purim

Banana Bread with Dates and Figs

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Every Purim I try new hamantaschen from different bakeries. I've also made my own hamantaschen using a variety of recipes.

But so far, after years and years of buying this one and that one, my favorites are the (parve) ones I get at The Bakery, in Plainview, NY. For me, they are the enduring treats of childhood, never failing to please, never changing, even in a world where innovation is honored.

And so -- I will buy my hamantaschen this year. Old fashioned flavors: prune and apricot. At The Bakery.

Which means that for Purim, instead of creating a completely new hamantaschen recipe or even trying a new pastry recipe with old fashioned filling, I am going to bake banana bread as mishloach manot gifts.

I have a zillion recipes for banana bread. Some with streusel. Some dairy-free. Some loaded with chocolate chips, some with coconut. Some all chocolate-y. Some spicy. And on and on.

This is my most recent banana bread recipe, one I came up with while revising my mother's date-nut bread recipe. 

 

Banana Bread with Figs, Dates and Nuts

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Fold in the figs, dates and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18

 

Mai Tai

All the snow this winter got me to thinking about the beach. 
 I don’t actually love the beach. I have very fair, freckled skin and spent my youth getting red and sunburned, then peeling, then back to very fair and freckled. Never got a tan. What was the point of even trying?  
 But beach sounds good when it’s 18 degrees out and there is a foot of snow on your lawn and more coming. 
 Ed and I did take short beach vacations occasionally. And it’s those I was thinking about in the past couple of days. Those days away gave us a chance to sleep late, do nothing and drink more than usual for 3 or 4 days. Not that we drink much when we’re home.  
 But on one particular occasion when we were really really tired and needed a good rest, we took ourselves to the Bahamas and on the first full day there we sat ourselves down at the beach at 10:30 a.m. and some nice woman came over and asked if she could get us something to drink. By 10:45 we downed our first Mai Tai. 
 If you’ve never had a Mai Tai, let me just say, they are potent. Especially if you start drinking them at 10:45 a.m. Even if they are watered down at a resort bar. 
 A real Mai Tai is made with rum, orange Curacao, lime juice, sugar syrup and orgeat, which is an almond flavored syrup. At beach resorts they sometimes add pineapple and/or orange juice. 
 I don’t know if the Mai Tais we drank were authentic or not. They tasted good. They must have because Ed told the woman to come back every hour with another round and so by the time we left the beach in the afternoon we had had, let’s say, quite a few and were feeling pretty merry. We had french fries for dinner and called it a day. 
  The original Mai Tai may have been a creation of Victor Bergeron Jr. (Trader Vic). He said that he concocted the drink at his Oakland, California restaurant in the 1940s and when he served it to some Tahitian friends they said “Mai Tai Roa Ae,” which apparently means “this stuff is beyond wonderful” or “out of this world” or “the best” and that’s how the cocktail got its name.  
 Vic’s competitor during the Polynesian food and drink trend (popular post World War II), was a man named Ernest Gantt (who changed it to Donn Beach), and he said he invented it at his restaurant, Don the Beachcomber, back in the 1930s. 
 I don’t care who was first. I’ll leave that debate to the men’s heirs. 
 All I know is, this tastes really out of this world and I have a feeling there will be one in my near future. 

 Mai Tai 
 1 ounce light rum 
 3/4 ounce lime juice 
 1/2 ounce Orange Curacao or Triple Sec 
 1/4 ounce sugar syrup 
 1/4 ounce orgeat 
 1 cup crushed ice or about 12 ice cubes 
 1 ounce dark rum 
 mint sprig 

 Place the light rum, lime juice, Curacao, syrup, orgeat in a cocktail shaker filled with the ice. Shake vigorously. Pour the mixture into a tumbler. Pour the dark rum on top, stir gently. Add a sprig of mint for garnish. Makes one 

  
 
 
 //

All the snow this winter got me to thinking about the beach.

I don’t actually love the beach. I have very fair, freckled skin and spent my youth getting red and sunburned, then peeling, then back to very fair and freckled. Never got a tan. What was the point of even trying? 

But beach sounds good when it’s 18 degrees out and there is a foot of snow on your lawn and more coming.

