Recipes for Gift Guide
December 18, 2016
There was a period in the early oughts when a faction of otherwise reasonable wine drinkers considered the waiter’s wine key a hard to use tool. Every time they’d wind the cork in, the mechanism would stick, the ledge wouldn’t reach, whatever. Enter the runaway popularity of those crazy elephant devices. They may be a breeze to use, but they take up vast amounts of cupboard space. Where on earth can you store the things?
Like every waiter on the planet, I’m a fan of the simple corkscrew. Surely some brands function better than others, but this one costs less than $10 and works extremely well. It reminds me of a parrot, but if you’re looking for something flashier, consider this gold one.
On the other hand, if you’re in the market for an ostentatious gift for a wine freak, you might want to consider this preposterously expensive stainless steel version. I haven’t tried it myself – and I’d think you were insane if you gave me one – but apparently the manufacturers have enlisted the help of several dozen engineers to turn the opening of a bottle into a single elegant gesture.
December 17, 2016
The snow is ferocious today; I’m looking out at a black and white world. Not a footprint -even the animals have gone into hiding.
All I want are sunny foods: lemon tarts, deviled eggs, a soothing bowl of avgolemono soup. But mostly what I want is something made with saffron. I’m about to cook up a classic risotto milanese, one of my favorite foods on earth; tonight I’ll fry the leftovers into crisp little arancini.
I can think of few kitchen thrills more appealing than using just a little more saffron than the recipe calls for, punching up the flavor and intensifying the color.
I love the elusive, slightly nutty taste of saffron. I love the glorious golden hue. And I would love anyone who sent me a saffron present.
Persian red saffron threads are considered the best in the world. You can find saffron in any spice store, and all over the web. I buy mine from a company called Vanilla Saffron Imports, which imports directly from Iran and packages beautifully.
At $80 an ounce, this is a truly luxe gift. On the other hand, saffron lasts a long time, and your friend will think of you every time she reaches for the canister.
December 16, 2016
The test cooks at Gourmet swore by pressure cookers. They did their best to convince me they’re every cook’s most useful tool.
But the truth is that those things have always terrified me. Just looking at one makes me tremble, convinced it’s nothing but a bomb waiting to explode.
Then the Instant Pot entered my life. It’s said to be foolproof, and somehow I believe that. It’s also said to be 7 pots in one: rice cooker, slow cooker, steamer, yogurt-maker, along with performing several other nifty tricks.
But frankly, it’s the pressure function that interests me most. It cooks beans in a trice. It’s perfect for chicken stock: since the liquid never boils the broth comes out crystal clear. And yes – the Instant Pot does very well by rice and stews.
This would make an extremely thoughtful gift for a new cook, a time-pressed pro – or anyone with a minimal kitchen. The pot plugs into any outlet, making it not just an instant pot, but almost an instant kitchen. (It also comes with a rather mad cookbook offering unusual recipes for dishes like Chinese turnip cakes and white-cooked chicken.)
The list price is about $150, but if you look around you can easily find it discounted to to about half that.
December 15, 2016
Anchovies are a staple in my house. I use them in place of salt in most of my vegetable dishes; when you worry them around in a pan of onions and olive oil, they vanish, leaving behind a whisper of umami flavor. Your guests know the greens taste better, but they couldn’t tell you why.
My favorite pizza is topped with anchovies. I’ll take them out for a quick cocktail snack, setting them atop crackers or deviled eggs.
So anyone who showed up at my house with a jar of really excellent anchovies would be extremely welcome.
These anchovies from Heritage Foods aren’t cheap, but they’re superb. They make every savory thing taste better.
And while we’re on the subject of Heritage Foods, check out their other offerings. At the moment they have a truly awesome array of salume – from great curemasters all over the country. That nduja is really something!
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.