Collapsible Baskets by Reisenthel–Update &c.

I forgot to mention (as Sue pointed out in her comment), that Reisenthel baskets make great gifts. More than just gifts, they make great gift baskets. For example, here’s a photo from Tom’s birthday present from a couple of years ago.

(Collapsible) Gift Basket

If you look closely at the contents, you’ll notice this basket is how Tom came to know harissa. 1.5 years later, we’re still going strong on this jar.

The gift focused around Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. In the section on “Flavorings, Aromatics, Condiments, and Oils,” Roden discusses and defines many ingredients that are key to Middle Eastern cooking but perhaps not typical in the average US kitchen:

Harissa. This very hot chili-pepper past flavored with garlic and spices is much used in North African cooking. It can be bought ready-made in tubes and cans but it will not have the special perfume of the homemade variety. To make your own, see page 464.

I pulled items from this list and filled the basket with them, knowing that a lack of hard-to-find ingredients might inhibit Tom’s creativity when looking through the book for inspiration.

If you’re purchasing a new cookbook for a friend, consider throwing in some key ingredients when you give the gift. I remember the hunt for all of these items being a lot of fun, especially once I discovered a gold mine in Yasmeen’s Mediterranean Foods in Saginaw, Michigan. They don’t appear to have a website, but you can reach them by phone at (989) 791-3082 or visit their location at 3545 Bay Rd in Saginaw, MI if you’re in the area. If nothing else, pick up a bag of dried limes and make yourself a pot of Chai Hamidh, as Roden says, “made by breaking open dried limes [with a hammer] and pouring bowling water over them” (p. 483).

Also in the basket: Bodum’s Assam tea press, a mint plant, roseflower water, dried limes, orange flower water, pomegranate syrup, Mustapha’s Moroccan Harissa and Olives, Gilway Demerara Sugar Cubes, Urban Accents rice, and several large containers of spices including sumac and whole fenugreek and nigella seeds.

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