Magazine article Sunset

Gifts in Glass

Magazine article Sunset

Gifts in Glass

Article excerpt

You see them in shops everywhere: wonderfully tempting bottles and jars filled with rich ingredients cooks love to have in the kitchen or on the dinner table. And, often, these culinary goodies have price tags that are just as rich, which is a problem if your gift list is even longer than your last credit card statement. It's enough to drive even the most reluctant cookie baker back to the kitchen. Well, go to the kitchen, but don't pull out the baking sheet. Instead, make flavored vinegars, oils, liqueurs, and honeys. They're easy-many recipes take less than half an hour-and the results are simply beautiful. The finishing touches-tags with serving suggestions-can be as minimalist or as grand as you like. As for the containers themselves, airtight lids and your imagination are the only limits.

People who love to cook usually have a kitchen full of vinegarsred wine, raspberry, tarragon, balsamic. But they're unlikely to have the three listed below-and you can make them. Just a few fresh herbs, some citrus peel, and a little spice turn plain vinegars into gourmet gifts. Let them mellow at least a week before you give them to the connoisseurs on your list. To spotlight these tangy vinegars:

* Sweeten Orange-Spice Vinegar with orange juice; drizzle over sliced oranges and red onions.

* Mix Asian Vinegar with a little sesame oil and sugar and use as a dressing for sliced cucumbers, cooked asparagus spears, or shredded carrots. Or mix the vinegar with soy sauce for a dip for potstickers.

* Splash a little Provencal Vinegar over grilled fish.

* Add a little sugar and water to any of the vinegars to create a low-fat dressing for vegetables or fruit.

Infused (flavored) oils are a quick way to add flavor to marinades, salad dressings, and grilled foods, but commercially prepared oils can be prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, infused oils are surprisingly easy and economical to make. All you need to do is whirl the oil with seasonings in a blender. You can double or triple the recipes if you'd like. The flavored oils are ready to use the day they're made and will last up to a month if stored airtight in the refrigerator.

Although making these oils is exceptionally easy, there are a few rules you shouldn't break. First, start with fresh, high-quality oil-the flavor of an old or low-quality oil can't be masked by seasonings. …

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