Christmas gift ideas

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 everythinga 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.

4 thoughts on “Christmas gift ideas

  1. Hi Celeste, I came to your blog from egullet. A post from late 2005 mentions satsuma wine and a quick recipe. Is there any way Ican get the full specs on that recipe. My boss is bringing bags of satsumas in every day and they’re going bad!!

    Thanks! Kelly

    • If you really want to make drinkable wine, a simple recipe won’t do. Get a copy of Dominic Rivard’s “The Ultimate Fruit Winemaker’s Guide,” which will teach you more than you ever dreamed about fruit wine.

      Other ideas besides wine:
      –juice ’em and drink it in the AM in lieu of Tropicana
      –order a vinegar mother (starter), and turn your surplus juices into fruit vinegar
      –mix juice with simple syrup for cocktails, brushing on layer cakes or other sweet glazes
      –stick satsumas with whole cloves (use a darning needle to make the holes) and dry in a cool place for a couple of weeks. Three or four make a nice holiday centerpiece.
      –try donating some to a nearby school or nonprofit…I’d imagine that the New Orleans Mission or Ozanam would be happy to have your surplus fruit.

      Finally, when all else fails and the fruit is overripe, you can scatter surplus oranges in any patch of nearby woods. Possums, raccoons and other critters will eat the oranges.

        • Thanks for th tip on the “ratafias” section of the Creole Cook Book. In my 1987 edition, the multi-page directions/explanation begin on page 492. The instructions call for three parts filtered fruit juice, a quart of french cognac, three pounds white sugar, three pints of water, and cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla, mixed together, bottled, and rested for at least 6 months.

          RE: sourdoughs, according to Reinhart & his army of recipe testers, pineapple juice works best. Canned pineapple juice contains supplemental ascorbic acid (vitamin C)…you could try lemon juice or orange juice. Beaucoup sourdough starter methods exist–some use potato-boiling water, grape skins, plums, buttermilk, etc. But pineapple juice (or other acidic liquid with sugar) are the only ones to inhibit the bad bacteria.

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