The primary observance of the seriously joyful and noisy holiday of Purim is constituted of four Mitzvot:
- Reading the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther, recounting the story of Purim;
- Giving to those in need, or “Matanot la’Evyonim,” to at least two people on Purim day;
- Sending gifts, or “misholach manos,” of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods to a minimum of one Jewish acquaintance on Purim day;
- Eating a festive meal, or “seudah,” starting during the day of Purim, often lasting into the night with an embellished table, special foods, other celebrants, many spirited words of Torah, and songs!
I guess the fourth aspect is the emphasis of this particular post, where I am excited to share with you a complete suggested (fleishig/meat) menu, accompanied by tips and selected linked recipes (some of which I successfully tested), for your Purim feast. This arrangement is based off an idea I first brainstormed last week, when my mother was sick. Compelled to surrender her kitchen, she asked me to formulate a grocery list and meal-plan for Shabbos; furthermore, I had to (gasp!) cook it all by my amateurish self, which was not unprecedented but infrequent (she’s too easy on me). A formidable challenge indeed, but I rose to it, and I think quite competently, with G-d on my side, and some very good teachers – primarily my mother and aunt. They go above and beyond virtually every Shabbos and Yom Tov to make the meals memorable; you can almost taste the love they invest into them, and the dedication to their families. True women of valor!
The Persian flavors and twist distinguishing this proposed seudah harmonize nicely with the setting of the Purim story where it all transpired, and might help make it more real for you. You are there… ;) I also really like Middle Eastern cooking; it’s fresh and spicy, just like me. Only kidding. Here are two ethnic sites for culinary inspiration: ThePersianPot.com and PersianBasket.com. Most recipes can be easily revised to conform to kosher guidelines, especially with the help of non-dairy substitutes.
On Purim, another Mitzvah we (well, at least the qualified adults) have, is to drink until we can no longer discern the difference between the declarations, “Baruch Mordechai – Blessed is Mordechai” and “Arur Haman – Cursed is Haman.” Perplexing? I agree. Gain insight short ‘n’ sweet into the inner beauty of this practice, here. You can do your part to help your elders fulfill their obligation, and demonstrate your sudden connoisseurship as a wine prodigy, by using this helpful chart to pair an appropriate beverage with each course.
Another piece of advice for once you’ve decided on your menu, is to write, Write, WRITE! (Mind you, this is coming from someone labeled somewhat neurotic but who will forget almost anything if she doesn’t write it down. Hence the endless sticky-notes and scrap papers littering virtually every corner of my life. G-d bless you if you have a better memory and mental organization-skills!) Of course, note the selection you will be serving; and for an extra classy touch, you might like to print out a few menus with attractive yet simple paper and font, for the benefit of your guests. Proceed to take an inventory of all the required ingredients, copying down the items you still need to obtain on a separate grocery list. Also, compose a game plan for what you are making, and when. For example, some dishes can be whipped up in advance, refrigerated or frozen without compromising their quality, while others must be prepared right before the designated meal, or at least “the day of,” in order to maintain their freshness.
Brocho vehatzlocho (“blessing and success”) in nourishing both the body and soul of your diners, through the Jewish home and kosher cooking, which helps internalize our faith and keep traditions strong. May it play its part in bringing us to perceive Hashem and welcome Him into every area of our lives, even the most earthly; and by this merit may we usher in the light of the Ultimate Redemption, very soon!
- Flatbreads (or other quality bread; it’s not so critical what type, so long as you can dip it)
- Mezze (meaning a collection of classic Middle Eastern salads, dips, fixings, etc.) including: Baba ghanoush, hummus, roasted garlic, stuffed grape leaves, etc.
- Salad bar of spring greens and fresh veggies including diced cucumbers, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, sliced or speared colorful peppers, mini sesame sticks, olive oil and vinegar served alongside
Tips: Garnish baba ghanoush after plating with a sprinkle of parsley and drizzle of olive oil; likewise for hummus, but substitute paprika for parsley. If you are alternatively cooking a dairy meal as I did, another delicious spread was tzatziki, a combination of plain yogurt with diced cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, dill, mint and parsley. Dried herbs work fine, too, and I’ve heard for that matter to be more potent than fresh, though I haven’t personally tested this claim.
(Traditionally served separate from meat during a meal according to the laws of kashrus)*
- Good-quality salmon fillets Persian-seasoned in skillet with olive oil, granulated onion, lemon juice, salt, paprika, black pepper, parsley, and saffron.
Tips: I used frozen wild-caught salmon that we purchased wholesale, thawing probably three-quarters of the way before cooking; then pat it dry, gently lowered into the sizzling oil (with which I generously bathed the bottom of the skillet to prevent sticking), seasoned, and covered, returning to over perhaps medium-heat for ten minutes, before checking. The fish should be tender enough to flake apart with a fork when cooked, and reach a specific internal temperature; follow package-instructions. I suppose you could alternatively marinade the fish earlier in advance, as well.
- Morgh (Persian chicken) over plain basmati or traditional ‘jeweled’ rice
- Persian potato patties served with ketchup, spicy mustard and relish alongside
- Persian lentil salad
Tips: I chose to make the lentil salad without rice in it, which was quite refreshing and still satisfying. I diverted from the given recipe, adding lime juice blended with honey (what was on hand) instead of exotic pomegranate molasses; for the same reason, raisins in lieu of cherries, though those are probably more accessible in a regular health- or supermarket. Since this salad contributed to a dairy meal when I made it, feta cheese was included; but for a fleishig menu such as recommended in this article, it will do fine without. However, if you still crave that saltiness, try tossing in a couple brined caperberries.
- Traditional Persian poppy seed cookies
- Mint tea
*NOTE: To learn more about the ramifications regarding the inclusion of fish in a meat or dairy meal, please refer to the informative link here.