Hamantashen – And now for something completely different

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It’s Purim time again and it’s the most festive Jewish holiday of the year.  Lots of partying and celebrating and lots of food.  The story of Purim is told through the reading of the ‘Megillah’, the Book of Esther and recounts the heroism of Queen Esther, a Jewish woman who was married to King Achashverosh, the king of Persia 2,300 years ago.  And through the details of the story, Esther saves her people from destruction from the king’s adviser, Haman.  Read more of Purim at Aish.com.

One of the most traditional foods to eat is called a hamantashen.  The triangular shape is symbolic of Haman’s 3-cornered hat.  This cookie is filled with the usual traditional fillings of sweetened poppy seed paste  or prune jam, although a variety of other fillings can be used, usually all sweet. The filling is symbolic that one has to look beneath the surface of every situation or story to see the essence.

My sister in Annapolis, Maryland sent me a fun newsletter from the Washington, D.C. area called the Jewish Food Experience — and there was a recipe for Savoury Hamantashen.  Savoury, I ask?  What about the normal filling of prune or poppy seed?  Is this truly a hamantashen, I ask her?  And she answers:  An age old wise question – what is a hamantashen? What is a burrito? What is a falafel?  So now that I have my question answered with another question, I go ask my friend, Lauren.  She tells me that eating hamantashen is a custom, not a mitzvah, or a religious duty, so be creative and have fun.

So, here I go having a little fun and sharing my experience with you.  A filling of sliced pears, goat cheese, walnuts and caramelized onions.  A reduced balsamic vinegar used as a dipping sauce.  Let’s make this together.  Ingredients all ready to go.

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Caramelized onions slowly sauteed in a mix of olive oil and butter.

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The pears are sliced, walnuts are chopped (I only had walnut halves in the pantry), goat cheese is measured and caramelized onions ready to fill my squares of puff pastry.

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Lucky for me, puff pastry has a lot of elasticity.  I cut them approximately into 5-inch squares.  Two slices of pear each, plus dividing the rest of the ingredients to fill the 10 squares.

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And here is how they looked before going into the oven.  They seem a little rough looking but puff pastry ‘puffs’ and rises and is very forgiving.

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Meanwhile, I reduced one cup of balsamic vinegar until it was thick to about 3/4 to 1/2 cup of balsamic syrup.

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Wow, they came out of the oven half-hour later looking great.  Some of the filling popped through in a few of them but they looked the way I was hoping.

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A decorated plate of some balsamic syrup and a peek inside the hamantashen. Keep some of the syrup aside for dipping.  The pears and cheese have softened and the sweetness of the caramelized onions and crunch of the walnuts make this a delicious treat.  Happy Purim to all!

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Savoury Hamantashen

3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 sweet onions (I used 5 smaller regular onions)
1 lb. package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 first pear, peeled, quartered and sliced
1/2 – 3/4 cup goat cheese
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup balsamic vinegar

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently until caramelized, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the puff pastry into approximately 5 inch squares.
  3. In the middle of each square, evenly distribute the onions, pears, goat cheese and walnuts.  Fold a corner of each puff pastry square over to the opposite corner to form a filled triangle.  Seal all the edges well.
  4. Bake the triangles for about 30 minutes until puffed and golden.  While baking, pour balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Then lower the heat to simmer, stirring frequently for 10 minutes.  It should be reduced by about 1/2.  Remove from heat and cool.  Decorate a plate with  some of the syrup and pour the rest in a bowl as a dipping sauce.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
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