Food Gift Love is Now Available! Maggie Battista Dishes About the Cookbook and Her Recipe for Fig Rosemary Jam

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The day has finally arrived! Food Gift Love is now in stores, and waiting patiently on the shelves to help you become the food-gifting guru you’ve always wanted to be. I, personally, can say that this day contains all the excitement of Christmas morning mixed with the pride of baking your first pie. As the head recipe tester for the cookbook, I was lucky enough to work closely with Maggie during the making of the book and can honestly say I have made each of the recipes at least once. The entire experience is one of the greatest of my life and I am ridiculously proud of this book and of its author. Gushing aside, I wanted all of you to know a bit more about Maggie and the truly-inspiring and unique cookbook she created. Without further ado, I give you Maggie Battista. ~Kate

Tell us about Food Gift Love, and what inspired you to write your very first cookbook?

With all seriousness and sincerity, I must admit that my mother inspired my very first cookbook. When I was writing the recipes, I remembered that she used to keep a list of folks in our community who needed extra food. She’d deliver food to them with a smile, a tear, a hug, always the right sort of hospitality for the occasion – she left even the saddest feeling exceptionally good. I love that easy way she made someone feel so special. With every gift I package, I say to myself, I want to do that.

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Can you tell us a little bit about how you went from blogger to shop owner (ahem, Eat Boutique, ahem) to cookbook author? 

I started Eat Boutique as a blog to write my way toward a career in food. I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly, just that I wanted to work in hospitality somehow. After a couple years, I put together my first gift set of food made by mom-and-pop style makers that sold out instantly. After Eat Boutique was featured in The Wall Street Journal, we started selling food gifts year round. Selling food gifts taught me lots of things like, folks love to receive all sorts of baked gifts (cookies and brownies rule!), cocktail gifts are the tops, and increasingly, they are into more savory and wholesome treats. I wanted to write a cookbook to help everyone gift food year-round.

What was the best part and the hardest part of the cookbook-creating process?

The best part was the recipe development process. I loved the quiet time in my kitchen to try something a bunch of ways, and the back and forth with my recipe testers each week. We had 80 recipe testers from around the world test every single recipe and my food gifting community fueled my daily work with their kind words, constructive feedback, and overall cheerleading-support.

I suppose the hardest part of this process has been waiting the two plus years to share the cookbook. I was raised on the internet where you write and release things instantaneously. From the initial proposal to today’s release date means Food Gift Love was two and a half years in the making. I can’t wait for everyone to finally use it!

How did you choose recipes for the book? 

The chapters came to me very easily: I literally walked through my kitchen to notice that I make Fresh gifts, Pantry gifts, Candied gifts, Baked gifts, Preserved gifts, and Spirited gifts (the boozy kind!) all the time. The recipes are a patchwork collection from running this small business, traveling and living in Paris, family history, and even inspiration from friends. I made sure to include the simplest recipes from my childhood like the Pico de Gallo we gift to every single special occasion, or Rompopo, a Latin-style eggnog, that we make from October to December. 

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Why is food gifting so special to you? 

Food gifting is my way of life because I’ve seen the difference a food gift can make in someone’s life. As a child, I remember watching my mother collect and share food with folks in our community who needed it. She’d walk into their homes, leaving whatever she had, but not before she took a cup of coffee or lent an empathetic ear to the person in need. While I didn’t understand it all then, I know now that she was offering a little old-fashioned hospitality and with that exchange, she’d improve their day or their week. These days, I’ve given a pot of something warm and nourishing like my Smoky Chicken Soup to a neighbor who needed a lift, and watching our connection strengthen has made me want to keep gifting food.

What was the first food gift you ever made?

I can’t remember! I am sure it was likely a jar of jam or marmalade because my pantry is full of preserves, they’re the pillar of any Food Gift Love pantry.

What makes a really great food gift?

There are a 100 recipes in Food Gift Love that make great food gifts but if you don’t have time to cook, I love to gift a stack of very good chocolate bars. I take the time to pick out my favorites, wrap them with a ribbon or newspaper, and write a message on a little card. It’s so simple but let’s you give someone a little bit of your time and your favorite tastes!

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Where do you find gift-wrapping inspiration? How do you come up with ways to wrap such unique vessels, such as bottle or baking dishes?  

It was very important to me to include gift wrap directions with every single recipe, to take the stress out of the entire process. My gift wrap inspiration comes from my own closet. When I started blogging at Eat Boutique, I started collecting old food sections of The New York Times. I’d save them for something… though… I didn’t know quite what. Over the years, I’d add salvaged twine or ribbon, old wrapping paper, even tape. Over just a few years, I had built a closet full of what I now call the basics for gift wrap: paper, pencil, tape, and twine. Once it started to overflow, I began using it all to wrap every sort of gift. A food gift wrapped in newspaper is my favorite sort.

Dinner parties can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know a lot of the people, what would you recommend making from the cookbook? 

