What is Purim?
Purim is the celebration of Esther and Mordechai’s triumph over wicked Haman. The holiday is filled with amazing traditions. On Purim night, we rejoice through recounting Esther’s story and through drinking, wearing masks, and partying. We also give back to our community – by giving mishloach manot (gifts of food) to friends and donating to charity. Here are a number of suggestions as to how you can celebrate Purim in a sustainable, fun, and festive way!
When is Purim?
Purim is celebrated in 2021 from sundown on Thursday, February 25, through sundown on Friday, February 26.
Activities & Rituals
The Whole Megillah. Add a kick to your Megillah reading by chanting in the voice of the different characters. If you’re reading Megillah this year, make sure to practice your most evil Haman sneers and huffiest Ahasuerus demands.
Start your Pesach parsley. Purim is the perfect time to plant parsley to eat at your seder. The best part is, you can do it even in the tiniest apartment kitchen! Here are all the tips and tricks you need to plant your own parsley.
Throw a Purim Banquet. Invite your family and friends back to your palace after the Megillah reading for a fabulous Purim feast. King Ahasuerus was probably not into potlucks, but you can be. Ask each friend to bring a dish, decorate your living room with tapestries, pillows, and candles and party like it’s ancient Persia.
Green Your Costume. There are many great ways that you can incorporate “green” learning into your Purim carnival activities. A fun, useful, and easy idea to use whether you are having a carnival or not, is to use recycled materials to make masks for this holiday! If you have enough people, or if it is at a carnival, you could even have a contest of who uses the most creative recycled material for their mask!
Food & Recipes
- 3 cups Basmati rice
- 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 cup finely slivered orange zest
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups water
- Pinch of saffron threads
- ¾ cup roasted slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoon rose water
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 4 tablespoon vegetable oil
- pinch of saffron
- 2 tablespoon water
Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Soak in cold water and let stand for at least 3 hours. Drain and rinse.
In a large heavy saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil with salt. Add the rice and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse again under cold running water.
To make the orange layer: Fill a small saucepan with cold water. Add the orange zest, bring to boil, drain, then repeat.
In a medium saucepan, combine the zest, water, sugar and saffron and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until syrupy, about 20 minutes. Let cool, then stir in the rosewater and cardamom.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat. Stir in the turmeric, then 2 tablespoons water.
Spread one-third of the rice in the saucepan. Scatter half of the orange zest over the top, cover with half of the remaining rice, then the remaining filling, and finally the balance of the rice. Poke 7 deep holes into the rice. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Place a paper towel over the top of the saucepan and cover with the lid. Cook over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender and the bottom is crisp, about 30 minutes.
Carefully remove the orange layer from the top and set aside. Remove the rice layer and place on serving platter. Place orange zest on top of the rice. Break crust from the bottom of the pot and scatter over the top of the orange layer and garnish with the roasted almonds.
- 1 jar Simon Fisher Prune Lekvar
- 1 jar Apricot butter
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Zest of one orange and one lemon rind
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine all filling ingredients and set aside
Cream sugar, honey, oil, eggs and lemon juice
Combine dry ingredients, add to above and blend
Sprinkle extra flour to remove dough from bowl
Roll onto floured board to about 1/4 inch think
Cut with 4” diameter glass
Bake 350 degrees for about 18-10 minutes.
1) Peel a large ginger root, and cut it across the grain in about quarter-inch slices. You want to cut across the grain so the ginger pieces, instead of being fibrous and hard to bite into, will flake apart easily. You should have about a cup of ginger when you’re done.
2) Immerse the ginger in water and simmer in a heavy pot until it is fork-tender, about 30-45 minutes. Strain it, reserving the water (which should now be golden yellow and translucent).
3) Take about 1/4 cup of the ginger water and return it to the pot with 1 cup of sugar, and place over medium-high heat. When the sugar is fully dissolved and starts to boil, add the ginger. Simmer until the sugar syrup starts to re-crystallize, about 20 minutes. Remove the ginger slices immediately and place on a sheet of parchment paper to cool.
4) Mix the remaining sugar syrup and ginger water to create a tasty ginger syrup that you can mix into tea or pour over pancakes
Yield: 9 inch round halvah
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
- ¼ cup rose water
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup canola oil
- Slivered pistachios and/or almonds
1) To make the syrup, bring water and sugar to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. When sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat; add saffron, cardamom, and rose water. Stir and set aside.
