By Anna Dantoni –
Martha Stewart’s show on the Hallmark Channel is apparently being canceled because of low ratings. What are home cooks looking for creative culinary crafts to do? Well, there’s a new book that could come to you rescue. It’s called Gourmet Gifts by Dinah Corley with lovely (and useful) color photographs by Alison Shaw. The softcover book includes 100 recipes that when wrapped and boxed are meant for presentation to your Valentine, someone just home from the hospital or new to the neighborhood. There are tasty gifts for one’s birthday, for a new bride, a bachelor whose pantry is getting low, you name it.
Besides the recipes, the author tells you how long it takes to make the recipe, how to freeze or ship the result and, of course, how to package the gift so that it looks like a magical food. How about these: herb-stuffed eggs in a what grass nest or pistachio sugarplums in paper pyramids. Corley, who is a cooking teacher and restaurant consultant, apprenticed to Simone Beck and studied under both Julia Child and James Beard. Her cooking techniques are sound, her recipes are worth trying, and her imaginative packaging of her culinary gifts is enviable.
Here’s an easy and inexpensive recipe from Gourmet Gifts I really like. The avocado butter would be delicious on jalapeno cornbread.
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cool but not cold
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon sea salt
pinch of ground white pepper
Carefully halve the avocado with a sharp knife and remove and set aside the pit. Using a soup spoon, carefully remove all the pulp without tearing the peels. Set the peels aside with the reserved pit. Place the avocado pulp and the lemon juice in the work bowl of food processor. Process the chopped mixture until it is a smooth puree. Add the butter and the seasonings to the avocado puree and process until the mixture is perfectly smooth and completely blended.
Fill each half of the peel with the soft avocado butter and level it off with a small icing spatula so the filling is flush with the edges of the peel. Return the pit to one of the filled avocado halves and press it firmly into the center of the avocado butter. Smooth out the surface around the pit with the spatula and refrigerate both filled halves, covered with plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
Join the two halves of the avocado and press them firmly together. Scrape away the avocado butter that oozes out when the halves are firmly joined. Wipe the avocado with a clean, damp cloth and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze the avocado for at least 1 hour, until it is very firm and you are ready to assemble and deliver the gift.
(Gourmet Gifts by Dinah Corley. Harvard Common Press, $19.95)