Friday, December 09, 2011

Kitchen Gifts

Okay, so this is gifts for the kitchen, as opposed to gifts from it--and the idea here is to 1) get perfect gifts for people who love to cook, 2) get perfect gifts for people who don't love to cook but share a kitchen with you, who does, or 3) leave this list accidentally taped to the bathroom mirror.

The big-ticketest item I'm going to mention is this: a Nutrimill grain grinder. 

I am the big, big grinder! I live in the basement and crave daylight.
This falls into the category of "major lifestyle purchase": it's expensive, it takes up a lot of space, and when you use it, clouds of finely milled flour float around your kitchen dustily. Sold? No? Well, it's if what you're doing is committing to baking your own whole-grain bread, and you want some motivation for it.
Then you get to buy whole spelt at the store! And you can smile beatifically when you notice someone noticing it in your cart. "What, this old spelt? I'm just milling my own flour, is all."

But don't argue with the loaf, because it is a beautiful thing.
Freshly milled whole-grain flour is so fragrant and gorgeous that you cannot make something bad from it. You can make something that doesn't rise appropriately, but it will still be delicious. It's kind of like grinding coffee at home: you feel connected to the process, excited, and invested in the outcome. In the long run, you will still spend less money than you would if you bought bread from a store. And in the short run, you will have fun making your own flour from grain you buy either in bulk from a place like Whole Foods, or locally, if anyone nearby is growing grain. (We actually have a grain CSA near us! I know. Local kamut. Enough said.)

Now, that said, if you have a Kitchen-Aid, I would recommend the Kitchen-Aid grain-mill attachment, which cannot produce flour as fine as the Nutrimill, but which is more economical an investment, and also smaller. I really, really like it, and if I'm not grinding tons of flour, it's still my go-to grinder. I've had this one for a while, and it is a friend to me.

If those seem like kind of severe, Russian-work-camp gifts--and they're not--you might consider a seltzer maker. This one. We do, like good Jews everywhere, drink tons of seltzer, and this gadget has revolutionized our beverage consumption. Plus, and you knew I would say this, even with the cost of the cartridges, it costs a third of what store-bought seltzer costs. I'm just saying. Superfun to use, and you can even get flavors and syrups to go in it.

Ben is the house bartender, when it comes to making seltzer. If you are sick, he will make you cola to settle your stomach, and if you come for dinner and don't want to drink alcohol, he will make you a beautiful fizzy something while the grown-ups are busy trying to figure out if you're mentally insane or pregnant or what.
I would guess that making seltzer is one of his top-ten home activities.

Next up: pasta roller. We use ours for pasta and also for crackers. Older children can be taught to use it, and then you can leave them with a blob of pasta dough (eggs and flour, that's all it is), and you will come back a half an our later to skeins and skeins of fresh, tender noodles. Russian work camp and fun! Yay! The one you see here I have been using for over twenty years. It is as well-made as any tool I own, and it cuts two widths of noodles.

Finally, a stocking stuffer: the perfect rubber spatula. It is beautiful. It is heat-proof. And it is one piece. 

If the "one piece" detail doesn't move you, then you have not shared our typical spatula experience.
It's a good thing I have never accidentally baked the head of this spatula into a sour-cream bundt cake.

Two last things: a subscription to ChopChop, the cooking magazine for kids that I do a lot of work with, makes a fantastic gift for families or children who like to cook, and it's a non-profit with a healthy-kids mission, so you can feel good about supporting it. Plus, sometimes Birdy and Ben are in it!

And a reader recommended the recipe-studded cooking memoir An Everlasting Meal to me, and I am halfway through and loving it. Tamar Adler the kind of bossy I love, with lots of unfussy opinions about food and feeding people that really speak to me, including her imperative that you put lots of parsley in everything and that, when in doubt, eggs. I am also intrigued by her suggestion that you cook all the vegetables you have at once, and then keep them in the fridge to eat and add to dishes you're cooking throughout the week. I will report back. (Thanks again, Janet Lee!)

Enjoy your weekend.



  1. I so hear you on the one piece spatula business!

    And that book? I downloaded the Kindle sample last night and I was drooling in bed. I'm buying it for myself and putting it under the tree for me from Santa. :)

  2. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Ooh -- we often grill or roast a TON of vegetables, and then eat them all week. Over pasta, in omelets, etc. SOO yummy, and an easy way to get your vegetables.

  3. I want your cat. That is all.

  4. Robin2:50 PM

    How is it that I love you so, because the thought of getting a grain grinder for Christmas is so completely NOT what I want? I don't even make my BED, let alone my own BREAD. And yet I will read anything you write, including the ingredient lists for your recipes, because I hate to miss a lovely, funny word.

  5. I'm running home to bury my husband's loaf of Wonder Bread in the backyard. Seriously. I didn't know at-home grain-grinding was even possible!

  6. That picture of Ben and the broken spatula is priceless. I inherited the Kitchen Aid Grain Mill attachment (as well as the meat grinding attachment) from my late father in law. I should look into getting the grain. That would be good to use said attachment instead of letting it sit in the cabinet. Ditto pasta maker. I don't know when my father in law had the time to use the cool gadgets and he died just plain too young. Today is Stollen day around here. Happy Weekend!

  7. Anonymous4:48 PM

    I have the Kitchen Aid attachment and the Nutrimill. The Nutrimill works much better and faster. Totally worth the investment.

  8. Erin K.6:13 PM

    Love the kitchen gifts! I am interested in the grain grinding, but seeing as how I've just become obsessed with making my own cold-process soap, it will have to wait a bit as I can only focus on mastering one hippy/old-timey skill at a time.

    I did want to ask if you would be able to recommend any really great (picture)books on the Christmas story - you know with the manger and everything - I'm looking for something sweet and thoughtful to read with my 7&5 year olds.

  9. The other day I said no to a glass of wine and my mother gasped "Oh GOD, are you pregnant?". Maybe I just wanted seltzer, jeez louise.

  10. Hee. My give-away drink is coffee...if I refuse something is up! I have always wanted to make my own pasta, can you store it or do you need to eat it right away?

  11. miryboo2:26 PM

    Thank you for posting this! One day when my wee one starts sleeping through the night (hahahaha) I'll get back into the kitchen and conjure up non-lame dinners.

  12. Anonymous6:26 PM

    I bought the Whirley popcorn popper thing and I can't wait for it to arrive! Thanks for the links!

  13. I make loads of pasta using a hand cranked pasta roller - I lay it out on cookie sheets and freeze it, then gently pack into plastic containers and keep in the freezer, you don't have to worry about getting it totally dry, and it would last a long long time in the freezer - if it wasn't so delicious! Amen on the 1 piece spatula!

  14. Kimberly12:44 PM

    Its not like you asked me or anything, but Eric we love "Mortimer the Christmas Mouse" which is a sideways and adorable approach to the nativity story, great pictures, and then "Festus and Mercury" which isn't at all about nativity but how people make the holiday, with a million little laughs at the tiny illustrations (moose on skis, bird washing floor) within the big ones. Enjoy!

  15. I have bread envy. How do you get that nice crunchy brown crust with the floury outside part?

  16. Somebody help Catherine! She's trapped under a bizarrely huge cat with a "don't fuck with me" stare!

    p.s. Ben's "What's with the spatula?" face makes me love him even more. Not in a creepy stalker way. Just in an admiring your cool kid from afar way.