All About Aleza Eve

When I was in college, I took some time off and moved to Jerusalem. I lived at the top of a very high hill, on a street lined with jasmine trees that perfumed my daily walks. A hammock was strung between two loquat trees in the backyard, upon which I read all the English books I could get my hands on at Steimansky’s book store.

I spent that spring studying Jewish texts at a co-educational, non-denominational yeshiva, something that’s still of a bit of an anomaly.  The traditional Rabbinic approach to learning is to study a shared text with discussion and debate. My partner was named Aleza, and we really were a pair that year. We spent nearly every day together, in and outside of school. From Cairo to the shuk, we were partners. I remember bumping into classmates at the market and being asked where Aleza was. “Oh, she’s in the dairy section,” I answered. We were inseparable.

When you’re in Israel, everyone tells you how great Purim is, like no other celebration you’ve ever seen. Brazil might have Carnival, and New Orleans has Mardi Gras, but Jerusalem has Purim. The night of the megillah reading, I wore the homemade wings my friend Jonathan fashioned for me out of wire and white muslin. I ended up getting a terrible migraine that night, so I fluttered home and crawled into bed.

The next day Aleza and I hosted a Persian-inspired meal full of saffron and nuts. I don’t remember for certain everything we cooked, but I do remember that I mistook the salt for the sugar in a potato dish. It was dreadful. The next month, my 21st birthday coincided with a visit from Aleza’s father, and she cooked us a wonderful vegetarian feast with bright curries and pestos. Truly magnificent.

Without a doubt, Aleza remains my favorite home chef, and the recipe I have here is her inspiration. She actually told me about one of these hamentashen fillings last year. Hamentashen, the tri-cornered cookie typically filled with jam, is a Purim must. I’ve been taught that the three corners of the cookie represent the hat that the evil Haman wore. I’ve also heard that these are Haman’s pockets, and another source calls them his ears. Whatever body part or article of clothing, this year’s hamentashen have been coopted as part of my cardamom jag.

The cookie recipe is from Spice and Spirit: The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook. This is a terrific cookbook, put together by a guild of Lubavitch women. It’s a wonderful source for those interested in learning more about kashrut, and all the recipes in it are pitch perfect. I have never had a better latke than the one from this book. I actually found my copy of “the purple book” in a second hand bookstore. I was so worried someone would snatch it from me that I hid it under my shirt as I ran to the register.

I’m offering a mix of sweet and savory fillings. The pistachio, cardamom and honey one is pure Aleza, while the toasted pine nuts, honey and thyme is definitely a holiday treat. Pine nuts are not cheap, so I am only suggesting to use 2 tablespoons worth. You should still get about 8 cookies from just those two tablespoons. And please don’t use cheap pine nuts. The ones from China are sketchy and will leave a terrible metallic taste in your mouth that won’t leave for about two weeks. The rest of the cookies I baked were the standard jams — this year it was apricot and mixed berry.

I will be perfectly honest and admit that most of my hamentashen would not win any beauty contests. A fair number of the cookies’ bellies burst open, spilling their sweet insides all over my baking sheets. I’m not worried though. I guarantee there won’t be a cookie remaining by the end of this weekend.

Fillings (these are my recipes)

Pistachio, Cardamom and Honey

Combine in a bowl:

1/4 cup pistachios

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Pine Nuts, Honey and Thyme

Combine in a bowl:

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (I roasted mine stovetop in a small pan, carefully watching to make sure they didn’t burn. Toasted pine nuts are delicious. Burnt pine nuts are garbage.)

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon thyme

The rest of the cookies are up to you. You can never go wrong with the traditional prune butter (lekvar) and poppy seeds (mohn). I’ve read about Nutella ones this year. Sadly, we had none in the house.

Hamentashen

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil

Rind of 1 lemon, grated

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

To Make The Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

Grease cookie sheet.

Beat eggs and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide into four parts.

On a floured board roll out each portion to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter cut 3-inch circles.  (Please note: I have never used either of these things in my entire life. Always, always, always have I used a drinking glass turned upside down for this step.)

Place 1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon of desired filling in the middle of each circle.

To shape the triangle, lift up right and left sides, leaving the bottom down, and bring both sides to meet at the center about the filling.

Bring the top flap down to the center to meet the two sides. Pinch edges together.

Place on greased cookie sheets 1 inch apart and bake in 350 preheated oven for 20 minutes.

While the first batch of cookies are baking, gather up the remains of the dough, and roll it back out and start cutting out new circles.

21 thoughts on “All About Aleza Eve

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I see your in the Boston area too. I’m in the suburbs (Lexington). It’s always nice to “meet” other local food bloggers.
    Your hamentashen fillings look great! I’ve always wanted to try making this from my grandmother’s recipe, but I never loved her fillings. I will try to make some this weekend. I’ll let you know how they come out.

  2. Hi Molly, I’m glad you stopped by my blog and led me to yours. I enjoy reading about different cuisines, and your recipe for hamentashen is definitely one I would make soon. (p.s. you’re right about those pine nuts from China – they leave a strange, bitter coating on your teeth!)

  3. I am enjoying your blog as well, Molly! Cardamom is one of my favorite spices and I will be trying your Cardamom Jag recipe before the weather starts getting warmer here in Boston!

  4. Hi, Molly. It’s so funny that you mention that cookbook. When I was studying at Oxford back in 2002, I went for a challah baking lesson with the Chabad rabbi’s wife. The recipe that she photocopied for me was from that very book. I haven’t thought about it in years!

    • Hi Jess, So happy you stopped by. I actually went to a Lubavitch day school, and one of the principal’s 6 daughters was an editor of the book. So when we would make challah at school on Friday mornings, I am almost certain we used that same recipe. Last year when I wanted to make challah and opened the book, I realized the recipe took into mind the actual halacha for the act of challah which calls for 13 cups of flour! I ended up just using a recipe I found at the library. :-)

  5. I think your hamentashen look fine :) I really like Middle Eastern foods, I think they’re way more yummy than standard chocolate bars, much more flavours to them. I love the story about your wings aswell, I hope you have kept them, they sounds useful for other dressing up times!

    Also, don’t worry about the mistaking salt for sugar. At least it wasn’t the other way round!

  6. I’m not sure how I started reading about Purim now (in September) but I guess I saw the post about Aleza and I remembered you two in Jerusalem. I love your blog and I can’t wait to try the eetch.
    Best,
    Leanne

    • Hello! It’s so good to hear from you and I’m psyched to know you’re reading and enjoying my blog. Yep, Aleza and I were pretty much glued to each other in Jerusalem. She’s still my favorite person to cook with. Hope you and your beautiful family are doing well. Enjoy the eetch! It’s really delicious.

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