It snowed again in DC, can you believe it? This most recent storm is prompting social media users to call today Snow Patrick’s Day! Hopefully anyone planning to go out for tonight’s shamrock festivities will still be able to do so safely—of course, were we in the Midwest, this wouldn’t be an issue. Where there’s a will, there’s a way—for green beer.
Fortunately, my friends and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday, so we are all set. It wasn’t the only festivity we celebrated, and in fact was kind of the afterthought holiday. Saturday night was the Jewish holiday of Purim.
As a one-sentence refresher on this story celebrating religious freedom: Persian King Ahasuerus replaces his queen, Vashti, with Esther, who is secretly Jewish, the king’s evil Jafar-like advisor Haman decides to kill all of the Jews, Esther’s wise uncle Mordecai encourages her to appeal to the king for help, Esther saves the day. Visit last year’s Purim post for more details!
Both involve spending time with family and friends, drinking a lot, and eating tasty treats. Meshing green foods for St. Patrick’s Day with hamantaschen cookies for Purim presented a new challenge.
Last year, as you may recall, we made over 100 apricot, raspberry, and chocolate hamantaschen. This year, we decided to take things up a notch by baking savory hamantschen. Seems innovative, yes? Think again.
Doughy pockets filled with vegetables, meat, cheeses, and spices are nothing revolutionary. People worldwide have made them in various forms since ancient times. Chinese wantons, Korean dumplings, Turkish borekitas, Ethiopian sambusas, Spanish/Latin American empanadas, Polish pierogi, Italian ravioli, Greek spanakopita, and Middle Eastern borekas are just a few!
Savory hamantaschen have become increasingly popular over the past few years, especially in Israel. The Jewish state is home to Jews from across the globe, and their culinary traditions manifest themselves in Israel’s bakeries and street vendors, and restaurants. And even The New York Times is paying attention!
I used a Mediterranean spinach feta pie as an inspiration for making my green hamantaschen. I even took a look at historic recipe like this one from The Milwaukee Sentinel! Spinach pie, sometimes known as spanakopita in Greece, is much newer than you’d think. I’m sorry to destroy any preconceived notions, but ancient Greeks did not eat them. While they had plenty of vegetable dishes wrapped in pastry dough, spinach had not yet been introduced to the Mediterranean.
Spinach, a fussy vegetable requiring a cool climate, originated in Persia—where the Purim story took place! So maybe Esther, Mordecai, and even Haman ate spinach! In the 8th century, Arabs spreading out across the Mediterranean developed advanced irrigation systems that helped the temperamental leafy green withstand climate challenges. And so spinach finally became part of Greek cuisine!
For further reading:
Marks, Gil. Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2005.
Spinach Feta Hamantaschen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of lemon juice
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash of black pepper and nutmeg
1) Mix top ingredients together to make dough. Allow to chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
2) Combine second group of ingredients to make filling. Feel free to experiment with additional spices if you wish.
3) Roll out the dough as thinly as you can on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Use a wide-rimmed glass to cut the dough into circles.
4) Fill the circles with a teaspoon or so of filling. Seal the pastry by folding the sides and pinching the corners to make a triangle. If dough does not stick, wet your fingertips with a little warm water to help seal.
5) Bake hamantaschen in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until the dough is cooked throughout and bottoms are golden.