Every year I get asked, like most of us do, what I want for Christmas. This year my reply is nothing. My family knows that I love to cook, and so over the years they have outfitted my kitchen with an arsenal of items that take up every available surface, nook, and drawer. My large Dutch oven lives on the stovetop and my juicer resides on the table, and I refuse to get a KitchenAid mixer until I don’t have to move every six months.
While I gripe about my lack of cabinet and counter space, I should share with you some of my favorite items that occupy these areas. You may just get some last-minute gift ideas.
After recently spending a week in Costa Rica and drinking fresh juice every day, I took my juicer out of hibernation and now am obsessed once again. It is cumbersome, a pain to clean, and it was very expensive, but it is a beacon of sunshine during cold winter days. It makes me feel healthy at a time of year that is filled with cheese logs, puff pastry, and peanut butter balls. My go-to elixirs are carrot-orange-ginger and apple-beet-celery.
A good sharp chef’s knife is a kitchen essential. When I offer to help in someone’s kitchen, and they present me with a flimsy or clunky dull knife, I cringe and try not butcher my fingers. There is no need to buy a whole block of knives; a medium to heavy chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife will do you wonders.
An appliance that I have grown to love is the pizzelle maker that my mother picked up at a holiday bazaar years back. The weekend before Christmas we spend the day baking, decorating sugar cookies, and making pizzelles, one of our many holiday traditions. This thin anise flavored waffle cookie is easy to make and always a crowd pleaser.
Looking for something for the person who has everything? Think consumables. A good olive oil, flaky sea salt, herbs de Provence, aged balsamic, or a nice bottle of wine. Look to local chocolatiers for tasty treats or purchase a gift certificate from an Island café, restaurant, grocer, or store.
Just in case you need a few more gift ideas, I asked Islanders what their holiday kitchen essentials are and what’s on their kitchen wish lists. Here is what they had to say:
Nicole Cabot, of West Tisbury
I am sort of an old-fashioned cook in that I prefer my worn-in simple kitchen objects. My sheet pans are old and worn to a beautiful brown from many years of baking, but I wouldn’t trade them for new shiny ones. I couldn’t do without my cookie cooling rack. It’s large and stows easily in the back of a long cabinet. I can cool several batches of cookies without searching for extra surfaces.
One ingredient that I can’t do without during the holiday season or any other season would be local eggs. They make a huge difference in taste, color, and texture of baked goods and all other recipes.
I recently bought two new blue and green Kuhn Rikon vegetable peelers, which look pretty fancy in my Little House on the Prairie type drawer holding mostly wooden spoons and well-loved spatulas.
My wish list for my kitchen: No more gadgets!
Seth Abbott, of West Tisbury
One of my kitchen essentials is something that I use only a few times a year but is key to stocking the freezer for the winter and beyond: My Cabela’s 2 hp meat grinder. It makes short work of grinding venison and goose breast meat that my hunting buddy Mike Jackson and I turn into goose jerky. I plan to try the sausage making attachment that comes with the grinder this hunting season.
My girlfriend and I both put the Crock-Pot to a weekly use when the weather starts getting cold. Soups, stews, chili, short ribs, you can cook just about anything in the Crock-Pot.
Some of my favorite ingredients to use in the winter are local game: venison, duck, and geese. They are a part of at least two to three meals a week cooked with lots of root veggies, potatoes, and rice. One of my favorite spices to use with wild game is ground coriander. It has a great aroma and a nice mellow flavor that goes well with almost any game, and works with fish too.
Kitchen wish list: I would love to add an immersion blender to my kitchen. It would be awesome for soups or stock and also for sauces and gravy.
Emily Duncker, of Vineyard Haven
My holiday kitchen essential is my KitchenAid mixer, to which you can add a million attachments. I use it for everything from grinding meat for warm and cozy shepherd’s pie to mixing batter for treats such as carrot cake.
More than anything else right now, I have been hoping for a tortilla press, so that I can make fresh tortillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Mike Silvia, of Vineyard Haven
My kitchen essential would be a Crock-Pot. I make beef stew, venison soup, chicken and rice, and chili. You can put it in, go to work, and then it’s ready to go. It’s one of the most underrated appliances known to a single dad.
Kitchen wish list: A Cabela’s vacuum sealer to package and freeze venison and vegetables. You can freeze anything. If you buy steak or hamburger in bulk you can make dinner sized meals.
Brian Hall, of Oak Bluffs
Before the holidays we always stock up on the essentials: salt and pepper, aluminum foil, Tupperware, and a meat thermometer. I really like the McCormick salt and pepper grinders. My go-to gadgets are a garlic press and potato peeler. As for ingredients, you can never have enough garlic and onions, those two are used in just about everything, and egg nog.
My family always has pigs in a blanket for a snack while opening presents. They are easy to prepare and a great treat. We usually cook the breakfast sausage links on Christmas Eve, and in the morning wrap the sausage in Pillsbury croissants.
My wish list would include a Le Creuset 5-quart braiser. It has so many uses, especially for winter foods such as casseroles, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and it’s great for frying.