What do nuns and hamantaschen have in common Purim!

When I was in second grade, I wanted to dress up as “Rebecca at the well” for Purim. I loved this Bible story because of the name of the heroine and the way she gave drinks to the camels! My mother sewed me a costume, modeled on the illustration in my book: a long white robe, complete with a white head-covering.

I was so excited with my costume and couldn’t wait until the Purim carnival. Most of the girls were Queen Esthers, the boys were Mordechais, one clever kid was a hamantaschen. I confidently paraded around with the other children, sure that everyone would recognize Rebecca at the well.

“Who are you supposed to be?” asked the adults.

“Guess!” I replied.

“A nun?” was the reply, repeatedly.

I didn’t know what a nun was, but it sounded good. Anyway, I was joyous, as befits the holiday. My costume was so good, no one could guess who I was, and none of the other girls had the same outfit. We then paraded past the rabbi and cantor.

“Who are you, Rivkele?” asked our rabbi.

“A nun!” I beamed. “My mom made it herself!”

Last year, my son went as Queen Esther, wearing his sister’s flower girl dress, a wig and heels. No one would ever have mistaken him for a nun.

In addition to masquerading, Purim is also a time for giving gifts from the kitchen. The hamantaschen are fun for children to make. I usually prepare the dough and fillings the night before, so it’s easier for the kids to handle. For fillings I use poppy seeds, apricot jam and pureed cooked prunes.

Garbanzo beans are a traditional Purim food, representing the vegetarian meals Esther ate, so as not to break the laws of kashrut. Channas is a delicious, simple addition to your Purim feast.

Channas (Curried Garbanzo Beans) | Serves 8

3 Tbs. safflower oil
2 Tbs. curry powder
1 12 oz. can garbanzo beans with liquid
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 ripe tomato, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
4 Tbs. chopped cilantro
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Sauté the curry powder for about 5 seconds. Add the beans with their liquid, and lemon juice. Let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Place the beans in a serving dish and garnish with the tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Hamantashen | Makes about 24

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1⁄2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
In a mixer or food processor, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Stir in the flour and baking powder, and mix until the dough holds together. Flatten the dough and chill for a few hours, or overnight.
Remove 1/3 of the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured board about 1/8″ thick. Cut 2-3″ circles. Place a spoonful of filling in the center, then fold into triangle shapes, pinching together the corners and letting some of the filling show. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

Poppy Seed Filling

5 oz. poppy seeds (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup water
3⁄4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. raisins
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
Tip: Buy poppy seeds in bulk, they’re much cheaper!
Grind the poppy seeds in a spice grinder or blender. Put them in a small pan with the remaining ingredients. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until the mixture is very thick. May be chilled for several days.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].