It's Not All Sweet: Three Savory Dishes for a Vegetarian Purim Feast

Three dishes to honor Queen Esther's practice of keeping a vegan diet at the king's palace.

Vered Guttman

In the next week, as Purim approaches, you’re bound to drown in sweets, mainly hamantaschen in all flavors and sizes. Not to complain, as real homemade hamantaschen filled with poppy seeds are probably my favorite food; but there’s more to Purim than Mishloach Manot and sweets.

Seudat Purim, a festive meal held on Purim day, is one of the holiday’s four mitzvahs. The elaborate meal should include plenty of alcohol, easily making it a runner up for the best mitzvah ever.

As tradition has it, Queen Esther kept a vegan seeds and legume diet while at the king’s palace, to avoid consuming non kosher food and wine. Resisting Persian culinary temptations was not easy, I’m sure. To honor Queen Esther, here’s a vegetarian menu for a late winter Purim meal.

Egg Noodles with poppy seeds, hazelnuts and egg

Mixing noodles with poppy seeds or walnuts and sugar is a wonderful Hungarian tradition. My version here is savory and includes poppy seeds, hazelnuts and hard boiled eggs to make a very quick and satisfying main course.

Ingredients (serves 6):

6 eggs
Kosher salt
¼ cup poppy seeds
cup ground hazelnuts
1 lb. wide egg noodles
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

1. Make hard boiled eggs: Place eggs in a large saucepan, cover them with cool water and add a pinch of salt. Slowly, bring water to a boil over medium heat; when the water reached a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let it sit for 12 minutes. Peel the eggs and set aside. Prepare six bowls or plates for serving.

2. Toast poppy seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and a bit darker, about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet occasionally. Transfer to a medium bowl. Return the skillet to medium heat, add hazelnuts and toast until fragrant and golden brown. Add to the poppy seeds.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Prepare a large frying pan or next to it. Add the pasta to pot and cook according to the package directions.

4. Melt the butter in the large frying pan over medium heat. When the pasta is ready transfer it to the frying pan, mix and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle the poppy seed-hazelnut mixture and mix. Add kosher salt to taste.

5. Divide pasta between serving bowls. Grate one hard boil egg over each portion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and the lemon zest and serve.

Kale, walnut and feta pastries

To make this pastry start by preparing a quick baby kale and walnut pesto. The quantity here is larger than needed for the recipe, but the leftovers can be used over pasta, as with any pesto.

Ingredients (yields 30 pastries):

2 cups tightly pressed baby kale
cup toasted walnuts or hazelnuts
cup olive oil
Kosher salt
Flour for dusting
1 lb. puff pastry sheets, thawed overnight in the fridge
1 lb. good feta
1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

1. Put baby kale and walnuts in a blender and mix until smooth. Drizzle olive oil to a thick consistency. Add a pinch of salt to taste. Set aside.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly dust a working surface and a rolling pin. Roll puff pastry to a thin rectangle (thinner than it usually comes in the package). Use a flour-dusted 3 inch cup to form circles. Put ½ teaspoon pesto at the center of each circle, top with about a tablespoon of feta. Pinch three sides of dough to form a hamantaschen-like triangle (the pastries will open up while in the oven, but this process will keep the filling inside). Transfer to the lined baking sheets and repeat with the rest of the dough. Brush pastries with egg then transfer to the fridge for one hour.

3. Oven to 375 degrees. Bake pastries for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Shirazi salad with poppy seed

Shirazi salad is the Persian version of the Arabic/Israeli salad. This version includes pomegranate seeds and poppy seeds to celebrate Esther’s preference for seeds.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

3-4 tomatoes or 1 lb. or cherry tomatoes
3-4 Persian or greenhouse cucumbers
Bunch radishes
Bunch mint leaves
Bunch cilantro leaves
Bunch arugula or baby kale
½ cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds, toasted in a skillet for 1-2 minutes
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt

Directions:

1. Cut tomatoes to quarters and then slice, transfer to a large bowl. If you’re using cherry tomatoes, cut them in half.

2. Thinly slice cucumbers and radishes. Add to tomatoes together with all the greens, pomegranate seeds and poppy seeds.

3. Make a vinaigrette by mixing garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt to taste. Drizzle over salad, mix, adjust seasoning and serve.

Photos by Vered Guttman.