I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Best of 2012

I diligently planned our meals thorugh 2012, and along the way I had the idea that I might post our favorite discoveries each month. Well, first I thought I might post what I cooked/where we went each night on a monthly basis, but that completely eluded me. So then I thought about sharing the best recipes I tried, and when months went by, I considered doing it quarterly, and here we are with an annual round up.

Looking through these, I hope that having these here will jog my mind, there were some great finds in 2012! And if anyone else enjoys them, I'd love to know.

Where possible, I provide a link directly to the recipe. Where I used a cookbook, I provide a link to the Amazon site, but only because the Indie Bound website is lighter on content -- should you choose to acquire a book, here's a plug for your local bookstore!

● A beautiful recipe for wine jelly, which I made as a gift for my workmates to rave reviews! -- from the blog Eating from the Ground Up
David Lebovitz's roast chicken with caramelized shallots -- I need to make this again! That sauce! And so easy.
● Nigel Slater's cod with parsley brown butter sauce from his Real Fast Food
● Brooklyn Farmhouse ginger syrup + crystalized ginger -- perfect for homemade ginger ale
Chinese Beef Noodle Soup from the Gourmet Cookbook -- MZ loved this one and so did we, that soy-ginger-star anise combination works every time
● Spaghetti with radicchio and caramelized onions from The Ferry Plaza Cookbook
Princess Leia cupcakes for MZ's birthday 

● Tuesday Recipe's Lightened Up Chicken Breasts Braised with Escarole with the following note: Decrease cooking time, salt/pepper chix before browning
Cook's Illustrated Basic Risotto with Beet Greens -- a great technique for making risotto an easier weeknight meal
● The Dinner Files' asparagus -- a great basic recipe, we enjoyed this throughout the season
● Real Simple's lemony Barley and Lentil Salad
● A curried yellow split pea soup to which I added kohlrabi greens and wild rice -- I should try to make this again, I assume I made a pretty basic veg split pea soup with curry spices and added cooked wild rice and chopped kohlrabi greens

● Smitten Kitchen Double Coconut Muffins -- another recipe worth a return engagement
● The lamb, chicken, and carne asada marinades from Rancho Cooking -- this is a great cookbook for early California cooking. I added 2 t soy sauce to the carne asada recipe 
Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta from the Kitchn -- delicious and it freezes well
● Irish vegetable barley soup made with the leftover stock from cooking corned beef
Miso-Ginger Glazed Salmon from Chow -- a great dish for a group, I made this several times this year
Buttermilk-marinated Chicken Thighs from Smitten Kitchen -- this marinade is infinitely adaptable, and is particularly good with Balti seasoning from Penzeys Spices
Kohlrabi Pickles from Serious Eats -- these are outstanding on turkey burgers!
Ginger Applesauce Cake from the Kitchn
Shortbread Jam Tart from the Kitchn -- so easy, especially with a food processor, this was a hit with MZ and H
Grilled Chorizo-stuffed Poblano Peppers from Serious Eats -- I used soyrizo and we cooked these on the grill up in the snow. They were delicious! Should be a summer staple

And one very Meh recipe:

● Conch ceviche made in Belize with fresh conch and this ceviche recipe
● Dinner a Love Story (DALS) shrimp tacos
● Mariquita Farm's Greens Tacos made with lamb's quarters and Bolani/East West Gourmet's yogurt cheese
Lemony Pickled Cauliflower from Serious Eats -- be sure to use the zest only, the jar with white pitch still attached carried an unpleasant bitter hit
Spicy Rutabaga Pickles -- these had a nice flavor but next time I'll omit the ground spices, which make the finished product cloudy and slightly sandy
● Saveur's pickled cauliflower
● For a Belizean-themed dinner upon our return I marinated chicken in this excellent recado rojo, and served it with Rice and Beans from a now-defunct website called belizeanpride.com
Pook's Hill banana bread -- the banana bread that sustained us during day trips from our excellent lodge
● The household was split on Smitten Kitchen's riff on Ottolenghi's Cauliflower Parmesan Cake, a little goes a long way
● An oddly delicious Black Bean Cauliflower Spread from the Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans cookbook

Cook's Illustrated arugula pesto
Dinner a Love Story's kale salad -- among many kale salad recipes, this is a keeper
● "Sauterash" -- we had extra grilled hot dogs from a barbecue so I made an Hungarian-influenced staple of my childhood: long grain white rice cooked with sauteed onions and green peppers, diced canned tomatoes and paprika, with sliced hot dogs folded in. I can't say MZ was as enamored as I was but we all ate it up.
bay area bites Fava Ravioli  -- this is an outstanding recipe! Made it with wonton wrappers, MZ did the stuffing and folding
● Carrot refrigerator pickles from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it -- Karen Solomon is a local treasure!

