Purim has always been one of my favorite holidays. The story of Queen Esther appeals to my sense of justice, when evil is dealt a mortal blow and things turn out happily after all.
Of course, my sense of taste is also fulfilled when making Purim specialties. Hamantashen is the most popular food associated with Purim. Most often filled with poppy seeds, jam or cheese, you can use your creativity for other fillings.
If sweets are not your thing, you can always enhance your chicken soup with some wonderful triangle-shaped kreplach. They can be filled with meat or kasha. My Aunt Min always made Purim-Stuffed Cabbage, which she skillfully shaped into three-cornered delicacies.
Shalach manot is the tradition of sending at least two kinds of food or sweets to at least two poor people. In the Book of Esther, giving a half-shekel commemorates money given by every Israelite in the form of three coins to their synagogue for charity. Today these customs have evolved into families giving food baskets to the poor and money to local synagogues.
Families often exchange homemade goodies, using attractive baskets, plates and containers. I always include chocolate coins wrapped in gold and silver paper. Since Purim is a time when it is considered a mitzvah to drink, a special bottle of wine with some unusual wine glasses would be a welcome gift.
Fabric stores now carry a variety of novelty cotton blends with a Jewish motif. Just a few yards can go a long way. Cut out and simply hem sets of napkins for each basket. I even embellish some with trims found in the bargain bin. Fold in triangles, include two color-coordinated candles, some hamantashen, (maybe even a few masks) and voila!—a creative, delicious Purim basket.
Here is an old recipe I’ve been using for years from Bea Kurtz of Livingston, N.J.