This month Kate Heyhoe lists some of her favorite cooking products of 2005.
by Kate Heyhoe
In my mind, the best holiday gifts come in two categories: Practical tools that work well and will last a long, long time. And ones that give immediate sensory pleasure by tickling the tastebuds or tantalizing the mind. One advantage of the gift items below is that they're classic enough for veteran and new cooks alike, old and young, male or female, families or singles, in urban lofts or country kitchens. Now that's some stress-free shopping!
Gifts as Good as Gold—or Green & Black
Let's start with dessert: My husband thinks Green & Black's Organic Chocolates (greenandblacks.com) may be the world's best, and I'm with him on this one. We've tried the whole line, which is substantial (oh, the taxing demands of research!). Our household motto: Milk chocolate's fine but dark chocolate's divine. All of Green & Black's products are intensely wonderful, especially their Dark 70% and Baking 72% bars, and their flavored dark chocolates. If you're a fan of the dark side, you'll find that even their milk chocolate is richer in cocoa than other brands. Their 3.5 ounce bars include: Maya Gold (dark with orange and warm spices), Raisin & Hazelnut, Caramel, Mint, White Chocolate, Espresso, Almond, and the one that we could live on: Ginger (with 20% crystallized ginger). They also make snazzy little gift boxes with 27 individually wrapped chocolates, in Espresso, Mint, and Maya Gold, and Maya Gold Hot Chocolate. Christmas is a time for sharing the best of everything, and these premium confections are made with extra care every step of the way. You really can taste the difference. Just be sure to buy enough to share.
Upside Down Christmas
Now for a taste of the bounty down under: Brookfarm's (brookfarm.com) award winning macadamia products will win you big points, with everyone from in-laws to bosses, and mates to kids. With so many people on (or needing to be on) special diets, food gifts can be dicey. A seemingly innocent food can be a particular person's health hazard, or if it is healthful, the taste may not be worthy of gift-giving. But these Australian products come to the rescue, and they're environmentally correct to boot. (The Brookfarm's farm itself is an eco-friendly venture, bent on restoring and sustaining the rainforest and wetlands that were damaged prior to the present owners' arrival.)
Brookfarm's Premium Grade Macadamia Oil is fresh, clean, and rivals olive oil on the health scale (some say macadamia is even better for you than olive oil). The delicate sweet, nutty oil won't overpower salad greens, and its high smoking point makes it ideal for stir-fries and sautés. Their Lime and Chile Infused Macadamia Oil is spirited yet light enough to let natural flavors shine through. And my personal favorite, now a permanent resident of my kitchen, is the Lemon Myrtle Infused Macadamia Oil (try it on baby greens and tomatoes, with a splash of banyuls or white balsamic vinegar.) On a crunchy note, Brookfarm's Oven Roasted Macadamia Nuts with sea salt can cause serious addiction, especially the Bush Pepper Spice variety, and their Kashmiri Chilli flavor. Definitely a stocking-stuffer to be devoured and remembered. And for a cheery holiday morning, Macadamia Muesli comes toasted, natural, and gluten-free.
Ready, Set, Roast!
For those who actually cook food (and don't just eat it), the right pan can make cooking a breeze. My old roasting pan did the job fine, in the same way that a cardboard box does a fine job of holding shoes. But I've recently upgraded to two new roasters, each with it's own special attributes. The Anolon Advanced Contoured Roaster comes nonstick, user-friendly, and shaped to fit the contours of most roasts and turkeys. The deep pan conducts heat well, without being so heavy as to require a crane when loading it into the oven. The silicone rubber handles and their placement on the pan fit just right, so no more staggering as I carry the roast from oven to counter.
The KitchenAid roaster also has some choice merits. Besides the table-worthy color options (black, terra cotta, red, or mustard), the pan doubles as a deep baking dish for family-size lasagna, casseroles, or desserts (just remove the rack). Weight-wise, it also is easy on the back, and the porcelain-on-steel surface makes it simple to clean.
Stuffers & Cookstuff
Here's a lovely little stocking stuffer: The Perfect Egg and Other Secrets, civilized and charming reflections by Italian essayist Aldo Buzzi, with whimsical illustrations by his friend Saul Steinberg. This compact, slender tome rides well in a jacket pocket and brings a gentle sense of calm to a weary traveler, commuter, or armchair cook.
For the cookbook inclined, my own Macho Nachos continues to be a favorite at Crate & Barrel, and you can also buy it here (yes, it's a shameless plug). For other tasty ideas, visit our Cookbook Archives and I Love Desserts.
Finally, we wish our readers all the best for 2006. It's time to bring our families home from the war, to share the holidays—and every tasty day with us—in the coming year.
Wishing You Happy Holidays, and a Return to Peace,
Copyright © 2005, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created December 2005 and modified Novemner 2006.
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