutmeg)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon.

In a small bowl mix all ingredients. Store covered in a dry pantry for up to three months.

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Serves 4-6

“This recipe is from our Culinary Boot Camp Series at the JCC in NYC, it’s perfect for practicing knife skills and perfecting seasoning with herbs and spices. It is one of the most flavorful and delicious Tuscan White Bean Soups I’ve ever had! ” Jennifer Goren, Director of Culinary Arts, recipe courtesy of Chef Instructor John Scoff

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 head garlic, roasted or 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 quart vegetarian chicken broth
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (white beans)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 small head green cabbage, chopped thin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted garlic squeezed from its skin (or chopped garlic) and fennel, and cook until the fennel has softened, about 5 minutes more.

Stir in the tomatoes, broth, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, beans, herbs, cabbage, zucchini, and parsnips, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until all the vegetables and beans are tender, about 30 minute. Remove and discard bay leaf. Add salt and pepper.

Serve the soup warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Stuffed Artichokes

Serves 8

From GKC friend and fabulous chef Levana Kirschenbaum of Levanacooks.com

You can stuff artichoke bottoms with virtually anything you like: meat, fish, rice, vegetables, cheese, breadcrumbs. Simple add 1 - 2 cups chopped smoked fish, or cooked meat to this mixture to change it up. They are great for special occasions because they can be made a day ahead of serving.

  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 2 ribs celery, peeled
  • 1 bunch flat parsley
  • 6-8 sprigs dill, fronds and stems
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 3 cups fresh bread crumbs (gluten-free are fine here)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 14-16 large frozen artichoke bottoms, no need to thaw before using.
  • Cooking liquid:
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 good pinches saffron

In a food processor, coarsely chop the onion, garlic, celery, parsley and dill. Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables and sauté the mixture until translucent. Add juice, zest, capers, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and mix thoroughly, adding a few drops water if necessary to form a thick paste.

Fill the artichokes with the mixture. In a medium saucepan, combine water, olive oil, turmeric, and saffron and to a boil. Place the artichoke bottoms stuffing side up in the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Transfer the artichokes to a platter. Continue to cook the sauce, until reduced slightly and thickened, about 5 more minutes. Pour sauce over artichokes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wine Braised Lamb with Dried Fruit

Serves 6

This showstopper main course is a Purim favorite. Make it ahead of time and rewarm before serving. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs. lamb stew meat (cut 1 inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 8 garlic cloves, halved
  • 10 thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (3 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots (3 ounces), quartered
  • 1 ½ cups beef broth or chicken broth

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Sprinkle the lamb with salt, pepper, and coriander. Add lamb, garlic, and thyme and cook over high heat, turning once, until the lamb pieces are browned and the garlic cloves are browned in spots, about 5 minutes.

Add the red wine, dried cherries and dried apricots to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat until the lamb is tender and the sauce is thick and glossy, about 35 minutes; turn the lamb once or twice during cooking. Discard the thyme sprigs.

This can be made a day ahead of time. Skim fat and rewarm before serving.

Mixed Green Salad with Avocado, Mango and Honey Vinaigrette

Serves 8

This classic salad is sweet and savory. Feel free to use any seasonal fruit in place of mango like papaya, apple, pear, or persimmon (in the fall).

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 - 5 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup diced ripe mangos or peaches
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

In a blender or an immersion blender, combine vinegar, honey, shallots, mustard and garlic. Purée until smooth, 10 to 15 seconds. While continuing to blend, slowly drizzle the olive oil until the dressing is smooth and emulsified. Mix in salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use, or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

For the salad: In a bowl or on a platter combine the mixed greens, mango, avocado, and pine nuts. Drizzle about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette into the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad and serve. Add more dressing as needed.

Butterscotch Blondies with Pretzels and Peanuts

photo: epicurious.com

Serves 12 - 16, makes about 35 pieces

In addition to hamantashen (see last year’s article or many varieties on www.gourmetkoshercooking.com) I serve lots of leftover treats from mishloach manot plus treats that I can make a serve in small pieces. People enjoy taking a bit of this and a bit of that instead of a full piece of cake or pie. These can be made a few days ahead of serving. They keep well in the refrigerator or in an airtight container. Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit, it’s been tested and edited.

Blondie

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) margarine
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Peanut Pretzel Caramel Filling
  • 4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine
  • 1/2 cup pareve whipping cream
  • 1 ½ cups (1-1/2″-wide) thin twisted pretzels, coarsely crushed

Blondie

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on long sides of pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir margarine in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan, 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (batter will be thick). Using an offset or regular spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake blondie until golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pan, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20–25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Peanut Pretzel Caramel Filling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread peanuts over sheet in an even layer. Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Set aside.

Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, whisking to melt sugar. Increase heat; boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is deep amber, 12–15 minutes. Add honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer. Add margarine; stir until blended. Add pareve cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); whisk until smooth. Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.

Run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie. Using parchment-paper overhang, lift from pan. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into squares.

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