Presents for the Almost Vegetarian gourmet (and, of course, an amazing vegetarian Middle Eastern sweets recipe)

I'm thinking the two things every gourmet needs is spectacular knives and amazing ingredients. After all, nothing but the best will do, don't'cha'know?

And everyone likes something nice to eat and a really nice wine.

Oh yes, and you know I always like books. And I got two really great ones, below.

  • Messermeister Meridian elite 7" Santoku Knife and Asian Precision Kullenschliff Santoku Knife. The Meridian Santoku knife is an Asian chef's knife that is flatter and lighter than traditional. This makes for an incredibly comfortable knife to use, which, in turn, makes it ideal for big tasks like, oh, holiday dinners. And the Kullenschliff Santoku Knife is similar to a standard Japanese Chef's Knife. However, this version has alternating kullenschliff pockets. These pockets reduce drag and prevent items from sticking to the blade, which makes it great for anyone chopping a lot of vegetables that tend to stick, such as cucumbers and potatoes.
  • Alziari Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Antonio Mattei Biscotti di Prat. The fruity and fresh French olive oil comes from the first cold pressing of the tiny nicoise olive and is heavenly as a dipping oil and one of the oils I keep in the house all the time (and, by the way, the company also makes incredible olive oil soaps which are the most amazing way I know to scent a linen cupboard). Loaded with pinenuts and almonds these tiny, incredible, handmade Tuscan biscotti are absolutely addictive.
  • Vosges Australian Shiraz and Dark Chocolate giftbox. As much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds, this royal purple box contains a bottle of rich, dark wine (inhale deeply and you can almost smell coffee and chocolate and berries) and a box of gorgeously imaginative truffles designed to compliment the wine. What kind of truffles, you ask? Think dark chocolate sprinkled with a dash of Sweet Hungarian paprika. And dark chocolate, once again, only this time blended with firey ginger and wasabi and topped with black sesame seeds. And even milk chocolate shot through with hazelnut praline and topped with praline bits. Incredible.
  • Dean and Deluca Tote to Go and Tea Sampler. Everyone has stores that are their fall-back position. Need something jam-packed with goodies? Need something small and special? Dean and Deluca. Heck, even if you just need lunch, Dean and Deluca. Which is why it is little surprise I headed straight for the Tote to Go. Loaded with everything from mini black & white cookies and chocolate bars to tea, pistachios, and incredible olive oil & sea salt crackers, everything is packaged in a sturdy market tote which means (good!) no plastic and (great!) something to take you through your next visit to the farmers' market. But what if you want something smaller? Then I like the tea sampler. Nine tins of sublime teas, this is ideal for the tea lover on your list. Like, ahem, me!
  • The Basics: The Foundations of Modern Cooking. Published by Melville House Publishing, this book is so good that if you only buy one food book this season, this is the one. This gorgeous little book will tell you everything you need to know, from how to poach to how to caramelize and marinate. And, to make it even better, it is also loaded with recipes for soups, sauces, pastries, spreads, and more.
  • Saha: A Chef's Journey Through Lebanon and Syria. From Periplus Editions, this stunningly gorgeous book looks at Middle Eastern foods. As much a feast for the eyes as a temptation for the tummy, here's a recipe for you to enjoy.
(And, tomorrow, we'll look at presents for the Almost Vegetarian. Just the plain old Almost Vegetarian who could do with a holiday smile.)

Barazek – crunchy sesame-pistachio biscuits
1 1/2 oz soft brown sugar
1 3/4 oz icing sugar
5 1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 oz self-raising flour
2 oz pistachio kernels, peeled and cut into slivers
2 1/4 oz sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Put the sugars, butter and shortening in a large bowl and cream together well. Mix in the vanilla extract and egg, followed by the flour. The dough softens easily, so transfer it to the fridge for 30 minutes before baking to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Grease and line 2 baking sheets.

Take little pieces of dough and roll them between the palms of your hands into small marble-sized balls. Flatten gently to form little discs around 1/2 cm (1/4 in) thick. Line up 2 dishes, one with the pistachio slivers and one with the sesame seeds. Press one side of the dough into the pistachios then press the other side into the sesame seeds. Carefully brush off any excess seeds and nuts and place on the prepared baking sheets, allowing about 5 cm (2 in) between them for spreading.

Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and leave to cool. Makes 25–30 little biscuits.

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Emeril Lagasse goes vegetarian!
And here's another gift for the almost vegetarian gourmet . . . on Monday I will have a vegetarian version of a delicious
Emeril Lagasse recipe (You know Emeril from The Food Network). Yep! A vegetarian Emeril Lagasse recipe. Delicious.