Momofuku bo ssam (pork shoulder) from the New York Times -- delicious! And that ginger scallion sauce is to die for!
● Serious Eats grilled smashed potatoes
Barbara Kafka's Chinese Chicken in the Pot on Serious Eats -- this was a slam dunk -- ready in 30 minutes and again with the soy-ginger-star anise combination. I need to make this again.
● Blueberry Oat Muffins -- riffed from an easy, lower-sugar quick bread recipe from the Kitchn, I made variations on this recipe all year long, subbing whatever fruit was available, from cherries to chopped pears. I added 2 T grapeseed oil to make the cake more tender and baked the muffins for ~20 min.
● Mark Bittman's Fast Scallion Pancakes -- I added 2 T milk and 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder, these were a great use of some extra scallions, and were delicious as a modified wrap with grilled steak, shredded lettuce and hoisin sauce
● A Dinner a Love Story twofer: the yogurt-marinated chicken breasts with Phoebe's spice mix stirred into the marinade
● A riff on a Dinner Files favorite, winter tomatoes in yogurt sauce with leftover roasted zucchini added
● My favorite jam so far this year: Nectarine Lime Ginger riffed from a recipe from the wonderful Food in Jars cookbook
Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles -- these are the addictive pickles served with their fantastic burger -- we enjoyed these on sandwiches and burgers, with sausages and cheese plates. I will make these every summer.
● I started making yogurt this year from a recipe on the Food in Jars blog -- so easy. I follow her recipe, and use a smallish soft-sided cooler packed with 3 mason jars of yogurt and 3 filled with an even mixture of boiling water and hot tap water, allowed to sit for 10 hours. Delicious and no plastic containers.
● Dinner a Love Story's Back Pocket Turkey Bolognese -- quick and delicious
Terry's TX pinto beans from allrecipes.com - a good basic taco bean made in the slow cooker
● A made up and highly addictive recipe for Oregano-spiced Pickled Carrots
● A leftover melange of barley, grilled corn, cherry tomatoes and chickpeas w torn basil and a  lemon-sherry vinegar-shallot-Dijon vinaigrette 
Roasted Mushrooms with Herbs from the Kitchn
● Lebneh from Flavors of Aleppo -- my favorite thing to do with extra yogurt, delicious spread on toast
Ricotta Cheese from Smitten Kitchen
● A delicious marinara-style sauce with lightly roasted tomatoes from SF's Square Meals-- scroll down to Mariquita Tomato Sauce -- I made and froze several batches with my Mariquita tomatoes and we're still enjoying it 
● After running out so quickly last year, this year I canned a big batch of Parsi tomato chutney, originally from Niloufer Ichaporia King's My Bombay Kitchen. This chutney is good on everything, from scrambled eggs to grilled cheese sandwiches
● I riffed the earlier Kitchn buttermilk-based oat bread with 101 Cookbook's My Special Zucchini Bread, adding zucchini in place of blueberries as well as crystalized ginger, poppyseeds and 1/2 t curry powder (in place of cinnamon) - it was delicious!
● More breakfast baking: zucchini and olive breakfast cake (savory) from the Kitchn
● A delicious leftovers salad of grilled chicken, shredded and squeezed zucchini, grated parmigiano, chopped kalamatas and couscous with lemon Dijon vinaigrette 
● A great veg lasagna with homemade ricotta, roasted mushrooms, chard, shredded zucchini and that Four Square Mariquita tomato sauce

