A royal tribute to flavors of Purim

Queen Esther is probably the most famous Jewish vegan because she is said to have eaten only fruit, vegetables, beans and grains while  in King Ahasuerus’ court to observe Jewish dietary law.

With Queen Esther as an inspiration and with Purim coming up, these parve recipes offer a taste of the holiday. The stew features pomegranate molasses for a sweet-tart flavor, a traditional component of Purim foods that recognizes the threat and redemption the Jews of Persia experienced. The stuffed peppers fulfill the tradition of having foods with a filling to recognize the many hidden intrigues and twists and turns of the Megillah.

For the lentil-stuffed peppers, the tomato and garlic sauce play together very nicely, but you can skip the garlic sauce if you’d like. If the garlic sauce flavor is too strong for you, stir in some regular or nondairy yogurt to taste.

Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern and other markets.


Lentil-Stuffed Peppers

Serves 4-6

8 med.-large red bell peppers

2 Tbs. oil

11⁄2 cups chopped onion

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1 cup chopped carrots

3⁄4 cup chopped celery

1⁄2 cup dried brown or green lentils

21⁄2–3 cups vegetable     stock

1⁄4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1⁄2 tsp. cumin

1⁄2 tsp. paprika

1⁄4 tsp. turmeric

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. black pepper

2 cups (packed) chopped chard

15-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

1 cup cooked bulghur or couscous

1 recipe tomato sauce (below)

1 recipe garlic sauce (below)

Cut tops and a thin slice off the bottom of the peppers to level. Core peppers. Chop tops and scraps, reserve. Place cored peppers in dish with 1⁄2 cup water in bottom. Microwave on high for 5-8 minutes, until the peppers are tender. Drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, sauté until golden. Add carrots, celery and chopped bell pepper. Sauté 2 minutes. Stir in lentils. Add 21⁄2 cups of stock. Stir in spices. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, add chard. Stir. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes until lentils are cooked, adding more stock if needed. Stir in tomatoes and bulghur. Stuff bell peppers. Spoon tomato sauce atop peppers. Bake 50 minutes. Drizzle with garlic sauce.

Tomato sauce: Combine 16 oz. tomato sauce with 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1⁄2 tsp. paprika, 1⁄2 tsp. sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic sauce: Combine 20 cloves of garlic (peeled), 1⁄3 cup lemon juice and 1⁄3 cup olive oil in a blender. Blend until creamy. Use 2-3 Tbs. on peppers. Store leftovers.


Near Eastern Bean Stew

Serves 4

2 Tbs. oil

2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts)

2 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. minced garlic

2 cups sliced carrots

2 cups chopped turnips

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 cups chopped eggplant

1⁄4 tsp. black pepper

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. dried ground ginger

1⁄8 tsp. ground cinnamon

1⁄4 tsp. ground cumin

1⁄8 tsp. ground cayenne

1⁄8 tsp. grated nutmeg

11⁄2 to 2 cups vegetable stock

15-oz. can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1⁄4 cup pomegranate molasses

1⁄4 cup minced fresh dill

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 Tbs. minced fresh mint

Preheat broiler. Heat oil in a large, oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Sauté leeks and 2 Tbs. garlic until light brown. Add carrots, turnips, red bell pepper and eggplant. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add spices and 11⁄2 cups stock. Stir well. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add beans. Stir well. Cover and keep at a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are cooked, adding stock if needed. Dish should be moist but not soupy. Stir in pomegranate molasses and dill. Combine 1 Tbs. garlic with breadcrumbs and mint. Scatter on stew. Broil until browned.


Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].