For my annual holiday “gifts from the hearth,” I’ve come up with something old, something new, something borrowed — even something blue!
Jon Ashton, a charismatic British chef I met at a recent seminar, is the inspiration for the must-try recipe here for Orange Glazed Pecans. These delicious nibbles are amazingly easy and fast to make, and would make a simple salad more appealing. You can make six gift portions in less than half an hour — and 22 minutes of that is baking time. The orange marmalade gives the pecans a sweet overtone and a bit of bitterness, while cayenne provides a hit of heat.
Ashton did not give a recipe (nor does the website of Smucker’s, for which he developed it), so I’m offering my interpretation. You can personalize this by using other flavors of marmalade or jam or different spices. Don’t be afraid to be liberal with the cayenne. For my first batch I used a fiery ground chipotle, and a teaspoon was not enough punch.
For easy gift packaging I used Martha Stewart’s Frosty Elegance icicle treat cones, which give the nuts the flair of a European sweets shop. (Available in craft and kitchen stores, $7.69 for six cones with cellophane bags, tags and ribbon.)
Here’s a gift idea from Simi Winery: Make a conserve, relish or chutney with a favorite wine, and pair a jar of it with a bottle of that wine. Executive chef Kolin Vazzoler supplied the recipe here for his riesling compote.
No time to cook? You can buy a Taste of Sonoma collection to be delivered with a sampling of gourmet foods and a bottle of wine, ($65 to $75 at simiwinery.com). A portion of the proceeds goes to Action Against Hunger.
My next gift idea was prompted by a request from Rosemary Merrill of Milton, Pa., who misplaced the recipe she clipped from Cook’s Corner for the chocolate cookies once served at By Word of Mouth in Fort Lauderdale.
The recipe goes back to 1992, and has been a perennial favorite. The cookies are dark, moist and fudge-like, with a whisper of coffee flavor.
Many of us have a battered copy of the Better Homes and Gardens all-purpose cookbook, with its red and white checkered cover, on our shelves. I’ve used mine for decades.
If you are looking for a thoughtful gift for both budding and experienced cooks, check out the all-new edition of Better Homes and Gardens Baking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.95). There are more than 400 recipes plus options for adapting recipes to your own taste or downsizing to mini versions. The salted caramel cookie recipe here is a great up-to-date taste to add to cookie baskets.
Mariana of Key Biscayne has downsized, and turned to Cook’s Corner readers for suggestions about where, besides the library, to donate her much-loved cookbooks. Nancy Goldstein of Miami had an excellent suggestion: any of the local cooking schools. “They will be very happy to take them. I donated mine to Johnson and Wales and the students were thrilled!”
Rosita Remedios says she sends crates of cookbooks by sea mail to women’s clubs connected to churches in Mumbai. “They have lunches and dinners to collect funds for the poor.” As a member of the Legion of Mary, she also takes cookbooks when she visits shut-ins and nursing homes. “They may not cook anymore but they love to look through the recipes.”
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