Ed and I did take short beach vacations occasionally. And it’s those I was thinking about in the past couple of days. Those days away gave us a chance to sleep late, do nothing and drink more than usual for 3 or 4 days. Not that we drink much when we’re home. 

But on one particular occasion when we were really really tired and needed a good rest, we took ourselves to the Bahamas and on the first full day there we sat ourselves down at the beach at 10:30 a.m. and some nice woman came over and asked if she could get us something to drink. By 10:45 we downed our first Mai Tai.

If you’ve never had a Mai Tai, let me just say, they are potent. Especially if you start drinking them at 10:45 a.m. Even if they are watered down at a resort bar.

A real Mai Tai is made with rum, orange Curacao, lime juice, sugar syrup and orgeat, which is an almond flavored syrup. At beach resorts they sometimes add pineapple and/or orange juice.

I don’t know if the Mai Tais we drank were authentic or not. They tasted good. They must have because Ed told the woman to come back every hour with another round and so by the time we left the beach in the afternoon we had had, let’s say, quite a few and were feeling pretty merry. We had french fries for dinner and called it a day.

The original Mai Tai may have been a creation of Victor Bergeron Jr. (Trader Vic). He said that he concocted the drink at his Oakland, California restaurant in the 1940s and when he served it to some Tahitian friends they said “Mai Tai Roa Ae,” which apparently means “this stuff is beyond wonderful” or “out of this world” or “the best” and that’s how the cocktail got its name.

Vic’s competitor during the Polynesian food and drink trend (popular post World War II), was a man named Ernest Gantt (who changed it to Donn Beach), and he said he invented it at his restaurant, Don the Beachcomber, back in the 1930s.

I don’t care who was first. I’ll leave that debate to the men’s heirs.

All I know is, this tastes really out of this world and I have a feeling there will be one in my near future.

Mai Tai

1 ounce light rum

3/4 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce Orange Curacao or Triple Sec

1/4 ounce sugar syrup

1/4 ounce orgeat

1 cup crushed ice or about 12 ice cubes

1 ounce dark rum

mint sprig

Place the light rum, lime juice, Curacao, syrup, orgeat in a cocktail shaker filled with the ice. Shake vigorously. Pour the mixture into a tumbler. Pour the dark rum on top, stir gently. Add a sprig of mint for garnish. Makes one

Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney

I love when one recipe serves several purposes.  Like this one for Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney.  I am using this (placed in pretty jars) as gifts to my friends for Purim. But I made enough for me too and am going to serve it along with the roasted lamb I am going to make for my Academy Award dinner. We always watch the event, red-carpet stuff and all, with my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen. Eileen will not eat this because it has hot pepper in it and she doesn’t like anything spicy (she’ll get a different  homemade chutney  with her dinner).   I’ve been thinking lately that we don’t eat enough chutney. It’s one of the most versatile and flexible of foods. You can use all sorts of fresh and dried vegetables and fruits, spices, herbs, other flavorings (like vinegar, citrus peel, Port wine) and the delicious concoctions you can make are endless.   I mean, there is life beyond ketchup, right?        Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney      12 ounces dried apricot halves  boiling water  4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped  2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger  12 whole cardamom pods  2 cups sugar  1 cup red wine vinegar  1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper  1/4 teaspoon salt  2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks  3/4 cup golden raisins  Cut the apricots into quarters, place in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover them. Let the apricots soak for 30 minutes. Drain and place them in a saucepan. Add the garlic, ginger, cardamom pods, sugar, vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the pears and raisins and cook for another 20-25 minutes or until the fruits are tender and the mixture is thick. Let cool. Makes about 3 cups   

I love when one recipe serves several purposes.

Like this one for Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney.

I am using this (placed in pretty jars) as gifts to my friends for Purim. But I made enough for me too and am going to serve it along with the roasted lamb I am going to make for my Academy Award dinner. We always watch the event, red-carpet stuff and all, with my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen. Eileen will not eat this because it has hot pepper in it and she doesn’t like anything spicy (she’ll get a different homemade chutney with her dinner). 