2) In another 4-quart saucepan, toast flour over high heat for no more than 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to avoid burning. Watch carefully; as soon as the flour becomes light brown, reduce heat to medium and add oil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3) Add syrup and mix rapidly. Almost immediately bright yellow dough, similar to play dough, will form.
4) To serve, flatten dough into a shallow round platter and garnish with slivered pistachios and almonds, or cut into shapes and garnish.
Yield: 6-8 servings
- 1 chicken, cut in pieces
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus extra for the eggplant
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- ½ cup water
- 1 eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ½ inch slices
- 2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
- ¼ cup canola oil, for frying
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- ¼ teaspoon saffron powder
- ½ cup gureh (unripe grapes) (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) In a 9″x13″ roaster, place the chicken pieces skin side up and sprinkle with onions. Rub the chicken with turmeric, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the water, cover with foil, and bake for 1 hour.
3) In the meantime, sprinkle eggplant with salt. When they have sweated (about 15 minutes), rinse and dry them. Fry the eggplant in a medium skillet until browned. Set aside.
4) Remove the chicken from the oven, uncover, and use food tongs to transfer the chicken pieces from the roaster to a bowl. Add the tomato paste and saffron to the chicken juices in the roasting pan and mix well. Add the potatoes, covering the bottom of the roaster. Return the chicken pieces, skin side up, and drape the fried eggplant slices on top. Drizzle with gureh, if using. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for another hour.
- 1 can (16 oz) chickpeas, drained
- 2 large onions, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 1-2 red peppers, seeded and chopped into small pieces according to taste
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon powdered garlic
- Juice of a lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups cooked chicken finely diced/For Vegetarian 1 package firm tofu drained and finely diced
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil plus oil for frying
1) Mash chickpeas coarsely in food mill or with a fork and set aside
2) Sauté onions and peppers in ¼ cup oil. Add tumeric, cumin, salt pepper, and garlic. When translucent and softened add chicken or tofu and heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and eggs. Cook and stir for several more minutes until the mixture is dry and a deep yellow. Mix in lemon juice. Set aside.
3) To prepare dough, combine flour, water, salt and 1/3 cup oil. Knead dough until smooth. Let it rest for half an hour. Pinch off walnut size balls of dough. Flatten and roll out into thin round disks. Put a spoonful of filling into center of each disk and fold over. Pinch around the edges. Continue until all the dough is made into turnovers.
4) In large skillet, pour oil to a depth of ½ inch and heat. When hot, fry several Sambusaks at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on paper bags. Fry remaining Sambusaks adding oil when necessary.
Note: may be made in advance and frozen uncooked.
Makes 3 roll cakes, each yielding about 8 cookies (about 2 dozen cookies total)
- ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water, 105-110 degrees
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup sugar, plus two tablespoons for sprinkling over the cakes
- 6 tablespoons canola oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Zest from half a lemon (about ½ teaspoon)
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- About 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
- 2/3 cup poppy seeds
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg, beaten (divided)
2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling over the top
1) In a cup or small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit and bubble for 15 minutes.
2) Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, combine egg, sugar, oil, and salt in a large bowl. Add lemon zest and yeast mixture. At low speed, add whole wheat pastry floor slowly, spoon by spoon. Add all-purpose flour spoon by spoon, using enough flour to produce a tacky, by not overly sticky, dough. Cover bowl with a towel and a pillow, and let rise for 1½ hours.
3) Meanwhile, make the filling. In a small saucepan, combine poppy seeds, cream, and sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until the poppy seeds have absorbed most of the cream. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Whisk in vanilla extract and only half of the beaten egg. Reserve the remaining egg for the egg wash. Leave poppy seed filling at room temperature until it is needed. (If the poppy seed filling seems too runny once it’s needed, add very fine graham cracker crumbs to thicken it.)
4) Set aside a ½ sheet pan covered in parchment or a silicone baking sheet. Divide dough into 3 parts. Roll out each piece of dough between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, flouring as need to prevent sticking. Roll to a thickness of about 3/8 inch, making a rectangle about 9 inches in length. Spread one third of poppy seed mixture over the surface of each dough, keeping an inch of empty dough on one long side. Starting from the opposite long side, roll the dough, narrowly folding in the sides halfway through. Gently pinch the end to the roll. Repeat for each roll, and place the rolls seam side down on the baking sheet. Allow rolls to rise for at least 30 minutes more. Preheat oven to 350.
5) Brush remaining beaten egg over rolls, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the rolls are golden. Carefully transfer the rolls to a wire rack, using two spatulas if necessary to prevent breakage. Once cool, cut into 1 inch cookies.
