In case you're on the lookout for an exceedingly practical gift, you could do a lot worse than to pick up a copy of Mark Bittman's superlative cookbook How To Cook Everything.
Yeah, it's a big book. But it's awesome. I've looked at a lot of cookbooks, and I usually find at least one or two things I can use, but this is the first book that has been so consistently useful for so many types of recipes. Lately I've been trying to use new ingredients and do more cooking from scratch, and Bittman never fails me when I turn to his book for some inspiration (his chapter on cooking and using beans is particularly good). The best thing about many of these recipes is how simple they are--most include only a few ingredients and can be made with a minimum of fuss.
I've started to use this book so often that his name is steadily sneaking into our kitchen lexicon. His appetizer-ish meatballs are known as Bittman Balls around our house. Likewise with his yogurt biscuits: Bittman Biscuits. And, wonder of wonders, I even found an easy recipe for kale and pasta in his book a few weeks back and have moved it into steady rotation. Don't know what to call that one yet; maybe Bittman Noodles. Or Bittman Finally Found a Way to Use Kale, but that's probably too long.
In any case, if you or anyone you know needs a great basic but still very comprehensive cookbook, this is the one to try.