So it’s mid-December and if you’re like me, you are still working through your gift list. I was at the East Arlington First Lights celebration last Saturday and found several gift options for the food-obsessed. Maxima Art Center has colorful aprons that caught my eye, and the variety of coffees in Barismo smelled wonderful.
Cookbooks are another great gift option for cooks, and I admit I have my own wish list. First is Eat Good Food from Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, a market I wished existed in Arlington. Run by independent, second-generation grocers, the market focuses on local suppliers and fresh food. The owners have written a book to help home cooks make decisions when grocery shopping. I also would be quite happy to receive the Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, a researched look into the dining options of 1960s New York. And any serious baker should have Flour from local chef Joanne Chang. Every recipe I’ve tried — and I’ve tried a lot of them — produces great results.
I also cook a fair amount of my gifts. For the second year in a row, I have devoted time to canning jams. The investment always results in a big payoff — a few hours devoted to making tomato-ginger chutney this week produced 30 jars. I plan to write a later post to convince any holdouts to jump on the canning bandwagon.
Spoiler Alert: this year I’m also giving away Truffles au Cocolat, inspired by Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet. I often like to test run cookbooks, and I found Bittersweet in the great collection at the Robbins Library. These truffles have an intense chocolate flavor because, unlike most other truffles, the recipe does not include cream. While truffle making can be messy, (see the photographic evidence), this recipe is simple. Picking the chocolate brand here is important since the flavor is so strong. For my maiden batch I used Merckens chocolate from King Arthur Flour, which has received the thumbs up in my house.
Continuing on the chocolate theme, I have made some Hanukah gelt, the chocolate currency of choice when playing dreidel games. Craftier people than me can make felt pouches to hold the gelt, but I focus on the food. I adapted a Chocolate Kiss recipe from Fanny at Chez Panisse, a kids’ cookbook written by Alice Waters and her daughter. It’s a fun recipe to do with kids, and the results are much tastier than any store bought coins.
There also is a multitude of ways to give food gifts to those in need. Consider making a donation to the Arlington Food Pantry, or purchasing “No Kid Hungry” Gift Tags from Share our Strength, a national anti-hunger organization. And this Saturday from 10-3, you can stop by the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts Bake Sale and pick up a chef-made confection to benefit Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a local food recovery organization.
Happy gift making and giving!
Homemade Hanukah Gelt
- Melt 4 ounces finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate and 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter. This can be done in a double boiler, or…wait for it…in a bowl in the microwave. If using the microwave, melt in 10-20 second intervals so the chocolate doesn’t burn. Take the bowl out each time and stir until no lumps remain.
- When melted, spoon chocolate mixture into a sandwich bag. Cut a small tip off the corner, and pipe the chocolate into 1 inch discs onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If using any decoration (I went with blue sprinkles this year), apply while still warm.
- Put in the fridge to cool for about 1 hour, then wrap with foil wrappers (which you can find at Paper & More).