Christmas

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 2

 
Gifts and Treats for You and Yours
 
CITRUS FRUITS AND FRESH HERBS ARE BELOVED big-flavor ingredients in Mediterranean cooking. When I began making more Med dishes, I was struck by how many lemons I was buying—and zesting and squeezing and slicing. And I loved the new taste adventures with oranges—not eaten just as a fruit in hand, but sliced with tapenade, or zested and juiced for a citronette over grilled asparagus. Almost every Med recipe calls for one fresh herb or another—parsley by the fistful, or rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano in soups, salads, you name it. So here are a few gift ideas for making herb and citrus wrangling a snap for the Mediterranean cook in your life. 
 
COOL KITCHEN TOOLS
 
 
Citrus squeezer ($12). Comes in different sizes for limes, lemons and oranges, but all three might crowd a New York apartment drawer. You choose. 
 
 
 

Microplane Zester/grater 
($15). After years of struggling with multipurpose gadgets for zesting citrus fruits, using this is heaven. It takes just the zest and leaves behind the bitter white pith with hardly any effort on my part. (Can be used to grate cheese, too.)
 
 

 

Cuisipro Fresh Herb Keeper ($20). How many times have you bought a bunch of thyme or mint, used a bit, then had the rest end up lifeless by the time you need it again? Slots in the removable tray hold and hydrate stems while keeping the leaves dry; it can also be used to store asparagus.
 
 

MEDITERRANEAN HERB GARDEN
Herbs stay freshest, of course, when they’re actually living plants in the ground. I grow indoor pots of basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano in fits and starts. (They do require watering!) These are particularly pretty. Plus: a couple of gift ideas for New York City gardeners who actually have a patch of ground or outdoor terrace.
 
French Country Kitchen Garden ($22). Three pots, with organic soil, drip tray and seeds for parsley, marjoram and lemon basil.
 
 
 
 
 
 

($25). Three pots, with peat pellets, drip tray and seeds for basil, oregano and chives.
 
 
 
 
 
 
When I had a country garden, I loved Shepherd’s Garden Seeds because they sold such exotica (at the time) as Lolla Rossa lettuce and arugula. Renee Shepherd, its founder, now runs Renee’s Garden, where you can find a Container Herb Collectionseeds for Cameo basil, fine leaf chives, Slow Bolt cilantro, true Greek oregano and Gigante parsley, and Container Vegetable Collection—Super Bush tomato, Garden Babies lettuce, Gold Chard, Bush Slicer cucumber and  Pizza My Heart pepper. ($14 each)
 
 
For the outdoor gardener, go local with a Hudson Valley Seed Library gift membership ($20). Members grow seeds in their home gardens, enjoy their flowers and fruits, and then save seed at the end of the season to return to the library for credit toward their next year’s membership. I came across the beautiful Art Packs (not included in the $20 membership) at New Amsterdam Market, each seed pack beautifully illustrated by a different New York artist. You can still catch Hudson Valley Seed at the market Dec 19th. 
 
 
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:
 
 

 

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 1

 
Gifts and Treats for You and Yours
 
We’ve made some wonderful discoveries this year during our travels around New York City’s five boroughs and beyond, on the trail of one Mediterranean essential or another. So if you want to add a little Mediterranean flavor to your holiday, I have a few suggestions.
 
You can get many of these items online, but for some, alas, you’ll have to jump on the subway (or your bicycle) and head over to one of the amazing Mediterranean shops that dot New York. For me that time will be part of the pleasure: When I stop in at Eataly or Despaña, say, with my Christmas list, I plan to sit down and drink a coffee, order a few pintxos or a pizza or pasta and rest awhile until I’m ready for another whirl of Christmas preparations.
 
OLIVE OIL LOVE
This summer I visited Hester Street Market quite a few times, motivated to take the 7-mile bike ride from home because I knew Guerrilla Ice Cream would be waiting as a reward. One day, Mediterraneanista had an extra treat: I discovered SOM Extra-Virgin Olive OilAsena Basak was at the market giving tastes and selling the cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil her family produces on their farm in Milas, Turkey near the Aegean coast. It’s a delicious estate-bottled extra-virgin oil, made from Memecik olives grown by the family. The 2010 harvest will be available in April or May. (Follow SOM on Facebook.)
~Buy the SOM 2009-10 harvest at Garden of Eden stores or online
 
Back on the Upper West Side, I recently ran into the Franks (Castronovo and Falcinelli) at our local Whole Foods. The chef/owners of the Greenmarket-driven Frankies Spuntino restaurants are very friendly guys; they were there showing off their new cookbook, The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, and giving us tastes of their amazing olive oil cake, pretzels and other goodies. As if cookbook writing and running Frankies 457 in Brooklyn and Frankies 17 on the Lower East Side isn’t enough to keep them busy, the pair go to Sicily every year to oversee the production of Frankies Extra-Virgin Olive Oil— cold-pressed from organically grown Sicilian olives in the Nocellara del Belice DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin). They were expecting a shipment from the new harvest any day.
~Buy Frankies olive oil online or at these stores.
 