● Bon Appetit's Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs are both perfect and very easy
● Miso Ginger Chicken Legs: marinate chicken all day in this, drain. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, line baking pan w foil, place rack on pan. Roast legs 30 min, broil 1-2 min to brown if needed. Rest 10 min. Serve
● Stirfried celery w onion and red pepper  -- simple and suprisingly good
● Salsa Verde from the incomparable Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal
● Cook's Illustrated's Israeli-style baba ganoush (a long-time favorite)
● Mariquita Farms' pickled carrots
● Pickled red onions using a basic brine from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it
● I experimented with lactofermented carrots and cukes, more to come in summer of 2013
● A basic plum jam spiced with cinnamon, star anise and a touch of cardamom turned out very nice
● I used a tested recipe to can tomatillo salsa and we've been enjoying it on everything -- MZ loves it
● A recipe from a friend (Hi Judy!) that is ridiculously good: boiled corn sections served with lime and small piles of salt, chile powder and cumin for dipping
● A Southwest Shredded Carrot Salad made withgrated carrots, slivered scallions and Penzeys southwest seasoning in a lemon vinaigrette
● Smitten Kitchen's zucchini bread pancakes (adjusted to 1/4 t cinnamon, 3 T brown sugar)
● A quick weekday meal: Chicken and Artichokes in Wine Sauce over pasta from the Kitchn, with a few mods: small dice and sauté 1/2 onion, use 3 T flour: 1 chix breast, finish the sauce with 3/4 c wine, 1/2 c pasta water, and 2 T chicken stock
● Tomatillo jalapeño jam from the Homesick Texan Cookbook
● Tomatoes dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, cilantro and black pepper inspired by Mark Bittman
● Outstanding baked feta w tomatoes and olives from Smitten Kitchen -- OMG this is addictive
● Eggs poached in tomatillo sauce from Rick Bayless' Mexico: One Plate at a Time on sauteed polenta rounds with crumbled cotija cheese
Chow's sesame-cucumber salad

Meh: Tamar Adler's veggie stem pesto -- I'm going to be okay throwing away stems
● Giant runner beans cooked in a slow cooker, then baked in a puttanesca sauce with browned diced eggplant, topped with feta -- great on on toast!
● "Millet latkes" from the quinoa cakes recipe in Supernatural Everyday, with extra cheese to bind
● Quick eggplant red curry from Hot Sour Salty Sweet
Braised coconut spinach with chickpeas and lemon (made with kale) - a great veg dinner over brown Basmati rice from the Kitchn
● Friends made the Barefoot Contessa's Sunday roast beef for us and now I want to roast a beef
● They also made something called Prairie Market carrot soup for which I must find the recipe

Meh: Buoyed by my last kitchn artichoke success, I made the barigoule, which was easy but weird -- the carrots threw it out of balance

● The ricotta pie with leftover veggies from An Everlasting Meal is a new standard, good with string beans, greens, broccoli or cauliflower
● Turns out blanched chard stems and green lentils make a lovely salad with a garlicky red wine vinaigrette
● Mark Bittman is genius at developing shortcuts that don't sacrifice flavor. His chicken adobo from the How to Cook Everything app did not disappoint

Several Mehs this month:
● Molly Watson's Tomato Confit -- this was just really oily. I prefer them brushed with olive oil and slow-roasted
● The kitchn's ham bone, bean and green soup needed a lot of punching up
● NYT's savory cottage cheese pancakes had a lovely texture but way too much garam masala, I'd adjust the seasonings on the next try

And a bunch of successes:
● America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution is a great cookbook. I made the Asian ribs recipe with a pork butt and wow, it was good
● That ricotta pie with roasted tomatoes and leftover roasted broccoli 
● The Kitchn redeemed itself with Double Spinach Pasta Casserole, next time I'd decrease the oil but this was popular with the whole family
● The America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution pork posole was also outstanding -- no carrots, though, I served it with shredded cabbage, minced white onion, slivered radishes and crumbled dried oregano instead
● Tamar Adler's lettuce and rice soup from An Everlasting Meal is perfect comfort food
● The Dinner a Love Story cookbook is also a favorite, and the recipe for Grandma Turino's tomato gravy is a keeper
● The red pepper jelly from the Chronicle Cookbook Volume II worked spectacularly with fresh cayenne peppers, chile flakes and pomegranate seeds
● NYT Potato, Salmon and Spinach Patties W Garlicky Dill Cream (using my dad's smoked salmon, beet greens, and no dill)
●  Look, with this much cheese it isn't going to be *bad* but the kitchn's easy prosciutto pasta bake was a hit

Cook's Illustrated winter squash calaloo with Portuguese cabbage from our farm box instead of chard -- a great combination of flavors
Quick Oat Bran and Banana Muffins from epicurious, made with rolled oats and the full egg
● Yemeni chicken soup from Faye Levi's International Jewish Cookbook was good health in a bowl: thin egg noodles, chickpeas, diced chix, carrots, celery, Portuguese cabbage, cumin, turmeric and black pepper
● "White Bolognese" from An Everlasting Meal
● White bean soup w Mariquita ham hock soup
● Chorizo and potatos from our CSA -- time to make empanadas with storebought Salteña wrappers
● Dry-fried string beans from the Sunset Cookbook
● Chicken and choy sum stirfry from Breathe of a Wok
● Frijoles de la Olla  from Rancho Gordo pinquitos in the slow cooker
● And the capper to the year: fancy jello shots made with with homemade melon liqueur