Basics
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Basic food gifts

Tostapane
Why is bruschetta always perfect in Italy? Because they toast their bread on one of these, a thin, square sheet of perforated stainless steel, topped with a wire mesh screen. Pinpoints of flame work through the tiny holes, lightly charring the bread, crisping the surfaces without drying out the interior.
$29.95, http://www.toastercentral.com (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Mortar and pestle
Smart cooks would choose a mortar and pestle any day over a spice grinder, or even a blender or food processor. Pounding with a pestle crushes and pulverizes spices, herbs and other ingredients to release more of the oils.
Prices vary, but you can find a good one for less than $50, widely available (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Vic Firth maple rolling pin
Everyone should have a good, basic rolling pin in the kitchen. These are solid rock maple and are fitted with stainless steel ball bearings for smooth, effortless strokes.
26 to $50, http://www.vicfirthgourmet.com (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Unicorn magnum plus pepper grinder
This is an excellent peppercorn grinder. It has a precisely cut, extra large grinding mechanism with a wide range of adjustability and an easy-to-fill storage chamber (with a sliding loader) that holds a lot (almost 11/4 cups) of peppercorns.
$45, http://www.unicornmills.com (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)
Doughmakers cookie sheets
Recommended by top bakers, these are cookie sheets that will last for decades. Their heavy construction and special pebble-grain surface allow even browning and easy release. The set we have in the Times Test Kitchen is at least 10 years old, and they still work as good as new.
From $14 plus shipping, at various websites. (Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times)
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