My annual list of holiday gifts from the hearth:
For the curry fanatic: Kitchen Curry Master takes the mystery out of Indian cooking by providing a primer of 2 pounds of key spices, freshly ground and marvelously fragrant, in a stainless steel box that’s a modern uptake on the traditional Indian spice box handed down through generations. There’s also a recipe guide with incredibly easy dishes that incorporate the spices, including vegan/vegetarian, meat and seafood. The kit was devised by Neena Patel Williams, who grew up in her family’s London restaurant. I was amazed by the flavor of the cumin, so much more intense than supermarket variety, and the garam masala, so fragrant your kitchen will fill with the heady aroma when you loosen the tin. $60 at kitchencurrymaster.com.
For the healthy eater: Yonanas is a small kitchen appliance that uses high-torque blades to emulsify frozen fruit into a dessert with the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, with no fat, no dairy and no added sugar. Everyone I had taste it found it satisfying and creamy and could not believe that all it took was a frozen banana and a handful of other fruit. The banana is pretty essential, so you’ve got to remember to have a supply frozen in advance (best when banana skins are just starting to freckle, so it is a great way to use those on the verge of over-ripe.) $50 at Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.
For the throwback fan: Bordallo Pinheiro’s Orange (Naranja) line is reminiscent of your gran’s Florida souvenir ceramic ware, without the chips. I love the pitcher ($76), sure to liven any brunch whether frosty with orange juice or a white sangria. The line includes platters, salad bowls, a tea pot and a tureen, priced from $25 for a cup and saucer to $105 for the tea pot. Available at Bloomingdales (full collection in stock at Aventura) or check for other options at vistaalegre.bridgecatalog.com.
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For New Yorkers: Know someone yearning for a bite of the Big Apple — black and white cookies, blintzes, bialys, pork buns, Italian cheesecake? New York Cult Recipes (Sterling Epicure, $25) is a fun read. Author Marc Grossman calls his collection “the recipes I crave most when I miss New York.” It’s an idiosyncratic mix of Jewish delis, Greek diners, American junk food and ethnic street fare.
For the digital cook: The Perfect Bake smart scale connects to your phone or tablet with a free app that walks you through recipes. You place a bowl on the scale and it tells you how much of each ingredient to add. There are hundreds of available recipes, including vegan and gluten-free ones, and you can add your own. You can even input what you’ve got in the pantry and it will tell you what recipes you can make. The $70 scale includes a stand, three mixing bowls, oven thermometer and cable. Batteries not included. Available at Brookstone and Amazon.com.
For the charitable foodie: Many nonprofits offer food-related donations. One example is oxfamamericaunwrapped.com, where $30 helps plant a vegetable garden, and $135 buys a water pump. At heifer.org, you can provide a flock of chicks for $20 or four beehives for villages across the Americas for $120. Great last-minute gifts — you can email or print cards with custom messages.
For the wine enthusiast: Sachi Vino Urban Style insulated wine totes come in great colors, are available in various sizes and fabrics, and have adjustable shoulder straps and a handy zipper pocket for a wine opener. There are two- and three-bottle totes; both can be used to carry a variety of different sized bottles. $25-$30 at sachi-bags.com.
For the family archivist: The Cooking up Memories journal is a way to preserve family recipes and food traditions for generations to come. Besides providing a place to record all those recipes either scattered on scraps of paper or only in the cook’s mind, there’s a section of questions that prompt the writer to recall anecdotes about foods and meals and travels or just give a peek at the cook’s personality, such as the one that asks who you’d ask to a dinner party from any period in history. $20 at fromyoutome.us.
For the hardcore chef: Diamond crystals are infused into the surface of Swiss Diamond cookware, making it extraordinarily durable for a nonstick pan. Plus, the diamond crystals are naturally hard and slick and conduct heat evenly. I also like the comfortable handle that doesn’t get hot, and that the sauté pan I tested was oven and dishwasher safe. The 10 1/4-inch frying pan with steam release lid is $90; other pans in the line include Dutch ovens, baking pans and a wok. swissdiamond.com.
For the serious baker: I never understood the science of cake-making until I got my now-worn and -splattered Cake Bible in the 1980s. Author Rose Levy Beranbaum takes cookbooks into the textbook level, with so much detail and so much explanation that you may sometimes be frustrated by the tediousness. But hang in — the upside is that her recipes never fail, and if they do, she even explains what you must have done wrong and what you can do to fix it. Her new Baking Bible (HMH, $40) is epic, combining the best recipes from all her previous books, and would appeal both to the novice who wants to learn as well as the experienced baker. Covers cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, candies, pastries, breads and more.
For the gin-clined: It seems only fitting with Iceland’s Bárðarbunga volcano erupting this year to toast the magnificent and terrible beauty of Mother Earth with a libation made with Martin Miller gin, a blend of British botanicals infused with Icelandic water, distributed by Miami-based Kindred Spirits. I was in Iceland in August when the first earthquakes from the volcano flashed that the lava was flowing, and learned the fields of centuries-old hardened lava actually filter ground water, which takes hundreds of years to make its way through the porous rock. The water has a clean, crisp taste, and it is that unpolluted flavor that drew the late Miller to use it in creating a gin-and-tonic-worthy spirit. About $30. totalwine.com.