I got this book last year and have made multiple dishes out of it. The thing I love most is that there are selections from classic middle eastern literature related to food throughout the book, making it a joy to flip through. I love the Arabian Nights and I recognized a few of the passages from there.
If I had to cut my cookbook library down to 10 books, this is one that would make the cut. I’m moving into a house this week and I’m very excited to have space to make charcuterie again. If the person you are buying for loves charcuterie and likes to cook, get this book.
When we were in SF for a week this summer, we set aside an evening to drink at Smuggler’s Cove. It is worth the hype. This is one of the tiki books you must own. If the person you are buying for is even mildly into tiki, get this book.
If the person you are buying for likes to entertain (or gets invited to lots of gatherings!) get them this book. The cocktails are excellent and are portioned for groups. I’ve also written about Maggie’s other book, The One Bottle Cocktail. I highly recommend it if the person you are buying for has a small bar but likes interesting cocktails.
I read this book this summer after spotting a school of shad in the Hudson while I was out kayaking. While not a cookbook, this does contain a lot of interesting history, culinary and otherwise. Plus an addendum of shad recipes.
I use (or have used) and vouch for everything on this list. Yes, there are a lot of Amazon affiliate links here so I can get some kickbacks, but this guide isn’t a “let’s make money” play. First and foremost, I only recommend good stuff I’ve actually used that I think will make good gifts. I’m gifting some things on this list this year, too. The added benefit of most things being on Amazon is that you’ll get it before Christmas. Some things aren’t on Amazon if I couldn’t find them there.
Everything is under $40. You can pick up multiple items from this list for under $50 in total.
Salt containers are essential in the kitchen. You use salt on almost everything, so you need to keep a lot of it close at hand and access it quickly. This one allows you to keep three different kinds of salt. I keep mine stocked with kosher salt on the bottom, Himalayan in the middle, and smoked on the top. $22 at time of writing.
A pizza peel is not 100% necessary for making pizza at home, but it sure does make the process easier. Great for making bread, too. If your gift receiver doesn’t have a lot of space, no worries. I hang this on a small wall in my kitchen next to the fridge. Stays out of the way and doubles as art. $17 at time of writing. Toss in a bag of semolina to make the oven transfer easier and a stick of good pepperoni for a topping.
For pan frying, sauteing, and roasting, the olive oil you use doesn’t make a huge difference. The big tin you keep under the sink works. When you get it hot enough to smoke, you lose most of the nuance anyway. But for applications where you’ll taste the oil like dipping, topping, salad dressings, etc, you want something that tastes great on its own. This Frankies 457 is one of my go-tos. $36 for 33oz, $20 for 17oz. The This Marcella Hazan cookbook makes a good companion gift.
One Bottle Cocktail is my favorite cocktail book released this year. I’ve already gifted it to three people. Each recipe only takes one spirit and gets most of the flavor from fresh fruit and herbs. Everything we’ve drank from it has been delicious. $17 at time of writing. Pick up a decent bottle of whisky, gin, or vodka to go along with it (aim for the $25 range or ask for help if you don’t know much about liquor.)
Now that the weather is cold, a travel mug is a must. Our favorite in the Grimmett House is this S’well mug. It keeps our coffee hot for a long time, doesn’t drip in our bags, and is easy to clean. Amanda has the white one, I have the grey one. Skip the cutsy illustrations unless you KNOW the person you are buying for will like it. Simple is better. $25 at time of writing.
Balsamic vinegar is another one of those things that doesn’t matter that much when you are cooking with it. But when you are tasting it in a salad dressing, drizzled over a dessert, or drizzled on a caprese salad, you want something that stands on its own. This Vecchia Dispensa 8 year is a great vinegar for that purpose. $25 from Zingerman’s.
