People assume that I receive every present I suggest in my annual holiday kitchen gift guide. This is one of those seasonal myths, right up there with elves and reindeer.
In fact, my hot line to the North Pole has been giving me a busy signal for the past couple of years, ever since I suggested the $39 stainless steel garlic press as the ideal stocking stuffer. It turns out that Santa is a tightwad who can't believe anyone would spend $39 on a garlic press. Ho-ho-ho.
So here's my 2007 list of food-related items that other people might find under the tree. As always, I've included gifts in a range of prices. Most are widely available either in local stores or on the Internet.
At the top of my list are two cookbooks released this fall. Each is priced under $25; separately or together they would please nearly every foodie or everyday cook on your list. The first is Mollie Katzen's new release "The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without," which adds to her formidable collection, including "Moosewood Cookbook" and "Enchanted Broccoli Forest." Her books are a delightful read, and the recipes are never intentionally complicated.
The second book is Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution," which expounds upon her deliberate approach to cooking, in which color, texture and flavor all figure. Waters' "Chez Panisse" cookbook, named after her Berkeley, Calif., restaurant, is one of my favorites.
A family gift for this holiday season might be the Cuisinart Soft-Serve Ice Cream Maker, which makes sort-serve ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato in 20 minutes. It also has dispensers for sprinkles and other toppings and a chute to mix them in during processing. Although this appliance seems a bit out of season for a winter holiday, it will impress young children.
Perhaps owing to the difficulty of moving ice cream makers in December, the item, which has a list price of $235, is widely available for $99.99 in department stores and through online outlets. The purchase also qualifies for free shipping under Amazon's Super Saver program.
Gifts more obviously appropriate to the season are pieces in the Le Creuset cookware collection. This enameled cast-iron cookware can be given by the individual piece because it's not the sort of thing that most people own an entire set of. It's also colorful - blue, red, orange, brown - which gives it a more festive feel. The best item in the collection, I think, is the oval French oven, which is an oven-to-table piece that comes in at least four sizes. Prices range from about $160 for the 3 1/2-quart oven to $275 for the 9 1/2-quart size.
For the recipients on your list who have embraced sushi, a sushi set may be just the thing. Such packages generally include a small rectangular platter, sauce bowls, rice bowls, chopsticks and chopstick rests. Chefscatalog.com offers a nine-piece sushi-for-two set for $39.99; the four-person version can be had for $69.99. Other versions are widely available elsewhere.
And finally, if you are looking to give an edible gift, you cannot go wrong with cheese. Not only does every serious cook love cheese, but you can tailor the gift to your budget. Bleu cheese, farm cheeses, brie - all of these are options. If you assemble a package of cheese, a cheese board and a knife, maybe with some fancy crackers thrown in, your recipient will recognize the thoughtfulness and personal touch behind the gift.