Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gifts for Christmas 2012...Why We Love The Things We Do

Dutch Oven

Once you taste the crust you’ll be convinced that Jim Lahey’s bread is the only one worth slaving over although I don’t consider a bread that rises on your counter overnight a labor at all but you’ll need a Le Creuset dutch oven to bake it.
Yes, it is a pricy investment but like alchemy, it will give rise to a thousand magic meals and look brand new after 30 years. I know – my dutch oven just turned 30 this year and still looks as good as the day I bought it.

I have found it discounted at TJMaxx.

Cast Iron Skillet
Prime Steakhouse in Las Vegas created this recipe for the perfect steak and perfect it is. That’s why a cast iron skillet is the only tool you need to create sizzling meats that come out picture perfect every time.

At Amazon.com...like everything else.

Ice Cream Maker
I discovered great ice cream this past year when I went to San Francisco and indulged in Humphry Slocombe and Bi Rite nearly every day. I came back to recreate these recipes in my own kitchen.
Once you make ice cream from scratch, you’ll never buy it again.

This ice cream maker with 2 bowls came from Williams Sonoma.

Kitchen Aid
Now that I have a Kitchen Aid, I wonder how I ever survived without one.
Honestly, if you are going to splurge and buy one great thing for the chef in your life, this is it.

From Macy's.

The Green Egg
If you are totally into cooking outdoors and have an extra $1000 to spend, a big green egg is the ultimate buy.
I love the fact that the egg can hit temperatures over 600 degrees or you can hold it as low as 200.
Even my favorite BBQ spot – Real Urban BBQ - uses it in their smoking process.


Custom USB Drive
How cool are these pans? I want one!
USB Promos creates the perfect gift for the chef who needs to take all of his kitchen secrets portable.

Good Pots and Pans
I have a mix of Le Creuset and All Clad.
One thing I learned a long time ago is that the best cooking investment you can make is in top-quality cookware.

The surprise gift for your favorite chef can be just about anything from Mexican to Ethiopian to Italian.
I especially love Rick Bayless’s new book “Frontera…Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks. It’s all the basics covered and then some. I’ve already had two parties with rave reviews.
Here are some of my favorites food reads and the reviews from the Christian Science Monitor, another great source of intellectual food news .You can get a digital subscription to the Monitor for only $4.99 a month.

"Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris," by A.J. Liebling

New Yorker writer A.J. Liebing recounts – in a fluid and witty voice – the experiences in Paris that allowed him to dine superbly without overspending.

"Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War," by Annia Ciezadl

Annia Ciezadlo writes movingly of the traditions and rituals of eating inBaghdad, where she moved with her Lebanese husband in 2003, and how a shared pleasure in cooking and eating helps her and the community prevail in the midst of a region torn apart by fighting. 

"An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace," by Tamar Adler

In "An Everlasting Meal," Tamar Adler shows how to make use of every last thing in your kitchen. Scraps become flavoring when you use bones in soups and orange peels can help to zest up marmalade. A pot, water, and flame are seen as the mainstays of any meal

"The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," by Jennifer 8 Lee

Does the fortune cookie actually come from China? Absolutely not. That's just one tidbit Jennifer 8 Lee learns as she travels across the U.S. to discover what most of us already suspected: American Chinese food is not Chinese. But Lee goes on to delve deeper here, exploring the history of Chinese food in the US and its impact on American life and the immigrant experience.

"The Man Who Ate Everything," Jeffrey Steingarten

A food critic for Vogue and a judge on " Iron Chef " , Jeffrey Steingarten knows his food. His humorous accounts of traveling the globe and sampling its array of culinary offerings will entertain even those readers who never set foot in a kitchen.  

 English tarragon and other fresh herbs make a huge difference when you cook.
I swear with my brown thumb, this is an art form worth chasing.

The cutest kitchen finds are at Anthropologie including enough aprons to dress your best friends, your four sisters and the entire neighborhood.

Kitchen Scale
I learned the art of baking this past year and that nothing can match the accuracy of weighing your ingredients.

Tortilla Press
Seriously, if you haven’t made your tortillas from scratch yet, try it. All you need is four ingredients: flour, salt, water and oil and 30 minutes.
Like anything, perfect with Margaritas.


Beautiful jars can be pulled out of antique shops, garage sales or second-hand resale shops.
Fill them with your best homemade food and jams or infused liquors.
My current favorite: Pepper Infued Tequila.

Salt and Pepper
I’ve discovered that if you buy good meat, a little salt and pepper is all it takes to cook it perfect every time.
From Trader Joe’s to Sur La Table, salts and peppers are the perfect stocking stuffer.

Vintage… or Not So Vintage Glasses
Northwest Airlines may be gone, but the memorabilia is hot.
I found these glasses, that were served to frequent flyers in first class section of NW Airlines, at P.O.S.H Chicago, 613 North State Street.
This tiny European store boasts unique finds that leave you thinking you just crawled out of your great grandmother's attic.

Food Art
Nothing makes a cook happier than a picture perfect work of art in the kitchen.
Mine? A cow hangs proudly over my chefs table and reminds me every day that whatever indulgence you need to buy to inspire your cooking is well worth the price tag.

From Z Gallerie.

Liquor is a great gift…especially if it is local.
Few Spirits of Evanston is my local and with gold and silver metals as a measure of quality, you’ll win friends and influence everyone including your parish priest.

Magazine Subscriptions
Food magazines are my rescue. They are my way of connecting with a recipe especially when there is a photo involved. Visuals for me always seal the deal. In fact, if there is not a photo with the recipe, I seldom pay attention.

Here are 5 sources of inspiration and a solid study of what may be your next flawless meal.


When it comes to food and travel, Saveur is it. Magnificent photos will take you on a culinary adventure you simply don’t want to come back from.

Bon Appetit

Engaging menus and absolutely beautiful style. This would be one of my last cancellations.

Food and Wine

Emerging trends and the sophistication behind the food. The best way to keep up with new chefs and up-and-coming trends.

Cooks Illustrated

Nobody has techniques down like Cooks Illustrated. Truly the magazine for serious chefs.

Fine Cooking

A real surprise in every issue and the recipes are simply amazing. When I get a new issue in I am out-of-touch for at least 3 hours.

After a lot of free cooking classes at Williams Sonoma this past year, I’ve become a gadget queen. These three made my life so much easier in the kitchen and are the tools I simply cannot live without!
Microplane® Ultimate Citrus Tool $12.95
Microplane® Herb Mill $19.95
Chef'n Citrus Juicer $19.95

Lucero Meyer Lemon Crushed Olive Oil $20
You can drizzle this on seafood with a mix of honey and it is divine. From Sur La Table.

Fabbri Amarena Cherries in Syrup $10.99

This is so worth the price for the best cherry I’ve ever had. Especially good over homemade ice cream.

From WISMA in Lake Bluff, Libertyville and Chicago's French Market.

Norpro Meat Grinder $25
I have learned this past year that if you want top quality ground meat, you’ve got to do it yourself.
If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, this is a great option. From Target.

Bon Appetit and Happy Holiday Shopping!