I love bringing a Kitchen Sink Salad to a dinner party gathering. With five to six unique fixings in each big bowl, that salad will generate a lot of conversation and perhaps ease the awkwardness of the party itself. Right now, I want to bring plates piled high with my Molasses Cookies to every gathering. They’re sweet and a little savory – great on their own with coffee but also so nice alongside some cheese.

Share a little tip to inspire a first-time food gifter.

Make something super simple like my Infused Sea Salt or Citrus Sugar. Pour it into an old clean jar. Tie some kitchen twine around the edge of the jar. Voilà! One more easy tip: produce is also a food gift. Pile some strawberries into a box, wrap some herbs in brown paper, place some figs in a little bag, or gift a bouquet of swiss chard – easy, beautiful, nourishing.

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Fig Rosemary Jam

This jam is inspired by late September days in northern California. The wine harvest is in full swing, the rosemary is heady, and the figs are fat, juicy, and bursting from the trees. Figs are also more affordable in peak season, and I often want to buy them all. During my visits, I borrow a pot from a friend and source jars at the hardware store. In a short afternoon, relaxed and enjoying some local red wine, I make souvenirs for all my friends. This recipe is effortless, especially if you skip the canning part. But preserve at least one jar for later when you’ll want to enjoy this perfect memory of late summer in a jar. The takeaway here is that time improves most things—just like wine—and a little counter time coaxes the sweetness from the figs and allows you some time to enjoy your wine (or take care of other things).

Makes: 4 cups

Prep Time: 1 Hours 30 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds (about 30) ripe Mission figs
  • 31/2 cups (about 11/2 pounds) granulated sugar
  • 3 (4-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 1 (6-inch) sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Special Equipment
  • Kitchen scale
  • 8 quarter-pint glass jars with airtight lids, sterilized
  • Wide-mouth funnel

Directions:

  1. Wash, de-stem, and slice the figs into quarters.
  2. If you’re preserving/canning your jam for long-term storage start with step 2a. If you’re not preserving the jam, you can skip to step 2b. a. Sterilize your canning jars and prepare your waterbath-canning pot. b. Place a small plate with 4 to 5 small spoons in a flat space in your freezer.
Now let's make jam:
  1. Add the figs, sugar, and zest to a large, nonreactive bowl or the nonreactive pot you will use to cook it in. Stir to combine and let sit at room temperature 1 hour or up to several hours. You may also pack them in a sealable container and store in the fridge up to 2 days before proceeding
  2. Place the mixture in a nonreactive pot that’s both wide and deep (a 10-inch or 12-inch diameter is ideal) and set it over medium-high heat. Add the rosemary and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat slightly, to just above medium. Cook at a low but rolling boil until all the moisture has evaporated and you’re left with a very thick, hot syrup
  3. During the first 20 minutes of cooking, your jam will have large bubbles and create some foam—do not stir the jam during this stage, let it continue to cook past the foaming stage.
  4. . At the 20-minute mark, start watching your jam closely as it will be ready within the next 10 minutes or so. Stir it every few minutes to keep things moving and prevent burning. Begin checking for doneness.
  5. Here are the signs that your jam is ready: the large bubbles have become very tiny; the mixture looks glossy and shiny; the mixture begins to thickly coat the back of your spoon and the bottom of the pan; and the mixture has darkened slightly in color. If all signs point to done, conduct a spoon test.
  6. Remove from the heat to slow down the cooking each time you test the jam. Place 1 teaspoon of the mixture on 1 of your frozen spoons and quickly return to the plate in the freezer. After 2 minutes, check to see if the jam has thickened on the frozen spoon by rocking it from side to side. If it’s very loose and runny, return to medium heat and keep boiling the mixture. When your jam barely moves on the spoon, it’s ready. It will continue to thicken as it sits. When it’s ready, remove from the heat and do not stir it any further. Carefully remove and discard the rosemary sprig.
  7. If you’re not preserving/canning the jam, allow the mixture to cool and then store in the fridge up to 4 weeks in a sealed container
  8. If you are preserving the jam, ladle your jam through a funnel into your prepared jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Tap the jar a few times to loosen any air bubbles. Wipe the rims and seal carefully, as the jars will be hot. If you’re canning according to my waterbath-canning directions, place the jars in a single layer in your pot of boiling water. Once the water bath boils again, process these jars 10 full minutes. Store up to 1 year in a dark pantry

Materials

  • Masking tape
  • Glue (I prefer Mod Podge)
  • Glitter
  • Fig leaf (optional)
  • Washi tape

Directions

  1. Once the jar has cooled completely (at least 24 hours after making), place a piece of masking tape around the lower 1⁄2 inch of the jar. Apply glue below the tape line on the jar. Sprinkle with glitter and turn upside down to dry. Once dry, adhere a small fig leaf (if using) to the jar with washi tape.
Photos taken by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio. Fig photos styled by Catrine Kelty. Photo of Maggie taken by Maggie Battista.

Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.

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