I’ve been thinking lately that we don’t eat enough chutney. It’s one of the most versatile and flexible of foods. You can use all sorts of fresh and dried vegetables and fruits, spices, herbs, other flavorings (like vinegar, citrus peel, Port wine) and the delicious concoctions you can make are endless. 

I mean, there is life beyond ketchup, right?

 

Dried Apricot, Pear and Raisin Chutney

 

12 ounces dried apricot halves

boiling water

4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

12 whole cardamom pods

2 cups sugar

1 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks

3/4 cup golden raisins

Cut the apricots into quarters, place in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover them. Let the apricots soak for 30 minutes. Drain and place them in a saucepan. Add the garlic, ginger, cardamom pods, sugar, vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the pears and raisins and cook for another 20-25 minutes or until the fruits are tender and the mixture is thick. Let cool. Makes about 3 cups

 

Candied Kumquats

Do you think your dentist would like these sugar-crusted kumquat candies?  Mine would be horrified.  But if you like foods that have a distinctive contrast — like sweet and salty, sweet and sour, bitter-sweet and so on, you’ll love these too.  Anyway, my neighbor did. He had a “significant” birthday recently. Ed and I were invited to a party at his house but his wife told me “no gifts.” So, no using my Lord & Taylor 20% discount coupon to get him a sweater he would probably return. No using my 20% Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon to get him a knife he might need for fileting his own fish.   I couldn’t show up empty handed though. So I made some goodies, specifically candied kumquats, which are completely frivolous, certainly not as well-known (and probably not as well loved as, say, chocolate chip cookies) but absolutely spectacular to look at and to eat.  If you’ve never tasted candied kumquats, you’ve missed something special. The fruit is tender and vaguely resilient, the crust crunchy; the flavor is bitter and sweet all at once. Perfect harmony on your tongue.  I thought this made a very interesting birthday gift. But now that it’s Purim, the time to give  mishloach manot , little gifts of food to family and friends to celebrate the holiday, I’m thinking Candied Kumquats.      Candied Kumquats      12-16 ounces kumquats (one carton)  2 cups sugar  1 cup water  sugar for coating     Rinse the kumquats and remove any stems. Slice the kumquats in half lengthwise and remove any seeds. Combine the 2 cups sugar and the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the kumquats, reduce the heat and cook the kumquats at a bare simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan and let stand for at least one hour. Remove the cover, bring the liquid to a boil again over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the kumquats for 20 minutes. Remove the kumquats with a slotted spoon to sheets of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) to cool. Roll the kumquats in sugar to coat them completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes one pound      

Do you think your dentist would like these sugar-crusted kumquat candies?

Mine would be horrified.

But if you like foods that have a distinctive contrast — like sweet and salty, sweet and sour, bitter-sweet and so on, you’ll love these too.

Anyway, my neighbor did. He had a “significant” birthday recently. Ed and I were invited to a party at his house but his wife told me “no gifts.” So, no using my Lord & Taylor 20% discount coupon to get him a sweater he would probably return. No using my 20% Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon to get him a knife he might need for fileting his own fish. 

I couldn’t show up empty handed though. So I made some goodies, specifically candied kumquats, which are completely frivolous, certainly not as well-known (and probably not as well loved as, say, chocolate chip cookies) but absolutely spectacular to look at and to eat.

If you’ve never tasted candied kumquats, you’ve missed something special. The fruit is tender and vaguely resilient, the crust crunchy; the flavor is bitter and sweet all at once. Perfect harmony on your tongue.

I thought this made a very interesting birthday gift. But now that it’s Purim, the time to give mishloach manot, little gifts of food to family and friends to celebrate the holiday, I’m thinking Candied Kumquats.

 

Candied Kumquats

 

12-16 ounces kumquats (one carton)

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

sugar for coating

 

Rinse the kumquats and remove any stems. Slice the kumquats in half lengthwise and remove any seeds. Combine the 2 cups sugar and the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the kumquats, reduce the heat and cook the kumquats at a bare simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan and let stand for at least one hour. Remove the cover, bring the liquid to a boil again over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the kumquats for 20 minutes. Remove the kumquats with a slotted spoon to sheets of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) to cool. Roll the kumquats in sugar to coat them completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes one pound