As a trained chef and registered dietitian, Micah Siva has already helped thousands of people eat more healthfully through her vegan-centric food blog, Nosh with Micah, nutrition workshops and recipe development for businesses both big (Nestle) and small (Oaktown Spice Shop).
But there is one mission in particular on the San Franciscan’s mind this month.
“I want to make hamantaschen fun again,” says Siva, a Jewish Canadian transplant who launched her blog five years ago after graduating from New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute.
Sweet or savory, the triangular cookies are traditionally eaten on Purim, the carnivalesque holiday that begins March 16. In celebration, Siva is launching a 10-day countdown on Instagram with modern hamantaschen recipes that are nothing like the prune-filled hockey pucks of your childhood.
The cookies, symbolic of the three-pointed hat-wearing baddie, Haman, from the story of Queen Esther, are made with everything from goat cheese and s’mores to funfetti and apple pie filling. Siva even makes a family-sized pizza hamantaschen.
“There are so many combinations and so much creativity that can go into hamantaschen,” she says. “We may be more accustomed to the dry ones filled with jam that we get at the neighborhood deli, but there’s no reason for them to be that boring.”
These hamantaschen don’t just look and taste different. They have more of a dessert feel, thanks to the addition of key ingredients. Like her Everything Bagel Hamantaschen, Siva’s honey-spiked Sesame Goat Cheese Hamantaschen recipe doesn’t call for oil but for butter — one whole stick — and another pastry-chef favorite: cornstarch.
“Both give the cookies a tender and crumbly texture,” Siva says.
Siva has developed a plethora of Jewish and non-Jewish recipes updated for the modern palate, from Golden Milk Challah to Spinach Feta Matzo Brei. She says she wants to bring classic Jewish foods to Gen Z but present them in a way that feels more authentic to the way they live now.
“A lot of the foods my grandmother made I wouldn’t necessarily eat on a daily basis,” says Siva, whose culinary school education leaned heavily on alternative diets. But pulled mushroom brisket, vegetarian noodle soup and grain-free black and white cookies? Those she would, happily.
Siva started cooking at age six, when she and her older sister flew from Calgary to Vancouver to learn from Eva, their grandmother. During Purim, clad in her rhinestoned Queen Esther bib, Siva spooned prune or poppy seeds into happy triangle cookies. She also recalls a white dinner roll version of poppy seed hamantaschen brushed with an egg wash.
“Those were seriously the best,” she says.
But it was the kreplach she made with Eva that carry the most meaning. The original recipe for the small dumplings is actually from Eva’s mother, Bubbe Freda, who was just a teenager when she escaped the pogroms of the Russian Empire in the early 1900s. She settled in Eastern Canada and made a career working in the fur trade, buying furs from Native Americans and selling them to the Hudson’s Bay Company.
“There are so many memories in the folds of Bubbe Freda’s kreplach,” Siva says. “It’s probably the most special food memory I have.”
Both Freda and Eva stuffed the savory dumplings with leftover roast chicken, mashed potatoes with carrots or whatever else they had on hand. Siva’s current favorite is a vegan sweet potato kreplach laced with caramelized onions and garlic. But she’s also experimented with minced tofu, Impossible meat and other vegetarian fillings.
She says there are no rules when it comes to kreplach. Just knead and seal your dough well to keep those Bubbe-approved fillings from seeping out. They can be boiled or fried.
“It’s pretty forgiving,” she says. “As long as you fill it with what you think is delicious, that’s all you need for kreplach.”
Where to buy hamantaschen
Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels: This kosher bakery in Palo Alto offers raspberry, prune and apricot hamantaschen (and Nutella upon request). Details: 477 California Ave., Palo Alto; www.izzysbrooklynbagels.com
Market Hall Bakery: The food hall bakery sells hamantaschen in apricot and raspberry flavors at both of its East Bay locations. Details: 5655 College Ave., Oakland, and 1786 Fourth St., Berkeley; https://rockridgemarkethall.com
Grand Bakery: This Oakland kosher deli offers cherry, prune, poppy and apricot hamantaschen by the dozen, 1/2 dozen or as part of a Purim box with challah, bagels and schmear. Details: 3033 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Grand Bakery goods can also be found at Draeger’s, Lunardi’s, Andronico’s and Piazza Fine Foods stores. https://grandbakeryoakland.com
Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen: The iconic Berkeley restaurant sells individual berry, poppy and apricot hamantaschen for $2.25 each. It will also be hosting a free outdoor Purim and St. Patrick’s party from 5 to 7:30 p.m. March 17. Details: 1475 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; www.saulsdeli.com