The classic French knife maker Opinel makes this cool knife with a corkscrew in it that is perfect for a picnic kit. The knife cuts cheese, charcuterie and fruit, the corkscrew opens the bottle of wine. The blade locks by twisting the silver neck ring. $29 at time of writing. Add a bottle of wine, some charcuterie, or a picnic blanket to complete the ensemble.
Yesplz is a new coffee startup from the folks who brought you Tonx back in the day, which eventually sold to Blue Bottle and became the Blue Bottle At Home service. They are back with a mission to make great subscription coffee afforable again and this time they are focusing on blends. I backed it on Kickstarter and I loved the first two batches I received so far. You can get 2 deliveries for $28, which is more than enough for someone to decide whether or not they want to keep it going. Each delivery comes with an awesome magazine, too. Find a cool mug to go with it, or get the travel mug above.
I store my coffee beans in this Airscape canister. It has two lids: One pushes out all the air and the other covers the top. Gotta keep the coffee as fresh as possible, and putting it in the freezer is a terrible idea. Get your friends this canister instead. $28 at time of writing. You might be able to find it cheaper at your local Container Store, which is where I got mine. Pick up a pound of locally roasted coffee to go with it.
I literally haven’t taken my big blender out of the cabinet in a year and a half. I use this stick blender at least once a week, though. Perfect for soups, making mayonnaise, salad dressings, bulletproof coffee, eggnog, and sauces of all sorts. Everyone needs one of these. It comes with a measuring cup that I use it with 75% of the time. $29 at time of writing.
Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are quickly approaching. Here are some gift ideas for your friends and family who like to spend time in the kitchen.
Note: Many links below are affiliate links. By buying through these links you support this site and my Amazon habit. No one incentived me to post these things here. Every single item is here because I either have it or think it is great. Happy holidays!
Help your friends refresh their cabinet of old, stale spices. I get most of my spices from Penzeys. Great quality and fair prices.
The gift boxes are always great. My regular order usually contains:
Turkish Bay Leaves – Better than anything you’ll buy in the grocery store and a more complex flavor than the California variety.
Cajun – Cajun spices regularly dust the outside of our chicken, pork, and beef before we sear them to add some extra flavor.
Whole Vanilla Beans – Make your own vanilla liqueur, flavor some mid-shelf bourbon, or use them to make some awesome homemade ice cream.
The Food Lab – J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is my favorite food blogger and one of the main inspirations for this blog. He meticulously tests every dish he makes and posts the results for the benefit of us all. I’ve learned so much from this book.
The Art of Simple Food – Alice Waters of Chez Panisse has the best books around for simple, flavorful dishes made with in-season ingredients. Each time I flip through this book I get new ideas. The second edition is great, too!
On Food and Cooking – This is the go-to source for the science of food and cooking. If I want to know what is going on when I ferment sauerkraut, which genus currants belong to, or the proportions and qualities of different kinds of cake batter, this is the book I pick up.
The Belly of Paris – A classic about class struggle and the many tantalizing tastes and smells of 1850s Paris.
Very few people have proper soup spoons. If someone you know regularly eats soup but doesn’t have soup spoons, these will give them a huge quality of life increase. Get some soup bowls to go with them.
For brewing single cups, the Aeropress cannot be beat. I use mine almost every afternoon.
For brewing more than one cup, we turn to the Chemex.
Make sure you get some paper filters or a reusable filter cone. If you like coffee oils in your cup and don’t mind a bit of fine sediment, I think the reusable is the way to go. There are cloth options that filter out oils, but the metal ones last much longer.
Amazon Echo Dot – This may be a tech gift, but its home is in the kitchen. It is a voice-activated assistant. Set timers, ask for measurement conversions, check sports scores while making a gameday snack, or have it order pizza for you when you burn your meatloaf.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet – Perfect for searing meat, frying up potatoes, roasting half a chicken in the oven, or making crispy bar-style pizza. I don’t know where I’d be without my cast iron. I use it more than all my other pans combined. Works on both gas and electric glass-top ranges.