I still stand by my 2017 recommendations if you happened to have overlooked them – particularly the Sitka Salmon Shares seafood CSA – but here are a few more ideas for the kitchen-oriented in your life:
Instant Pot – If you already cook plenty and are capable of planning ahead, an Instant Pot will almost certainly not change your life in big ways. Still, it’s a damn useful tool, turning dried beans into dinner in 30 minutes instead of hours, pork shoulder into carnitas in one hour, not four. The price for the 6-quart unit is down to $70 now and those 28,000 mostly five-star reviews aren’t lying.
Secura Stainless Steel French Press – Having been disappointed with a supposedly-insulated French press before, I was skeptical of the praise heaped upon this one. Until I got one and tried it out. Properly preheated with warm water before brewing, it keeps coffee piping hot for at least an hour. Normally I pour mine into travel mugs for carting around on this errand or that, but you could just leave it in this press and divvy it out into open coffee mugs if you like it that way. Under $30, easy to clean and, unlike glass presses, unbreakable.
Blusmart USB Electric Arc Lighter – I was also a little skeptical of this little device, which charges via USB cable and lights fussy rangetop burners and newspaper in bbq charcoal chimneys by creating an electric arc – there’s no fuel. Those disposable wand lighters piss me off every time I use one up and there’s no easy way to refill it. This guy, seriously, just plugs in like your Kindle. I’ve since bought another for our camping equipment. Works flawlessly.
Kishibori Shoyu Soy Sauce – Soy Sauce for Beginners, by Kristen Chen, chronicles the love life and unexpected soy sauce career of a young woman with one foot in the U.S. and one in Singapore. It wasn’t one of my favorite novels of the year, but occurred to me that there’s probably really good soy sauce out there and I’ve never given it a thought. This is that soy sauce and yes, it’s an entirely different product. Almost fruity, with real depth and richness…I’ve been using it like good olive oil, drizzling over dishes just before serving. Delicious.
Penzey’s Spices – Face it, most of our spices are long past their prime. Some, like turmeric, were only in their sweet spot for a few months (and I’m betting yours has been around considerably longer than that). Penzey’s to the rescue. I order my cumin, paprika and cayenne from them in small jars every few months so everything stays fresh and bright-tasting, like it’s supposed to. They also have fun sets for making salad dressing, steak seasonings and a shallot pepper I’ve been sprinkling over everything lately.
Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables – By a fair margin my favorite cookbook I picked up this year. Follow chef/farmer Joshua McFadden through the seasons with inventive yet straightforward recipes that focus on vegetables, using meats more as seasoning than centerpiece.
I don’t buy many cookbooks these days – maybe a couple a year. How many do you really need? But when something jumps out at me I add it to my wishlist for this time of year. Two I don’t yet have but have high hopes for – fingers crossed! – are Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food and Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking. Both seem approachable and low-intensity, which I find myself seeking out more often these days. Rasika, for instance, is a brilliant D.C. restaurant and cookbook but am I going to track down ten obscure ingredients to make dinner? Not often.