With the national economy (still) in the dumps, so many folks are aiming for a less-commercial holiday this year. In that spirit, I offer a few culinary gift ideas for your nearest & dearest, or for your distant-but-relateds.
- For a cook new to the kitchen: a gift of the most essential kitchen tool. A Forschner chef’s knife from Loubat restaurant supply ($25-30), along with a 3-lb bag of onions for cutting/chopping practice (a recipe for onion soup is also a nice touch). Need a little something extra? Throw in a used copy of Jacques Pepin’s La Technique (around $25 or less), which has full-color photographs illustrating proper knife skills.
- For the foodie with everything: a vinagrette kit. A bottle of Steen’s cane vinegar ($5.50, many local food stores), along with a jar of dry mustard, some herbs de provence, and three or four handwritten vinagrette recipes. A glass cruet and bottle of extra virgin olive oil can round it out, if you’re feeling expansive.
- For busy parents or college students: kitchen relief. Homemade, cooked food, packaged/frozen/labeled in 4-serving containers. Red beans, chili, bolognese sauce, meat loaf or meatballs: all are good candidates. Make a checklist of the contents to hang on the recipients’ refrigerator, which allows them to see, at a glance, the dinnertime possibilities. Depending on the culinary skills of the recipients, you might even list suggested accompaniments to each entree.
- For adventurous eaters: new horizons to explore. An ethnic cookbook (try used, it’s greener) from an unfamiliar culture, packaged with dry spices appropriate for the cuisine. A Vietnamese cookbook like Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen or Mai Pham’s Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, paired with a bottle of fish sauce, some star anise, a package of rice papers, and a bundle of dried rice noodles will give the intrepid cook something to explore during Christmas break.