Variation: Add shredded coconut, chopped walnuts, or raisins to the poppy seed filling.
SUSTAINABLE SNACKS & SPIRITS
Ditch the dry hamentashen. Crumbly, store-bought hamentashen stuffed with artificially-flavored jelly are a crime against Purim! Fight back by baking your own. Experiment with substituting whole wheat flour and agave nectar in the dough, and think outside the traditional fillings box. Pick up some local jams at the farmers’ market, or make your own apricot jam. Try pinching a dab of Nutella or a dollop of maple-sweetened Mascarpone cheese in the center of your cookies. Your belly will thank you.
Consider the Egg. Try baking vegan hamantaschen this year! If you decide to use eggs while baking, choose eggs that are labeled “Certified Humane”, “Certified Humane + Pasture Raised,” or “Animal Welfare Approved.” Want to take the next step in supporting better eggs? Take the egg commitment!
Edible Groggers. Serve crispy, crunchy, NOISY foods this Purim (try things like: fresh veggies and yogurt-dill dip, blue corn chips and salsa or home made pita chips with your favorite store-bought or home made hummus). As guests snack away, their crunches will let Haman know what a wicked, wicked man he really was.
Can the canned fruit! You may want to buy fruit for your hamentashen filling, but try your best to avoid fruit from a can! Buy your fruit for your hamentashen in glass jars, or use fresh fruit. Cans (and most plastics) are lined with a chemical called Bisphenol-A (BPA) which is an endocrine disruptor, and a chemical that all should try their best to avoid. Learn more about Bisphenol-A from Grassroots Environmental Education.
Sustainable drinks. Don’t forget to drink sustainably this Purim. Pick an organic wine from our kosher, organic wine list. For some celebratory Whiskey for Purim, check out the Koval Distillery in Chicago for organic spirits. Or mix your drinks using freshly-squeezed juices (orange, grapefruit, carrot/ginger, wheat grass – it’s up to you!), natural sodas, Ginger Brew, or even homemade seltzer. And if you’re going alcohol-free, these delicious mixers taste just as great on their own.
SUSTAINABLE MISHLOACH MANOT
One of the sweetest traditions of Purim is the giving of mishloach manot, gifts of food, to family and friends. Traditionally, one is required to give at least two items of food (one of which should be prepared) to at least two people. But there’s no reason reason to stop there! Here are some tips for adding sustainable flair to your mishloach manot:
Write it Down. Including a note with your wishes for a sweet Purim in your mishloach manot basket is always a nice touch.
Sweeten the pot. Equal Exchange sells fair trade treats (chocolate, coffee, and more) for your mishloach manot basket through their Interfaith Program. Or, try one of our recommended sustainable, kosher chocolates from the Hazon Food Guide.
Brew Peace. Through the Thanksgiving Coffee Co., you can purchase fair trade coffee for your mishloach manot, grown by a collective of Ugandan Jewish, Muslim, and Christian coffee farmers.
Add some color. Tuck in a few beautiful, locally-grown apples, beets, carrots, or other root vegetables in your mishloach manot basket, right next to the hamentashen. Spring is right around the corner, so now is the best time to celebrate the winter harvest, one last time.
Purim offers two additional opportunities to give: Mechazit Hashekel (literally “giving half a coin”) and Mataonot La’Evyonim (giving gifts to the poor). Fulfill these mitzvot with a contemporary twist.
Donate Your Time. Commit to volunteer at your local synagogue or JCC – or prepare food for an Emergency Food Provider. Find opportunities to voluneer at VolunteerMatch.
Suggestions from Fair Trade Judaica:
- Bake your hamentashen with fair trade certified sugar, vanilla, etc.
- Give fair trade certified kosher chocolates, dried fruit and nuts in your mishloach manot
- Deliver your mishloach manot in fair trade baskets
The Hazon Seal of Sustainability provides a roadmap to advance sustainability-related education, action, and advocacy in the Jewish community. In 2016, a pilot cohort of Jewish institutions across the country is working to receive Seal certification.
Food for Thought– A 130-page sourcebook that draws on a range of texts from within and beyond Jewish traditions to explore a range of topics relating to Jews and food.
Hazon Food Guide– The Hazon Food Guide and Food Audit Toolkit will help you navigate food choices in your synagogue or JCC, and offer practical suggestions for bringing our ancient tradition of keeping kosher–literally, eating food that is “fit”– to bear on the range of food choices we’re making today.
My Jewish Learning – Purim 101