I’m big on “hostess gifts.” Sure, you can always bring a bunch of flowers or a bottle of wine, but certain occasions call for something more personal, more special.
One of my favorites is spiced nuts. Of course I’ve asked for permission to share this 20 year-old recipe and been summarily denied by a magazine that is now defunct but has a presence (and this recipe) online. Choose the nut(s) of choice, I like raw cashews, and coat them with a toasted spice mixture of your liking, melt some butter into it, toss the nuts in the mixture and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them because they like to burn. Make sure they are completely cooled before placing in a decorative container (I love mason jars) and wrapping for giving.
I also like to buy olives, preferably at an olive bar so you can control the liquid content. I love meaty Kalamatas for this preparation. Drain the brine from the olives. Place the olives in a bowl and add whatever you like and have on hand. I place a few cloves of garlic in there, a sprig of rosemary (bruise it to allow the flavors out), some chili flakes. Don’t add salt, as the olives are salty enough. Place in a decorative container, leaving some room at the top. Cover with extra virgin olive oil and sit out on the counter for a few days to a week, making sure the olives are submerged. Make sure to notify the recipient that once the olives have been consumed the oil can be used for cooking or salads.
These are two great appetizers I like to keep on hand for when guests visit. If placed in the refrigerator the olive oil will solidify a bit but at room temperature will look normal again. For the nuts, keep them in sealed bags in the freezer until ready to serve or package as a hostess gift.
I know, I don’t make sweets. My sisters and many others are great bakers and I am not. Perhaps my palate is more suited to hot and salty flavors. In the college cafeteria my favorite breakfast was cocoa puffs with chocolate milk, now it’s smoked salmon on a sesame bagel but I’ve been known to eat cold pizza for breakfast! Cheers, the birds are up and so are we so at 6 a.m. it’s time to take out the dog. Dee