by Kate Heyhoe
"Kate's Virtual Journey: A Progressive Feast" takes a short detour this week to bring you holiday gift ideas. In December, the series wraps up with trips through the Holy Lands and Europe.
Wondering what to give the adventurous cook in your life? How about a taste of the world? Today's cooks thrill at experimenting with foreign seasonings and flavors, and they welcome opportunities to share their creations with others. With the following holiday ideas, you'll surely be branded as an inventive gift-giver... And a connoisseur of good taste!
Exotic spices and seasonings (various sources)
One of the best gifts I ever received was a hand-selected assortment of exotic spices and seasonings—items not readily available in the average market. With these specialty seasonings I spent months expanding my culinary repertoire. Look for exotic seasonings at ethnic markets, online stores or catalogs like Penzey's Spices. Some suggestions: Aleppo Pepper, Chaat Masala, Whole Cardamom Pods, Sumac, Garam Masala, Ajwain, Black Cumin, Black Salt, Celtic Sea Salt, and Pomegranate Molasses. Quality Saffron and Vanilla Beans are among the most expensive culinary treasures, always welcome in a good cook's pantry. For an unusual stocking-stuffer, pick up a jar of Furikake: a dry, crunchy Japanese condiment made of toasted sesame seed, flakes of toasted nori (seaweed), salt, sugar, and dried shaved bonito (a type of tuna). Sprinkle it on rice, noodles, soups or other dishes. Furikake comes in various blends, from mild to a hot wasabi.
Making Flavored Oils, Vinegars and Spirits
Kit includes: Hardcover recipe book, 6 notecards and envelopes, 36 labels in four designs (Chronicle Books, $18.95)
A personalized vinegar or oil is always a special gift from the heart. This kit-in-a-box helps you create infusions with a bit of class. The illustrated gift cards and matching labels depict sunny, water color images of lemons, berries, chiles, and olives—the same types of flavorings highlighted in the handsome book of 40 recipes. Infused recipes include Caramelized Red Onion Vinegar, Lemongrass Vinegar, Szechuan Oil, Orange Oil, Ginger Vodka, and Strawberry Rum, among others. And if you're short on time, package up the Infusions kit (in an attractive pale blue box), some special bottles and corks, and the vinegar or oil essentials to get your favorite cook started making his or her own custom blends.
Cooking Fearlessly: Cookbook and Sauces
For years, chefs Jeff Blank and Jay Moore have been promising their patrons they'd write a cookbook. Now, they've done it—with one of the most original, inspiring, and attractive cookbooks to grace the table this year: Cooking Fearlessly: Recipes and Other Adventures from Hudson's on the Bend. This book screams out "fun time!" and includes recipes for making their distinctive "finishing sauces": complex, robust flavors to cap off a simple grilled chop, roast or vegetable.
|But they also sell their finishing sauces separately, bottled as Hudson's on the Bend Sauces. For pork tenderloin or grilled chicken, try the Chipotle BBQ Sauce, Guava Sour Cherry Sauce, or Strawberry Raspberry Sauce. The full line of 11 sauces starts at $5.95, or go wild with the $40 gift pack, and sample their recipes at our cookbook profile of Cooking Fearlessly.|
Lidia's Flavors of Italy Sauces
Pasta and sauce never go out of style, but some days even the best cook can't find the time (or fresh ingredients) to make a truly satisfying sauce. Now, acclaimed Italian chef Lidia Bastianich has captured her home-style, restaurant-quality sauces in three flavors: Italian Tomato; Fresh Herb, Garden Vegetable; and Herb, Zesty Onion and Tuscan Pepper. Retailing for $7.99 each, the sauces do exactly what she promises: they taste fresh. Lidia, chef/owner of New York's Felidia, Becco and Frico Bar restaurants, has loaded these high-quality sauces with imported San Marzano tomatoes and chunky vegetables that are as light and refreshing as ones straight from the garden, then blessed them with fresh basil and Colavita olive oil. The days of settling for boring sauces or feeling guilty about resorting to a bottled sauce are over. Look for them in gourmet and specialty food stores. Brava, Lidia!
Meals and Memories:
How to Create Keepsake Cookbooks
By Kathy Steligo, $18.95
Always wanted your Aunt Bessie's homegrown recipes, the ones you grew up eating on holidays and after-school? Writing a cookbook takes work, even a casual one for friends and family, but it can be quite fun and rewarding if you have a plan. Meals and Memories: How to Create Keepsake Cookbooks outlines everything from proper recipe writing to adding illustrations. This book may be just the inspiration Aunt Bessie needs to get crackin'—it's easy to follow, well organized and a handy guide for recording recipes and traditions. And if you give this book to a favorite cook this year, with any luck they'll give you their own personal recipe collection next year.
At Home with America's Top Chefs
Taunton Press, $34.95
Maybe it's because buying (or building) a new house is currently on my mind, but I can't stop flipping through Great Kitchens. You can use this book in two ways: as a gift for a dedicated cook with a hefty remodeling budget, or as a source of gift-giving inspiration for yourself. Check out Tom Douglas' wall of spice tins, floating securely on mounted magnetic knife bars. Or Nora Pouillon's pizza oven, set into the cylindrical chimney of a wood-burning fireplace. Cooks can always use more space, and these famous chefs show us a wide range of innovative methods for tackling everything from bread warmers to bins of beans.
Fun with food...
The Adventure of Food,
Travelers' Tales Food,
The Fearless Diner
If you haven't yet discovered the world of Travelers' Tales, punch up your nearest online bookstore and dive in. These aren't your typical guidebooks—instead, they're guided journeys with attitude—stories of how a single trip or event may have changed a traveler's perspective. In these short story collections by multiple authors, book topics range from complete countries or cities (Thailand, Brazil, San Francisco, etc.) to themed content, such as A Mother's World and the humorous There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled. Cooks and chefs looking for a simpatico voice, authentic experience, or an inspiring armchair escape will eat up their three food-focused books, Travelers's Tales Food, The Fearless Diner, and their latest tome, The Adventure of Food. For a sample journey, dial up http://www.travelerstales.com, complete with excerpts, prices, and title descriptions.
Gifts for Young Chefs...
Cooking with Kids For Dummies brings parents and kids of all ages together into the kitchen, side by side, with 75 recipes, how-to illustrations, everything you need to know about the basics of cooking, and more. (Check out the chapter on creating a Kids Cookware Kit, as a great gift to go along with the book.) For ages 8 and up, Mollie Katzen's colorful new Honest Pretzels gives kids pride-swelling, step-by-step recipes they can easily make themselves. Both books will find yummy places in kid-friendly kitchens for years to come. (Grandparents: these make super gifts for your kids and grandkids alike!)
From all of us...
Happy (and Tasty) Holidays to all!
Kate's Virtual Journey: A Progressive Feast
This page created November 1999
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