Last minute gifts: Recipe Kits
The Kitchn.com recently had a great piece with a bunch of ideas for gift kits that include everything to make a new recipe or culinary project.  From kimchi to ricotta to granola, the article suggests groupings of ingredients, instructions and any special container or tool.

I've done similar things for gifts through the years, and while usually a big hit, I also love giving a gift that gets my friend to learn, try or taste something new.  But even better, what is so great about this gift idea is not that it is filled with expensive or hard to find items, but that you've simply done all of the organization and planning for them.  Most of the items are right on the shelves of your food store, and can be easily obtained...even at this late date!  And if you're not ordering it, or shipping it, you can be a little more liberal with perishable items, leaving the playing field wide open.  Throw in a recipe card, cookbook, or utensil and you are a gift givin' fool.

So here are a few of my own "kits" and ideas.  Feel free to steal them.  And please let me hear any ideas of your own in the comments.

Vinaigrette Kit:  Hazelnut Oil + Sherry Vinegar.  I just gave this as a gift this weekend!  This is one of my very favorite combinations for a vinaigrette, and I love introducing friends to it.  Make your own combination.  Throw in a snazzy pair of salad tongs.

Risotto Kit:  arborio rice + generous hunk of great parmesan + organic onions + dried porcini mushrooms + wooden spoon or dry white wine.  For that special someone, splurge on a risotto pan.

Regional Kit:  Head to a spice shop or ethnic grocer, particularly if you're in an urban area, and stock up on an intoxicating array of spices from one region or country or cuisine.  Print out a few recipes or throw in a cookbook.  If you're in New York City, check out Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights or online, and Kalustyan's in Manhattan and online.

Oyster Kit:  oyster knife + protective gloves + ingredients for mignonette sauce (black peppercorns, shallots, and Champagne, Red or White Wine Vinegar).  And maybe an ice crusher?

Chocolate Covered Grape Kit:  Gorgeous seedless grapes + unsweetened cocoa + great dark chocolate + this amazing recipe from Michel Richard

Date in a Box! I just gave this as a first anniversary present!!  A great bottle of champagne + fresh cherries + baguette + couple of great cheese + some charcuterie or fixin's for Shrimp Cocktail + chocolates.

Or pick out your favorite recipe, sweet or savory, print up the recipe on a eye-catching card, gather up all easily transportable ingredients, stick a bow on it and voila!

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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