December 15, 2012
You know how some bowls just call out to you, begging to be picked up? Daniel Bellow’s ceramics have that effect on me. I find myself wanting to wrap my hands around them. Shape is what interests Bellow – his glazes are very simple – and each one of his plates, cups and bowls has an earthy, tactile, sense.
I like just about everything he makes, but these little pots – they’re just 2 or 3 inches high – are my favorites. They are endlessly useful. I fill them with nuts and olives and put them out with cocktails. I use them as eggcups. I put them in the refrigerator filled with leftover pancake batter. And on a dinner table these “babies” (that’s what Bellow calls them) make superb little vases. They’re also the perfect size to hold a shot or two of bourbon on a cold winter night.
I'm partial to these particular pots, but time is getting tight, and if you don't want to kick in for postage, consider alternatives: small pretty containers don't cost much (these are $15), and they make themselves welcome wherever they go. So look around. A cook can't have too many tiny containers.
December 14, 2012
Fresh wasabi root is one of those ingredients for which there is no substitute; the powdered stuff (basically just horseradish that’s been dyed) doesn’t come close. Real wasabi is subtle, with a kick that quickly fades into a clean, green flavor. Although it is now being grown in Oregon, it is still expensive enough to make a wonderful treat for an inspired cook who will discover that it should not be reserved for sushi. A little grating of fresh wasabi does wonders for pasta con le vongole, it's great infused into the milk you whisk into mashed potatoes, and nothing is nicer on top of simply sauteed scallops. And just think of it in a martini! You can find fresh wasabi root at any good Japanese market (I buy mine at Mitsuwa in New Jersey and Sunrise Mart in Manhattan), but if there’s not one near you, here 's an online source. (Wrapped in damp paper towels, wasabi will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator.)
But if you’re giving them fresh wasabi root, they’ll need a grater to go with it. Wasabi should be grated at the very last minute, because the flavor quickly fades. And they will surely find other uses for this classic Japanese wasabi grater, an ingenious and beautiful object made of sharkskin and wood.
December 13, 2012
It’s easy to find pretty aprons. Vintage aprons abound. And lately I’ve been inundated with ads for aprons that make you look sexy while you cook. But this classic bistro apron does more than that: It makes you feel more competent in the kitchen.
This is what I love about these handsome aprons.
- They’re made of wonderful, heavy linen.
- They tie snugly around your waist.
- They’re big enough to provide really good coverage.
- They get better with age, softening and molding to your body.
- They've got big, useful pockets.
- They can be mongrammed and embroidered with all manner of wonderful designs like these:
December 12, 2012
Anybody else who started a cookie company would call it Butter and Sugar. Not Dorie Greenspan. Her new company is called Beurre & Sel – butter and salt – because she understands the importance of salt. (Leave it out of cookies or brownies, and they fall absolutely flat.)
But she doesn’t merely add salt to her sweets – iconic Sables, irresistible Port Jammers (cranberries soaked in Port and spices, baked into cookies and topped with a cherry-cocoa streusel) or the most intense chocolate cookies you’ll ever taste. She’s also created a cocktail collection of savory cookies that will improve the mood of any party. I love the buttery, crumbly Rosemary-Parmesan cookies, and I’m also very partial to the Cocoa Cayenne sort.
To the three people out there who are not already Dorie fans, you should know that her baking books are the best – clear, encouraging and utterly reliable. Her new cookie company lives up to them: These great cookies will earn you a warm welcome everywhere you go. They may be the little black dress of this gifting season: perfect for every occasion.
December 11, 2012
One of my favorite photographs – ever – is one we published at Gourmet about five years ago. It’s a roast from the test kitchen, so bristling with meat thermometers that it looks like an angry porcupine. All of the Food Editors cooked their meat like that, because not one of them trusted a single thermometer to be accurate.
Why didn’t we just invest in Thermopens?
These wonderful meat thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking meat. They’re fast – you get a read-out in three seconds flat. They’re accurate – you can absolutely trust them. They’re precise – you soon discover that the temperature differs from one spot to another. And they’re thin – the needle won't poke huge holes into your meat. On top of that, the probes are at the very end of the thermometers, which means they work on thin cuts as well as thick ones: they make excellent tools for grillers.
The one drawback? At $89 the thermopen is expensive. At Christmas that's not a bad thing: like Gourmet Magazine, many fine cooks have been slow to make this investment. So go ahead – be a friend and buy one for your favorite meat-eater.