 
Mediterraneanista likes her olives any way she can get them. This Jardin de l’Olivier olive oil soap ($8.50) is nourishing for the skin—and what a beautiful objet, with its olive leaf shape, don’t you think? And the “Olive Tree” and “Mediterranean” tea towels ($21), made in France by Tissage Moutet, are almost too pretty to use. They’re woven in cotton by a fourth-generation business located in Orthez, a town in the foothills of the French Pyrénées.
~Buy tea towels and olive oil soap at QuelObjet.com.
 
 
 
 
 
AND SOME LAVENDER, TOO
 
 
Go to Union Square Greenmarket any Monday or Friday this month, and you’ll find sachets and dried bunches of lavender from Lavender by the Bay to make you think of summer and Provence. Or White Flower Farm has a lavender plant in a gray glazed pot ($42) that is hard to resist. 
 
 
GIVE THE COOK A NIGHT OFF
On Christmas Eve, Bistro de la Gare will celebrate with a traditional Italian “Night of the Seven Fishes” dinner as a prix fixe menu for $65 (tax, tip and wine not included). As of 12/10, tables are still open for some times between 5:30 and 10:30 that night.
~Make reservations at 212-242-4420.
I love the seasonal Mediterranean menus at this Greenwich Village restaurant. Here’s what chef/owners Maryann Terillo (formerly of Jarnac) and Elisa Sarno (formerly of Babbo) have in store for Christmas Eve:
La Notte dei Sette Pesci
Amuse: Baked Cherrystone Clams and PEI Mussel “Oreganata”
Antipasto: Baccala Three Ways—Fritelle di Baccala, Insalata di Baccala, Baccala Venizia
Salad: Shaved Fennel and Roasted Peppers with Bagna Cauda 
Pasta: Seppia Ink Fettucine with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat
garnished with Grilled Octopus
Secondi: Fritto Misto—Eel, Fresh Shrimp, Oysters, Calamari and Skate with 3 sauces: salsa verde, salsa rossa, maionese limone
Dessert: Bowls of Fresh Fruit and Nuts, Struffoli
 
Bistro de la Gare
626 Hudson Street (near Jane)
New York, NY
212-242-4420
 
 
Make life with holiday crowds easy: Cobble Hill restaurant Brucie has a lasagna drop-off service, we learn over at Tasting Table. Bring your pan in one day; pick up your meal-for-a-crowd the next evening on your way home. Great combos made with top-quality ingredients: eggplant, tomato and Swiss chard, goat cheese and mushrooms, roast pork and butternut squash.
 
Brucie
234 Court St.
Brooklyn, NY
347-987-4961
 

AN INSIDER LOOK AT EATALY
The giant Italian food hall that opened this summer at 23rd and Fifth offers classes at La Scuola di Eataly, which is headed up by Lidia Bastianich. Eat-Ineraries ($35) are one-hour small-group guided tours led by a senior staff member, with behind-the-scenes peeks at all the departments and tastings along the way. Chef’s Kitchen ($110–275) lets you join chefs like Esca’s Dave Pasternack, Manzo’s Michael Tosano, Del Posto’s Brooks Headley and Dean of La Scuola Lidia Bastianich for a demonstration and tasting (with wine pairings) as they prepare a signature dish. And there are classes with artisanal food purveyors like Pat LaFrieda and Eataly wine director Dan Amatuzzi. (See the Jan–Mar schedule here.)  

To give a particular class as a gift, register the recipient online for that class. Once the registration is complete with credit card approval, that space is reserved. If you like, you can then contact lascuola@eataly.com to obtain a certificate stating the class for which the gift recipient is registered.
 
Or you can buy an Eataly gift certificate, available only in the store, not yet online, but this doesn’t reserve a place in a class, and some sell out quickly (the classroom seats 22 for tastings, 20 for Chef’s Kitchen).
 
Eataly NYC
200 Fifth Avenue (enter on Fifth or 23rd)
New York, NY
212-229-2560
lascuola@eataly.com 
 
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:
 
 
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