December 14, 2016
Last year someone (who will remain nameless) put my antique Dansk salad bowl into the dishwasher. I almost cried when it emerged. I tried everything to save it, but what ended up working best was this spoon butter made from olive oil and beeswax. I’ll never be without it again. It makes all my wooden bowls and utensils extremely happy.
The spoon butter is surprisingly pleasant to use, smoothing across the wood’s surface with little effort. It has a pleasant aroma too, so my hands are happy too. One more bonus: it lasts a long time and only costs $12.
December 13, 2016
If someone on your list is a collector of unusual cookbooks, here’s a suggestion. New York’s great cookbook store, Kitchen Arts and Letters, stocks every current cookbook and food magazine, along with a fine array of food history and out of print books. They also scour the world for unusual foreign cookbooks which are available nowhere else in this country.
At the moment I’m taken with this series, which they import directly from Singapore, about the great ethnic cuisines of that country. The Peranakan recipes are from the descendants of the early Chinese migrants who settled in Singapore and intermarried, creating an original (and utterly delicious) cuisine with names like otak otak and gado gado.
The Hokkien recipes are from the Fujianese people who came to Singapore from southeastern China. The book contains a number of fascinating recipes, including one for kong pak bau – braised pork belly buns with lettuce..
The South Indian recipes offers dishes like vinegar chicken, stuffed squid in black ink gravy and tomatoes in yogurt. There’s also a great recipe for vaduvam, the exotic spice that swept Paris a few years ago. A little bottle of vaduvam, come to think of it, would also make a great gift.
Should these not be unusual enough, you might want to consider this rather mad volume:
Nobody planning a trip to Shanghai should consider leaving home without it.
December 12, 2016
You don’t know you need a perfect perforated spoon – until you have one. Then you can’t live without it. Honest.
Most examples of the form are simply spoons with a few random holes punched here and there. This one is different. For starters, its deep – the size of a cupped hand. Then there are the holes, which are designed to help you perfect the poached egg. (Watch the video… and you’ll understand the science.)
Michael Ruhlman (among other things he wrote the best book on braising) has dedicated his life to explaining the science of cooking. Consider, for instance, his book Ratio.
Here he asks us to insist on perfectly poached eggs every single time. How? The spoon’s designed to strain out the bits of white that won’t congeal before the egg hits the water. This way your poached egg stays completely compact, with no annoying flyaway strands. It truly works.
If there’s a better present under $20, I have yet to find it.
December 11, 2016
I make a lot of pancakes. So this batter bowl is extremely useful; I can mix the batter right in the bowl, and simply pour out the pancakes, one by one.
I’ve got a lot Amarita’s beautiful blue bowls, and everyone always gasps when they come out. But this particular one is a favorite. After all, who doesn’t love a bowl with a spout?
And here, should you want it, some advice on the art of the pancake.
1. The first rule of pancakes: Don’t use a mix. Let me repeat that: Don’t use a mix. It saves no time, it tastes no good – and it costs more money.
2. Don’t even think about using inferior maple syrup. A good pancake deserves the very best.
3. Don’t skimp. I know my recipe has a lot of butter, but where pancakes are concerned, more is always more.
4. You can always put anything you want into your pancakes. Blueberries, chocolate chips, pumpkin puree… use your imagination. But when pancakes are this good, you probably won’t want to.
Here’s my basic recipe. I’ve made this so often that I can pull it together in under a minute. After you’ve done it a few times you’ll be able to do that too. This is not diet food, but I promise that these pancakes will make your family very, very happy.
1 stick butter
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1.Melt a stick of butter in a heavy skillet. Whisk together a cup of milk, 2 large eggs and a tablespoon of vegetable oil, then add the butter. Put the buttery skillet back on the burner, ready for the pancakes.
2. Whisk the flour with the baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk the mix mixture in until its combined. Add a bit more milk if you think it’s too thick.
3. Pour some batter into the skillet. The size is up to you; sometimes I make them tiny for children, sometimes I make them ludicrously large. Watch as the bubbles appear in the batter, grow larger, and then pop and vanish. When they’ve all popped, carefully flip the pancake and cook the other side.
4. Rush the pancakes to the table as each one is finished. You want them hot, sweet, salty and a little bit crisp. You want the memory to linger with your family as they move through their day.
(The batter will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days; you will probably have to thin it out with a bit more milk before using.)
December 10, 2016
Cloves. Chanterelles. Rosemary. Cinnamon. Orange peels. Peppercorns.
If you’ve ever looked at a clove and thought – that would make a great earring – this is for you. Caitlin Royal casts herbs, seeds, spices and other small edibles in silver and gold to make her elegantly unadorned jewelry.
What I love about Caitlin’s work is its minimal quality. There’s been a fad for tuning food into jewelry, but I’ve never seen any with this simple, easy, organic elegance.
Prices begin around $50.