Preserved lemons—as pretty as they are tasty
Casablanca-born Kitty Morse, author of several books on the cooking of North Africa, calls preserved lemons “a great flavor that you can’t quite figure out.” To make preserved lemons, the lemons are filled with salt and stored until they become tender and jam-like, with a taste that’s tangy and savory. A beguiling condiment straight runfrom Morocco, the lemons are ready to eat once the rind has softened. For a companion gift, package a cookbook on Moroccan cuisine along with these beautiful lemons to provide the recipient with actual recipes that use the lemons.
How to give and use—Preserved lemons are usually added to dishes toward the end of cooking. The pulp gets scraped from the rind and blended with the juices or sauce, of a braised chicken for example, to flavor and thicken them, while the rind gets sliced or diced and sprinkled over the dish. Preserved lemons can also be used straight from the jar, and they don’t only go with Moroccan specialties. “My husband adds chopped preserved lemon rind to tuna salad,” notes Morse.
A deliciously different tapenade
Most people think of black olives for tapenade, but green olives and the addition of almonds give this spread a Provençal feel. “When the olives and almonds are crushed together to make this spread, the nuts contribute their oil as well as their texture and flavor,” says Georgeanne Brennan, author of numerous cookbooks including Apéritif, which recently won an IACP/Julia Child award.
How to give and use—Give a jar along with a crusty baguette since tapenade spread on little toasts makes a great appetizer. It also makes a tangy topping for savory tarts and pizza and is delicious tossed with pasta along with a little olive oil and some fresh goat cheese. Brennan also tucks this green olive and almond tapenade under the skin of a chicken breast as a flavor booster.
Dessert sauces—perfect for the sweet-tooth on your list
Kathleen Stewart, who runs the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg, California, gives a good reason why a gift of both her chocolate and caramel saucesmakes delicious sense: “They’re so good together.” Stewart sells these same sauces at her bakery.
How to give and use—If your friends can resist eating these straight from the jar, they can use them as a topping for ice cream. Although the sauces will last two weeks in the refrigerator, Stewart suggests that people keep them in the freezer, where they’ll last “forever.”