They spin, they chop, they mince, they bake. Practical holiday gifts for the modern kitchen
Gifts for the kitchen are a well-established Christmas tradition in the United States. They are especially welcome if you include a favorite recipe for holiday entertaining to use with the gift, and perhaps even a sample of the food.
If, for instance, you are giving an ice cream maker (one of the season's major gift categories), you might send either a jar of preserved stem ginger or a box of crystallized ginger to use with a fresh pear sorbet recipe or a frozen yogurt variation.
If you are giving either a full-featured food processor or a smaller version called a chopper-mincer, the recipe possibilities are almost infinite:
An old-fashioned labor-intensive pimento cheese ball takes a few minutes, instead of the usual half an hour or longer.
Casseroles and other main dishes using finely chopped vegetables and herbs are easier and faster for cooks to prepare.
You can pur'ee the pears for the sorbet in a processor and use the same appliance to chop the nuts for a variety of Christmas cookies.
Among chopper-mincers, Black & Decker's Handy/Chopper is an especially compact model. Only 4 inches wide by 4 half inches high and 6 inches deep, it has a 30-watt motor that does an excellent job of processing raw and cooked ingredients.
If a chopper-mincer is on your shopping list, first find out if the intended recipient already has an Oster blender or kitchen center. This manufacturer now makes a one-cup-capacity food processor bowl with steel chopping blade to fit its blender and kitchen center bases.
And Sunbeam has added a kidney-shaped bowl with storage lid and a new disk as optional accessories for its original Oskar Food Processor. The disk makes slices and shreds about twice as thick as the original disk with the full-featured model. Both are included with the new Oskar Deluxe Food Processor, or may be ordered individually by mail through retailers or the manufacturer.
Instead of an ice cream maker with a sorbet recipe, you might choose to give a blender or a hand-operated food mill. Either one of them works fine for pur'eeing pears.
For college students, recreational vehicle owners, and anyone for whom a cordless appliance is convenient, consider Black & Decker's Handy/Blender. One 24-hour charge of the blender base lasts an estimated six months under normal use.
The single speed 1-quart unit chops, liquefies, pur'ees, aerates frozen juice concentrate, and even chops ice, if you have a need for that.
Microwave ovens, an increasingly popular gift, now range in price from well under $100 to more than $500. The latest subcompact multifunctional models are about the size of a large toaster oven. Unlike older models, they will toast and bake or roast conventionally, as well as cook with microwaves.
They are ideal for college students, small households, small kitchens, recreational vehicles, second homes, people who eat a lot of frozen, prepared foods, or reheat scratch-cooked meals, and for older people, who find them easier, safer, and cheaper to use than a full-size range oven or wall oven.
Manufacturers' suggested prices are about $200 or more at this writing, but they are apt to drop in Christmas sales, and as competing brands enter the market.
Microwave cookware choices are almost infinite. Single-serving-size pieces with recipes to match make good gifts not just for small households, but also for families whose members don't always have time to eat their meals together.
Multipurpose pieces can often go directly from freezer to rangetop or oven (conventional and microwave), which saves on cleanup time. Universally practical shapes are round or oval, which are preferred for microwave cookery and equally useful for more familiar cooking methods.
For outdoor cooks, you might consider a rib and potato rack that can be used indoors on a cookie sheet or sheet cake pan in the oven when it's too cold or too wet to cook on an outdoor grill.
With it, include the recipe for your favorite barbecue sauce along with a jar of it. Remember to add storage directions if it requires refrigeration or if it freezes well.
The 121/2-by-71/2-inch grill is 33/4 inches high and is designed to hold ribs, chops, or chicken pieces vertically to promote self-basting. Skewers on two sides hold baking potatoes or corn on the cob.
Here's a sample of holiday recipes you can give with a food processor:
Pear Sorbet With Ginger 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped preserved stem ginger or crystallized ginger* 1 1/2 to 2 pounds well-chilled, fully ripe and fragrant pears (preferably Comice or Bartlett) 1 tablespoon of either ascorbic acid mixture or fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
With a chopper/mincer, a small food processor, or a knife, finely chop the ginger and set it aside.
Peel, core, and stem the pears and pur'ee in a food mill, a food processor, or a blender with the ascorbic acid mixture or lemon juice (to prevent darkening).
Mix in the ginger, pour into the ice cream freezer, and follow manufacturer's directions for freezing.
Makes about 1 pint.
Note: One cup of plain yogurt may be substituted for half the pear pur'ee.
If you do so, omit the ascorbic acid mixture or lemon juice, and increase ginger and sugar to taste. It may not be necessary to double the ginger.
*Preserved stem ginger in syrup is sold in Oriental and specialty food shops and the fancy food departments of some department stores and supermarkets. Crystallized ginger is often sold in candy stores as well as other food stores.
Pimento Cheese Ball 2 ounces (1/2 cup) shelled pecans 12 ounces extra sharp cheddar, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/2 cup (6-ounce jar or can) pimentos - reserve the liquid 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature 3 to 4 drops Louisiana-style hot pepper sauce (optional) 2 ounces (1/2 cup) shelled pecans
In a food processor, chop pecans medium fine, using on/off turns. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
With a dry towel (paper or cloth) wipe out the processor bowl and the steel blade.
Place half the cheese cubes in the bowl with liquid drained from the pimentos and the softened butter. Process about 1 minute.
With the motor running, drop remaining cheese through the feed tube and continue processing until mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
Stop the processor, remove lid, add the red pepper sauce (if using), and distribute the pimentos evenly over the surface.
Cover and process briefly with on/off turns only. Pieces of pimento should remain visible.
Pack mixture into a small bowl; use a rubber spatula if necessary to work the pimento evenly throughout the mixture.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to shape into a ball or roll, whichever you prefer.
While it is chilling, finely chop the pecans with a knife or in a food processor. Coat the ball or roll evenly with the nuts, wrap in plastic, and keep refrigerated.
Let stand about 30 minutes at room temperature before serving with crackers or French or Italian bread.
Note: Prepare in two batches or more if using a small or less powerful processor.