Holiday Gifts for the Cook or Baker (Or For Your Own Kitchen)

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Crocus Sativus, the saffron crocus, are pictured on October 20, 2015 in Ambares-et-Lagrave, near the southwestern city of Bordeaux. A couple of French farmers, Jean-Noel and Chantal Pelette, cultivate Crocus Sativus in Ambares-et-Lagrave, in a Bordeaux’s suburb. Saffron is derived from the dried stigma of the Crocus Sativus’ flower. AFP PHOTO / JEAN PIERRE MULLER (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images)

Truffles and Saffron

I’ve only eaten truffles once, when my brother’s best friend was a chef at Gramercy Tavern, in the 90s, under Top Chef Tom Coliccio. He (my brother’s friend, not Coliccio) made a luscious vegetarian cassoulet with fresh fava beans and i can’t remember what else. The waiter shaved fresh white truffles over it right at the table. They’re lightly earthy and fragrant, and completely unlike truffle oil.

Do not buy truffle oil as a gift. It is petroleum-flavored trash.

Truffles are rare. They’re seasonal and hand-harvested, so they’re only around for a short time every year. Order them while you still can!

Food52 sells white Italian truffles for $175 per ounce. At Williams-Sonoma, Italian white truffles will run you $259.95 – $319.95, while their black Périgord truffles are $119.95 per ounce.

Cooks have prized saffron for centuries because of its spicy, delicate fragrance and the way it infuses its fellow ingredients with gorgeous golden color.

Bright orange saffron threads are harvested by hand from the saffron crocus, a flower that’s cultivated mainly in Greece, Spain, Iran, Italy, Morocco, France and Kashmir. The best-grade saffron includes only the stigma of the crocus, the long orange threads extending from the purple flower. The most commonly available saffron includes also includes the style, which is the part of the thread that’s hidden inside the base of the flower. It’s less valued because the style has less flavor than the stigma

Penzy’s offers Spanish Superior Saffron and Spanish Coupé Saffron. Golden Saffron‘s premium Persian saffron shipped directly from farms in Iran, packed in attractive golden tins.

You can buy Moroccan USDA-certified fair trade saffron directly from farmers via Fair Trade Morccco, but you need to contact them about the price per ounce. The more you buy, the more you save!