So with that said, here is my first list: Top Ten Gifts for the Cook. A word about me - I do not DO kitchen gadgets. My cabinet/drawer space is way more precious than having an avocado slicer that I'll use once a year, if that (a knife works way better anyways!). If you are a cook or know one that you would like to find that special gift for, here it is:
Baking Dishes - Sur La Table
These beautiful white bakers are perfect since they are oven, dishwasher, microwave and freezer safe. Oh and I ONLY have white dishes in my house - they are much more interchangeable with one another and besides, the beauty should be in your food! These bakers are awesome because they come in different sizes of rectangular, oval and square shapes! I would LOVE these by the way...HINT, HINT!!!
The Gourmet Cookbook - Amazon
Don't let the word "gourmet" intimidate you. While the recipes may be "gourmet", they are, more than anything, just plain easy and delicious to prepare. I've cooked MANY times from this cookbook, mainly due to the simplicity of the recipes. And the good thing is, every recipe I've ever tried out has turned out sublime and most that I have tried have been repeated in my kitchen. On a side note: There are NO pictures except for the occasional illustration on how to cut up a chicken or how to make a proper baguette but if you are willing to let go of the pictures, this book is amazing!
Santoku and Paring Knife - Sur La Table
If there were only two knives I could choose from in the world, it would be the Santoku knife and a paring knife. I have an entire set of Henckels knives and while I use my knives more than any other item in my kitchen, I really only use my Santoku knife within my collection. If you have NEVER owned a nice (read: expensive) knife, please do yourself (or your gift recipient) a favor and buy one, just one, expensive knife. People that have hated cooking for years may find cooking enjoyable with this one small splurge. There is something to be said for buying an expensive knife, you won't be replacing it any time soon, possibly even EVER!
Le Creuset Dutch Oven - Williams Sonoma
Holy Cow people....stop what you are doing and browse on over to Williams Sonoma and order one of these. This could be one of the only cookware pieces you would ever need! I cook everything from stews, browning meat, even desserts in this one item. The thing I love about it is its even heating, since it's an enameled cast-iron body, it allows for even heating without sticking....even the sides of the pan are about the same temperature as the bottom of the pan...very important when you want to evenly cook whatever you are cooking! Oh and this can go straight from the cooktop to the oven when you want to finish off the cooking or if you just want to keep something warm.
Kitchen Aid Blender - Williams Sonoma
This is an all-purpose kitchen item that NO kitchen should be without. Some features that I like about this particular blender is the fact that it has a nice sturdy glass pitcher. A lot of the cheaper blenders have a plastic pitcher which can keep smells in (especially when making sauces such as pesto) and can stain easily. Blenders are good for just about everything, you can make drinks, smoothies, sauces, soups and even use it to whip up mayonnaise and whipped cream.
Calphalon Anodized Cookware - Bed Bath & Beyond
I really believe that if you only had two really great sets in a kitchen, it could transform the way you think about cooking. One is a good set of knives (or at least the two knives listed above) and a great set of cookware. I particularly like this set of cookware because its reasonably priced when you take into account for how durable it is. It's pretty heavy which typically means good even heating of the pan and it can go straight from your cooktop to the oven. I've had my set for almost 5 years and it still looks as good and cooks as good as it did when I first opened the box.
Crockpot - Target
Okay, even if you feel that your budget won't allow for the above items, I strongly suggest that you consider a crockpot. You can by a slow cooker for about $29.00 and it will be money well spent! What makes the slow cookers of today way better than years past is that most of them now have a removable stoneware cooking insert that can be lifted out of the heating element and put directly on the table or can be put into the fridge.
Salt Keeper - Crate & Barrel
I'm sure you are wondering why you would need something so specific as a salt keeper. Well I'll tell you why. I cook...A LOT. And I only use kosher salt, never table salt (I don't even have the stuff in my house!) and 99 out of 100 times I need salt while I'm cooking. So I found a little covered dish that I filled to the brim with kosher salt that sits happily next to my cooktop. I don't want to have to keep going back and forth to the pantry every time I want salt (I don't call this lazy, I call it being efficient!). Now every time I want to quickly season meat or need a specified measurement, the salt is right there waiting for me.
Oil Dispenser - Amazon
In addition to my salt keeper, I also have an oil dispenser...actually make that 3 oil dispensers: one for olive oil, one for extra-virgin olive oil and one for vegetable oil. Once again, having these right by my cooktop is extremely handy. I particularly like the clear glass oil dispensers because I love the different colors of the oils. An oil purist would tell you to keep your oil in a dark, cool place like the pantry but I cook enough with my oil that none of it has time to lose its flavor!
Measuring Cups & Spoons - Crate & Barrel
You certainly can't bake without these! If there is one thing I can say about measuring cups & spoons it is this: have multiple sets. I happen to have about 4 sets of both spoons and cups. Also, buy only the cups and spoons that are made from one piece of stainless steel as opposed to the ones that have the cup and handle soldered together. They may be pricier for the one piece but they will last a lot longer.
Okay well that wraps up my Top Ten List! One word of advice when buying nice kitchen items...always hand wash! I never put my knives, cookware, or Le Creuset dutch oven in the dishwasher! I hope you enjoyed this first list...be on the lookout for my next list for photographers!