Perhaps I should have done this before the gift-giving holidays ended. But in my family, we prefer belated gifts, shopping together, and making exchanges.
Yesterday, I picked out my very first garlic press, as part of my Christmas present, and began experimenting with some of the other fun foodie gifts accumulating in the kitchen.
Here are some of my highlights for 2012 – and whether you’re still picking up last minute presents, or getting an extraordinary head start on next year, these nifty little tools and treats are fantastic ways to spread some delicious holiday joy.
After years of mincing garlic by hand, I’m so pleased to finally have my own garlic press. This version, from Stonewall Kitchen, rotates fully, to press out the remaining pulp and peels. Using a garlic press greatly expedites the processes of preparing the cloves, and extracts extra flavor. Dishwasher safe, and all one piece, this is a great model for the everyday kitchen cook.
Sure, I have a reputation for cooking with Pam or calorie-free spray butter. But there are just some recipes you can’t fake your way through. And every cook should have at least one bottle of extremely fine olive oil. My personal favorite is the Special Edition Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Goya. If you don’t know someone who works for Goya, you need to seek this product out in specialty food stores. This limited edition product, made from Andalusian olives, imparts rich, almost peppery flavor, and will please even your most finicky foodie friend (or father).
For Christmas this year, my mother bought me an annual subscription to Vegetarian Times. Full of healthy, inventive recipes and informative food features, this has long been one of my favorite magazines. Surprise your vegetarian friends with a subscription to this magazine, or one of the other standouts. I love Gastronomica for a deep, intellectual look at individual ingredients. Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine are titans in the food magazine pantheon. Northeast Flavor or Edible (Queens, Brookyn, Boston) are fantastic magazines for the regional food lover. Share a love for food and support the beautiful, print publications we all adore.
My father’s gift to himself this year was a hands-free mixer from Chef Buddy. Battery operated, and the epitome of convenience cooking, this nifty little device is perfect for preparing gravys, sauces, and other components that require tedious mixing. Simply set the mixer to the appropriate speed and you’re free to press garlic, heat up some oil, or flip through the latest issue of Vegetarian Times.
As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been sporting a brand new apron. An extremely thoughtful gift from cousin, this custom apron is screenprinted with some of the best bites from Little Word Bites – with the very first mini toast at the center. I wore this apron, complete with three front pockets, around all through Christmas evening. It held my cellphone, a pack of gum – all the necessities I need to get through an overindulgent holiday. Of course, I took it off right before dinner – and managed to get food in the lap of my festive green dress.
If none of these gifts tickle your fancy, here are some of my other favorites from the season:
Cookbooks, Gadgets and Other Food for Thought
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Jonathan Lovekin
Barnes & Noble, $22.30
After dining at Nopi this summer, from Ottolenghi’s team, I fell in love with the bold, culturally diverse plates. With 120 vegetarian recipes, born out of a love for fresh-grown ingredients, rather than a fear or disdain for the meat industry, this passionate and beautifully photographed book is a necessity on any foodie’s bookshelf.
Pecan Pumpkin Butter
Every year, I look forward to the return of this delicious, spiced spread. With only four ingredients – pumpkin, sugar, lemon juice, and pecans, spiced with traditional notes of nutmeg and cloves, this spread is the perfect topping for breads and muffins. I love dropping a tablespoon into vanilla yogurt – the crunch from the ground pecans is the perfect component to a seasonal parfait, with dried cranberries and fresh diced pears. With only 30 calories in a tablespoon, this is a wonderfully sinless treat.
Coconut Cocoa Cuppa Chocolate Tea Bags
The Republic of Tea, $9.50
When the weather is cold and wintry, like it is outside tonight, nothing warms you up like a cup of hot chocolate. Unfortunately, this holiday treat is usually packed with sugar – and calories. A cup can pack as many as 200 calories – and that’s before piling on the marshmallows. Fortunately, my absolutely favorite tea company has come up with Coconut Cocoa Tea. With just a splash of non-fat creamer, this rich, sweet tea is just as satisfying as a cup of Swiss Miss. With less than 5 calories in a serving, and all the nutritional benefits from cocoa and carob, this cup of tea is sure to warm up a winter night.
RSVP Herb Scissors
Chef Tools, $10.95
After working away at a pile of rosemary this Christmas, I wished I had a pair of these shears lying around the kitchen. Get consistently-chopped herbs in a fifth of the time with the five-blade herb scissors. Stop slaving away at the cutting board and have more time to pour yourself a glass of much-deserved spiced wine.
Olive Stem Turish Coffee Pot
I racked up my share of Anthropologie gift cards this Christmas – but if I hadn’t, this would still be the gift I’d splurge on. After dining with my friend Sirma at a Middle Eastern cafe, and reading the grinds from our Turkish coffee, I’ve been craving the extra rich brew. These beautiful stoneware pieces are designed for brewing the frothy coffee directly on the stove – and the olive stem encourages the dumping of the grinds onto the saucer for after-dinner fortune telling.
These are just a few of my foodie favorites from the year. What new kitchen tool did you get for Christmas, or what was your favorite cookbook read?
Until tomorrow, when I wrap up this holiday season at Little Word Bites.