I don’t know about you, but at any given point in time, there will be a few things in my kitchen that I can’t live without. Some come and go, but there are a few that I will never give up. If you’re scratching your head over what to buy the food-lover in your life this holiday season, here are a few of my favorites.
1. Le Creuset Casserole Dishes
When my dad bought me my first Le Creuset casserole dish (or Dutch Oven as it’s called in the U.S.), back in the early 1990s, I was over the moon. It was way beyond the limits of my meager paycheck, and I knew it would be years before I could afford to buy one for myself. It was/is white, oval, large, and multi-talented. It’s probably 25 years old, and I hope it will last my lifetime.
Le Creuset dishes hold in moisture for pot roasts, maintain heat long after you remove the dish from the oven, and are good-looking enough to go from stove to table. What’s more they will never go out of vogue. Williams Sonoma has a special price – down to $360 from $500 (I warned you it wasn’t cheap).
2. Anova Sous-Vide
2017 has been the year of experimenting with “sous-vide” or precision cooking for me. Think of cooking your food (protein like beef, chicken, fish or eggs) or custards (pot de creme, puddings) in a water bath where the heat is maintained at a precise temperature throughout. The result is a perfectly, consistently cooked end-product.
Having tried the Joule (appalling customer service and the unit splashes water all the time) and the Anova Precision Cooker, the latter is by far my favorite with two versions currently priced at $99 and $149.
The Anova has easy-to-use controls on the device itself, as well as via a phone app. It’s really quiet and never splashes. It seems much more robust and hard-wearing that the prettier, more expensive Joule ($199). I will say that the Joule app has some great, well-shot recipes, but you can easily use its app with your Anova.
3. Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking – Cookbook
This year I have been luckily enough to learn a little bit about Israeli cooking – a style of food I just love to eat for its freshness, vibrant flavors and Mediterranean-ness. The book – Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking is a wonderful guide on making authentic Israeli food at home. Written by James Beard 2017 Chef, Mike Solomonov, co-founder of the Philly restaurant Zahav, I’m warning you, once you make the hummus, tahina sauce and pita bread from this book (my efforts photographed above), you will never go back to store-bought. You can buy the book here.
4. Maldon Salt Flakes – Stocking Stuffer
I’ve always been a lover of salt, and nevermore so than after attending the wonderful Samin Nosrat’s salt cooking class a few years ago. I learned that delicious sea salts, like the British Maldon salt—a flaky, light and frankly beautiful salt crystal—should be used sparingly as finishing salts. Mostly because of their price. A box of the classic Malden salt (from $6.99) or the smoked variety, make for a great stocking stuffer. I’ve been using Amazon of late to buy my specialty foods. You can find Malden salt flakes here. And be sure to check out Samin’s wonderful book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.
5. Dinner at SingleThread, Healdsburg
The new kid on the block in the North Bay is SingleThread, which opened in Healdsburg just a year ago. It has already managed to get itself two Michelin stars and is the perfect dining experience for anyone who needs to be visually stimulated. Warning: it’s not cheap at $300/head, so this could be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime- type of gift.
I’ve eaten there in winter and summer and both were amazing. The benefit of visiting during the warmer months is that your evening starts with appetizers and drinks on the roof surrounded by wonderful herbs and other plants.
Hope this list is helpful – in case you’re counting, yes, there are technically six ideas on this list with Samin’s wonderful book. Happy holidays!