They are appreciated, I think, and in any event, they are less of a problem when you bring to a friend’s dinner party, since flowers are a pain for the hosts forcing them to stop everything and try to find a vase…
As soon as the weather cools significantly I prepare my first batch of rustic chocolates. We keep them in a jar and we eat one or two pieces after lunch, offer to friends who drop by, or give them as gifts. When the jar is almost empty, I make more, exactly as I do with my savory crunchy cookies that I keep in a similar jar.
I published the basic recipe for the chocolates in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, since my friend Vicki Snyder insists that every cookbook, no matter what its subject, should include a chocolate dessert. But I have the habit of changing and enriching my recipes, even after I have published them, so here is my updated version of the very easy chocolates I make over and over. This time, as I anticipated preparing a few gift boxes, I doubled the recipe, melting 3 pounds of bitter-sweet chocolate, in two separate bowls, otherwise it takes too long for the pieces to melt. Costas and I spread the mixture in two pans and left them to harden overnight. If we had cut them after two hours the pieces would be even and square; but this time a few pieces crumbled as we cut the hard mass of chocolate with a large bread knife.
I also add pistachios to my Chicken Liver Pâté which is flavored with thyme, orange and brandy. I am sure your friends will appreciate a jar of this homemade pâté, which is an ideal appetizer, so I suggest you double the recipe.
We also made quince preserves (page 236 in my book) and since we had extra quince from our trees, I cooked some in sweet wine with honey, as I describe in the recipe for the stuffing of the Quince Pie Rolls, minus the raisins. I then pulsed the cooked quince in the blender, and spread the mixture in a parchment-lined pan. I transferred the paste to a low (80 C, 180 F) oven to dry out for about 5-6 hours. After it cooled, I cut into bars which I rolled in ground pistachios, much like I did with the Citrus Fruit Cheese and arranged on a tray. I left the quince paste to dry further, uncovered, in the refrigerator for a couple of days, before I transferred the pieces to boxes lined with parchment paper, to take as gifts, but also keep and serve to our guests with the pungent island cheeses.
Besides the quince preserves, the quince paste, and the chocolates, my traditional Christmas Melomakarona –the olive oil, orange and honey cookies— make wonderful edible gifts as they get better a few days after you bake and douse them in honey,
and also Kourabiedes, the buttery almond cookies.