This is the second installment of a monthly recipe column from Jenifer Robins, winner of TC Jewfolk’s First Annual Recipe Contest. Each post will be centered around a Jewish holiday. This month: Purim!
The most popular reason that Jews make triangle foods on Purim is to symbolize Haman’s triangle hat. Eating the hat is a way to symbolically destroy the villian’s memory. Of course the most famous triangle food is the filled cookie known as hamantashen. There are tons of really great hamantashen recipes out there including one from an entrant in the TC Jewfolk Recipe Contest and another recently posted on TC Jewfolk, so check them out.
As a twist, for this Purim (which begins this Wednesday night, March 4), I decided to explore some savory triangle options – spanakopita, veggie samosas and Jamaican patties. I hope you get a chance to try one or all of these fun recipes.
This week I was in the kitchen with my friend Karen and my daughter, Dinah. Thank you to them for their company and cooking help. Thanks also to my friends and family who generously passed along their recipes.
This recipe comes from my friend Carole. They are really yummy! Carole is well known as an amazing cook. Timing prevented us from cooking together this time, but she promised to come back with more great recipes for another holiday.
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Plain dry bread crumbs
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small-diced feta cheese (12 ounces)
1 8 13in. x 17in. sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.
Add the garlic and scallions, and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green.
Meanwhile, gently squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl. When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach.
Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in the feta.
Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the dough LIGHLY with butter and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of bread crumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first, brush it with butter, and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. (Use just enough bread crumbs so the layers of phyllo don’t stick together.) Pile 4 layers total on top of each other this way, brushing each with butter and sprinkling with bread crumbs. (Go easy on the butter or it gets overwhelming and drowns out the other flavors.)
Cut the sheets of phyllo in equal thirds lengthwise.
Place ¼ cup spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. Then fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed.
Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling is used.
Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down.
Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 30 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp.
Samosas (Makes 1 dozen)
I adapted this recipe from one given to me from my friend Ritu, who lives in Tokyo. My friend Shana helped me make the recipe much simpler by suggesting I use egg roll wraps even though I am sure she has never made samosas with anything other than homemade dough. It made it much easier for a samosa novice like me, but they were still really tasty.
2 tbsp olive oil for sautéing vegetables plus 48 oz. bottle of deep-frying oil like canola or peanut.
1 onion, chopped
4 yukon gold potatoes, roughly mashed (2 cups)
½ cup frozen peas
2 tbsp roughly chopped cashews
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp green chili paste
1 tsp garam marsala
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 package egg roll wraps (found in the refrigerated produce section of most grocery stores. I used Melissa’s brand.)
Optional: coriander (green) chutney for dipping.
Note: If you are feeling experimental, there are a variety of different spices used in other samosa recipes. Let me know if you have a favorite spice combo.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions and sauté till they turn translucent.
Add all the remaining ingredients, except the coriander, and mix well.
Cover and cook for 8 minutes on a slow flame.
Remove from the flame, add the coriander and mix well.
There are many different YouTube videos that do a great job of demonstrating different methods of stuffing samosas. The way I make them is to fold over 1 inch of the wrapper, wet the sides and make a cone by folding in the sides so they overlap. Add the potato mixture so the cone is ¾ full. Fold the remaining wrapper over the stuffing and seal the triangle. It is best to tightly stuff the samosa so you don’t get bubbles when frying.
Heat the frying oil and deep-fry the samosas, a few at a time until golden brown.
Serve with green chutney as a dipping sauce. (There are many tasty simple recipes for this sauce online.)
Jamaican Patties (Makes 12-16)
This Jamaican patty recipe was given to me from my Aunt Shari when I got married. They have been our family favorite ever since. Each time I make them, I wish Shari was in the kitchen with me, but alas, she lives in New Orleans.
2 lbs. ground beef
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
6 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground thyme
¼ – ½ cup Pick-a-Peppa sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 packages pareve puff pastry squares (I used Kineret, but I think Pepperidge Farm also makes pareve puff pastry)
Pre-heat oven to 375°.
Brown ground beef, breaking up until very fine. Drain
Combine beef, onion/pepper mixture, spices and sauce.
Roll out a square, keeping the shape until very thin. Place a spoonful of beef on one side.
Wet pastry edges and fold diagonally, pressing to seal in the beef.
Bake until browned 15-20 minutes.
It states in the Talmud that on Purim, Jews should drink until the point that they don’t know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai.” The interpretation of this passage is greatly debated, but drinking alcohol to some degree is still often part of a Purim celebration. Here is a drink that is great for any type of celebration because it is easy and can be made ahead in a pitcher and refrigerated until serving. For Purim, I am calling it a Twisted Villian, but others know it as a Negroni.
Here is my version:
Equal parts Campari, vermouth and gin
Fresh-squeezed orange juice to taste
Orange peel twist (one per glass)
Jenifer Robins occasionally likes to cook, but more often likes to read cookbooks with recipes she will never make. She has three cute kids, one cute dog and a husband who is pretty cute too. While she is probably best known for making various soups, Jenifer admits her guilty food pleasure is roasting marshmallows on her kitchen burner.