Since I only have eyes for kosher, homemade and natural, Purim is perfect time to send a select few some fabulous, homemade, fun and useful goodies (did you say fun and useful? Of course! Absolutely not an oxymoron).
Do you think you have just found the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe? Or the perfect raspberry vinegar recipe? Or the best chutney recipe? Well then, be a pal and share it with your friends!
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade but I think homemade gifts will beat some perplexing …uhh, confections… we find in our baskets. The thing with me is I never lose my head when making a menu, not even when the menu is as simple as what to offer for Shalach Manot.
This year, for your Purim baskets, let your friends sample some of your homemade creations. Why serve junk when you can, as I always do, start with serious ingredients and end up with fun results?
Here are a few tried-and-true tips on making delectable Shalach Manot.
Some baskets may not be retrieved right away, so start by not making anything that demands immediate refrigeration, such as a meat or fish-based sauce, a chocolate truffle, a cheesecake.
Leave the fragile treats such as lace cookies or fruit pie for that time when we are going straight to our hosts and when the goodies will not suffer in transit. Deal with items that are sturdy and not temperature-sensitive, and which travel well.
Include a card with the recipe. You can also include a card with suggestions on how to enjoy your gift, such as a recipe for teriyaki salmon with your jar of homemade teriyaki sauce.
Before I share some of my favorite edible presents with you, let me reassure the reluctant or harried hostess that even if she is totally reticent about "manufacturing" her own confections, there are some perfectly healthy and no-nonsense treats with which she can fill a basket: whole foods such as dry fruit and nuts; high quality tea or coffee; a good wine or liquor bottle; a beautiful pineapple or melon; an unusual premium item your friends may not have in their pantry such as wasabi or miso or saffron or pasta.
Whether you fill your baskets with homemade goodies or healthy, store-bought treats, I leave the presentation entirely up to you. I must emphasize that when you give something wonderful, you should obsess much less about the packaging than about what is inside. Let all the promise be found in, not around, the gift.
I guarantee you will never, never again have the heart or the poor judgment to get the store-bought version. I also guarantee, with no less authority, your sinuses will be cleared for the rest of the year!
The following selections are very simple and makes a dozen gifts each.
- 3 quarts white vinegar.
- 9 12 ounce packages frozen unsweetened raspberries. (18 cups)
Heat the vinegar and the raspberries until very hot in a large stainless steel pot, 2 pots if you must. Do not quite bring to boil: just as soon as it begins to bubble, turn off the heat. Let the mixture cool. Strain into a glass jar, pressing gently on the raspberries with a wooden spoon to extract all the juice but not the pulp. Pour into a dozen pint jars. If desired, add a few fresh or frozen raspberries to each jar. Let the flavors develop four days before using.
Makes 12 pints.
CHAI TEA SPICE MIXTURE
Add a good pinch or two of this mixture to a cup of strong tea, with milk and sugar to taste
- 1 1/2 cups anise seeds
- 1/2 cup ground pepper
- 1/4 cup nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cup ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cup ground ginger
- 1 1/2 cup ground cardamom
- 3/4 cup ground cloves
- 24 cinnamon sticks, for garnish
Place all the spices in a large glass jar. Mix thoroughly, shaking the closed jar vigorously or simply stirring the mixture with a large spoon until well combined. Pour the mixture into a dozen (or a few more) 4 ounce jars. Add 2 cinnamon sticks to each jar for garnish.
Makes twelve 4 oz. jars.
- 6 cups toasted sesame oil
- 2 cups olive oil
- 2 cups minced fresh ginger
- 4 cups fresh lime juice (lemon juice is ok)
- 4 cups soy sauce or more, to taste
- 4 cups dry sherry (liquor store, not the dreadful supermarket variety)
- 1/3 cup ground black pepper
- 1 cup bottled hot sauce or to taste
- 3 tablespoons ground cloves
- 3 cups honey
Mix all marinade ingredients thoroughly. Carefully pour (using a funnel if necessary) into 12 pint size jars.
Makes 12 pints.
APRICOT PEACH CHUTNEY
- 8 1/4 cups cider vinegar
- 12 cups sugar
- Grated zest of 12 lemons (peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler, and throw all the peels in the food processor; process for a minute or two)
- 1/3 cup cayenne
- 1/2 cup curry powder
- 1/3 cup salt
- 4 large onions, peeled and quartered
- 12 cups dried apricots, packed
- 12 cups dried peaches, packed
- 6 3-inch pieces ginger, peeled
Put the vinegar, sugar, lemon zest, cayenne, curry, salt and 10 1/2 quarts (42 cups) water in a heavy stainless steel pot, 2 pots if you don't have anything so large, and bring to a boil.
Grind the onions, dried fruit and ginger coarsely in the food processor, using the pulse button. Add to the pot, and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it cools. Cool completely, then pour into a dozen (or a few more) perfectly clean wide-mouth glass jars.
Makes 12 pint jars.
ZUCCHINI WALNUT BREAD
- 9 cups flour
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
- 3 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 12 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups oil
- 6 cups unpeeled grated zucchini, packed (use the food processor for grating)
- 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly combine flour, sugar, walnuts, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Thoroughly combine eggs, oil, zucchini and lemon peel in another bowl. Combine both mixtures thoroughly but mix only it is combined. Overmixing will cause the bread to become too tough. Pour into a dozen small greased loaf pans and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Makes 12 small loaves.