Happy New Year’s Eve, friends!
And what a year it’s been… what a truly delicious year. Last year, despite documenting only a few months’ worth of cooking, I was still pretty pleased with my “best of” list. This time around, I’ve got a much larger oeuvre thanks to a few developments:
- Becoming good friends with (or devout worshiper of) the magical slow cooker, through which all stews are possible;
- Being on fussy/special diets constantly, which has naturally forced me to cook at home much more often;
- Baking like the sugar fiend I am whenever I take a hiatus from said diets;
- Picking up a very nice point-and-shoot camera;
- Subscribing to Mariquita Farms’ life-changing mystery boxes full of produce; and
- Building my spice pantry so enthusiastically that I must now open my cabinet gingerly (get it?) for fear of all manner of grinders, pouches, and bottles tumbling out.
These elements, shaken and stirred with my obsessive need to document things, has resulted in ~40 recipes over 365 days. Out of these, I’ve picked ten of my most favorite dishes. In no particular order…
Beef and tomato stew: I knew I had to include a crockpot dish, but nearly overlooked this simple weeknight meal in favor of some of the flashier, bolder recipes I’ve made. One look at this photo, however, and I was transported: cold winter night, fleece robe, glass of wine, and a bowl of this comforting goodness — what could be better?
Loaf cake with lemon glaze and toasted almonds: This might be the year that my sweet tooth changes course — away from the indulgent and decadent, towards the refreshing and light. This subtly sweet loaf cake was perfect for summer picnics, a breakfast bite, or a snack just because.
Eggplant strata: This brunch dish is not pretty nor simple, thereby lacking two components in my trifecta for a good recipe. That said, it was so incredibly rich and delicious (and, yes, healthy!) that it secured its place in this top ten list, easy.
Roasted cauliflower a la Mary Celeste: To the naked eye, it just looks like another roasted vegetable dish — but on the tongue, it’s a completely unexpected combination of flavors. Love this (especially because I’m ethnically Vietnamese and truly believe that everything tastes better with a dash of fish sauce).
Chinese steamed fish: Again, we have an unassuming-looking preparation… but the spice-blooming technique here really amps up the flavors of the herbs and seasonings. Don’t underestimate the power of a perfectly cooked fish and an incredible Asian sofrito. This is one of my very favorite 30-minute meals.
The New York Times’ consummate chocolate chip cookie: I’ve made many a CCC, but none so impressive as this monumental mash-up of classic recipes. Craggy, crispy, chewy, gooey, salty, sweet — it’s as close to perfection as I’ve ever gotten.
Plum torte: The best way to showcase a surfeit of fruit? Bake it into a light, sweet cake and top with a cool scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. This, for me, was summer in one beautiful spoonful.
Orange chicken and cauliflower fried “rice”: Now is the time to acknowledge dear Jay, who has patiently withstood many meals interrupted by my demands of “Waitletmejusttakeapictureofitfirst! CanIborrowyourIphonetooplease!” I also send him plenty of gratitude for washing countless dishes and picking up after I casually shake up the kitchen. Before we pity him too much, however, let’s remind ourselves that there is a silver lining to dating a home cook — and my other half is one very appreciative eater. This “healthy” rendition of a Panda Express favorite earned raves from Jay, who declared this one of his most beloved bites ever.
Chia pudding: With New Year’s resolutions around the corner, a sweet like this comes in handy: a blank slate that can be tweaked and fine-tuned to fit any tastes. Make a big batch, top with fruit, nuts, granola, chocolate, or any number of additions, and enjoy guiltlessly throughout the week.
Roasted chicken with za’atar and lemons: This year, I overcame my fear of salmonella and learned to roast poultry. With that skill, many, many doors opened. This particular dish tasted as deliciously exciting and bright as it looked — just phenomenal.
Phew! After the jump: the complete list of 2014 dishes. Unfortunately, there would’ve been even more recipes had life not gotten in the way. If only you could see my backlog of entries… there are so many things I cooked that I simply didn’t have the time to write into existence. Hopefully those meals, as well as many future ones, will make it here in the very near future.
In any case, friends, thank you for being here. I know I’m not a cooking authority nor blogger juggernaut, but I am a writer (I think?), and writers love readers (maybe?). For the first time ever, I’m actually encouraged to share what I’m creating with others. It’s immeasurably gratifying. I wouldn’t — I couldn’t — have done it without you. Love y’all.
See you in 2015. Cheers!
Lunch & Dinner