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Chef in the Kitchen
March 2014

Spring is in the air!

March 5 is Ash Wednesday, and the first day of Lent.

Purim

March 14, 2014 is the Jewish holiday of PURIM. Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story of Purim is generally recited from the Megillah, a parchment scroll on which The Book of Esther is written. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordechai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of King Ahasuerus, the King of Persia, to become part of his harem. He loved Esther more than the other women, so decided to make her queen. King Ahasuerus did not know that Esther was Jewish, because her cousin Mordechai told her not to reveal her religion.

The “villain” of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordechai because Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. Haman told the king, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it does not profit the king to suffer them." (Esther 3:8). The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews. Mordechai persuaded Esther to speak to her husband the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hung on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordechai.

Today, Purim is celebrated nationwide with traditional food, costumes and parades. A popular cookie made for Purim is called a “hamentaschen.” This triangle shaped cookie is filled with a wonderful fruit filling and can be made with any filling you like. Traditional fillings include berries and nuts.

St. Patrick’s Day
Another very popular holiday in March is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day, which is always March 17th, is an Irish holiday honoring Saint Patrick, the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity (in the A.D. 400's). Historical sources report that Patrick was born around 373 A.D. in either Scotland (near the town of Dumbarton) or in Roman Britain (the Romans left Britain in 410 A.D.). His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat (he took on Patrick, or Patricus, after he became a priest). At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. During his 6-year captivity working as a shepherd, he began to have religious visions, and found strength in his faith. He finally escaped and went to France, where he became a priest (and later a bishop).

When Saint Patrick was about 60 years old, he traveled to Ireland to spread the Christian word. It is said, that Saint Patrick had an unusually winning personality, which helped him win converts. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Trinity (father, son, holy spirit). Saint Patrick was also known to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland, which is why Ireland has no snakes. Different tales tell of Saint Patrick standing on a hill, using a wooden staff to drive the serpents into the sea, banishing them forever from the shores of Ireland.

DYP’s (Dutch Yellow® Potatoes)


Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in the United States with plenty of food, fun and wearing green. The first American celebration of Saint Patrick's Day was in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1737. Americans celebrated with festivities and food. Today, we celebrate with foods like cabbage, our famous DYP’s (Dutch Yellow® Potatoes), corned beef and green foods of any kind.

Green is associated with Saint Patrick's Day because it is the color of Spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. Leprechauns are also associated with this holiday.

Melissa’s has some great healthy food ideas for this green holiday: We suggest green cabbage or even salad savoy (flowering kale). Boil these greens until tender and serve with your favorite meat (corned beef is traditional) and you’re off to a great start. Cabbage and kale contain plenty of vitamin C, too. They also have zero fat and zero cholesterol. Kale has become very popular for juicing because it is nutrient dense and no calories. Check out this link for some other great ideas.

These FUN FACTS are considered good luck on Saint Patrick’s Day...
  • Finding a four-leaf clover
  • Wearing green
  • Kissing the blarney stone
March also brings us these other two religious observances:
  • Lent begins Ash Wednesday on March 5, 2014
  • Passover begins March 14 at Sundown
Passover
Passover begins April 14, 2014 at sundown to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It continues until April 22, 2014. It is also known as the Festival of Unleavened Bread; in their flight into exile, the Hebrews had time to prepare only unleavened bread (matzo) to take with them. The holiday lasts one week. Families gather for a Seder for one big night and possibly other nights.

In the center of the table at every Passover Seder is a plate arranged with foods symbolic of the holiday. The only one that requires a recipe is charoset: this is a mixture of fruits, nuts, and spices. Charoset represents the mortar the Jewish people made while laboring as slaves in Egypt. Melissa’s offers a complete variety of fruits, nuts, and spices to accommodate the variety of ways it is prepared in Jewish communities all over the world.

Wine is also served during the Seder and is used and drank throughout the service. Children are served grape juice so they, too, can participate. The highlight of the evening is when the leader of the Seder hides the Afekoman, a piece of Passover Matzo used in the Seder, and the children have to search the home to find it. The child who finds it uses it to "bribe" the Seder leader who needs it to finish the service... He in turn gives the child a coin, or a dollar bill. It is all in fun. Also, the youngest child that can read is asked to read the FOUR QUESTIONS-these are simple questions explaining to the child, and the group, why we have Passover. Most services conducted in the home last from half an hour up to one hour.

Pearl Onions


For a special Passover Seder, choose from a variety of Melissa’s potatoes, boiler onions and fresh parsley for karpas, horseradish for chahzeret, and morror, and apple-pears for a unique charoset. To accompany pot roast and poultry dishes after the Seder, Melissa’s Baby Red Potatoes, Pearl Onions, Celery Root and Parsley Root will enhance your meal. Try our favorite recipes to make your feast simple and delicious. Fresh herbs and spices prepared into Matzo Ball Soup, along with dried fruits and nuts for snacking, are also a 'must have' for this celebration.