Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

Gifts for the Foodies on Your List

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  James Beard

A few months ago, I thought it would be fun to write a series of posts, during the holidays, with some suggestions for gifts/stocking stuffers for the foodies on your list {including yourself of course!}.  Well, it comes as no surprise to me that the train has left the station and I am late {yet again} in bringing this idea to fruition.  For example, I make fruitcake every year for my mom and aunt.  The recipe states that the cakes should be made around Thanksgiving so that they will be boozy, ripe and ready to eat by Christmas.  I was thinking about said fruitcakes around Thanksgiving, had all the ingredients out in plain sight, but the fruitcake ingredients have not yet turned into fruitcakes.  After I go swimming this morning, the afternoon’s project will be fruitcake . . . . . after lunch, of course.  As far as gift ideas for my readers, consider them gift ideas for any time of the year.  I certainly don’t need a holiday to buy myself something special for my kitchen!

But first, a friend mentioned that my most recent post listed all the ingredients for Date Walnut Cinnamon Bread by weight, specifically in grams.  Sorry about that!  I just updated the post to include measurements by volume, so now you can run to your kitchen and bake this scrumptious {and easy} bread.

And now, on to the gifts. . .

Holiday Gifts

1} Digital Scale– I have cooked without a scale for many more years than I have cooked with a scale, but now I cannot imagine not having one.  A scale offers ease and accuracy in cooking, and baking in particular.  It seems logical to think that if you measure 3 cups of flour, they will all be identical; no, they probably won’t be identical, and could be off by an amount significant to whatever you are preparing.  Professional bakers measure ingredients by weight to be precise and accurate, and to ensure consistent results.  In addition to being more accurate, measuring ingredients by weight is faster, and there aren’t lots of measuring cups to wash.  Cooks Illustrated likes this one {www.cooksillustrated.com}: OXO Food Scale model # 1130800.

2} Penzeys gift certificate or collection or herbs/spices- I love Penzeys!  They have an extensive catalog of herbs, spices and delicious blends.  Penzeys offers friendly, quick service and their products are high quality. Some of my favorite Penzeys’ products are:  Penzeys Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon {make this into cinnamon sugar to top your Date Walnut Cinnamon Bread}, Shallot Pepper, Sunny Paris Seasoning {yummy on popcorn!}, French Grey Salt and Dried Jalapenos {better than red pepper flakes on pizza and spaghetti!}.

3} Silicone Spatulas– Cooks Illustrated likes this one and this one.  The beauty of cooking with a silicone spatula is that they withstand very high temperatures, so your food is not laced with melted plastic.

4} Salt– A selection of different salts is tasty and fun.

  • Kosher salt– Use kosher salt for cooking & baking.  It is easy to find at most grocery stores.  Many cooks have a little bowl of kosher salt by the stove because it is easy to pick up a “pinch of salt” with your fingers.  It dissolves into food quickly so you can add it and taste for seasoning without waiting.
  • Fleur de Sel {salt}- After reading David Lebovitz’s blog post about his favorite fleur de sel {means “flower of salt” in French}, I got on line with Amazon straight away & bought some.  It is delicious!  Lest you think that if you’ve tasted one salt you’ve tasted them all, be assured that there is a distinct difference between salts.  Fleur de sel is not a cooking salt, but a finishing salt that you might sprinkle on a salad, steak, vegetables, or perhaps mix with some unsalted butter for a delectable spread for some warm yeasty bread.
  • Maldon Salt– Maldon salt is another finishing salt, and is great on Mocha Truffle Cookies and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I have also made herb butter with Maldon salt, which makes a delicious herby, buttery spread with a few crunchy flakes of salt here and there; fantastic on a great piece of bread!

6} Salt Grinder– My mom & dad gave us salt and pepper grinders for Christmas one year, many moons ago, and we wouldn’t think of using sprinkle salt and pepper.  The taste of freshly ground salt and pepper is far superior to table salt and pepper that has been pre-ground so that it becomes a rather tasteless black dust after a while.  Once you get used to freshly ground salt, or one of the other specialty salts, iodized table salt will taste harsh and medicinal, and you will wonder why you ever put it in your food.  The salt grinder that we have used for quite a few years now is a Unicorn.  It has no metal parts to corrode, which can be a hazard of salt grinders.  It works well and is easy to fill.

7} Books

  • Vegetable Literacy {Deborah Madison}-This is my latest purchase from my favorite cookbook author.  Her recipes are delicious, uncomplicated and well-written.  In my opinion, if you love good food, you cannot go wrong with a book by Deborah Madison.
  • The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs {Karen Page, Andrew Domenburg}- This excellent reference book gives cooks ideas on what flavors work well together.  What acid works best with arugula?  What are the best herbs to use to jazz up your polenta?  What flavors work well with the chanterelle mushrooms you just bought {lucky you!!}?  The Flavor Bible has these answers and more.  The book is arranged by categories such as season, cuisine, ingredients, flavorings, tastes {i.e. sour, bitter, etc.}, oils, peppers, salts and more. There are no recipes in the book, but limitless ideas for making food the best it can be.
  • A Homemade Life {Molly Wizenberg}- I bought this book to take on a trip to visit my family on Oahu, when we were still living in Washington State.  Once I started reading, I could not put this book down.  I read Molly’s stories and recipes all the way across the Pacific Ocean.  Molly is a wonderful writer; you can also check out her blog Orangette, which I love.
  • My Berlin Kitchen {Luisa Weiss} – I just bought this at Costco and am almost finished with it.  Luisa is the author of The Wednesday Chef, another of my favorite food blogs.  Her book is a lovely read, a very personal memoir with recipes.

Happy holidays & bon appetit!

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