I don’t typically make resolutions, but given the spirit of the New Year surrounding us all, I thought that setting a few cooking goals for 2015 would be in order. Several of these have been on my mind for years, and I’m hoping that committing them to writing, and sharing them here, might inspire me to tackle them at last.
* Homemade Tofu—using what can only be excellent guidelines from Andrea Nguyen, from whom I recently took a class about Asian dumplings. She’s a superb teacher, and her cookbooks are instructive, accessible, and precise.
* Bouillabaisse—a classic that should definitely be in my repertoire. Because I don’t eat a lot of seafood it’s never been a priority, but…crusty toast, rouille (a sort of fortified aioli)? Yes, please.
* Shawarma—even the cheapest gyro counters have delicious shawarma, and I’d always imagined it only in the domain of those little shops. But this recipe is inspiring me to make it at home. Bonus: I can put all the yogurt sauce I want on the finished sandwich.
* Milk-Braised Pork—I have yet to perfect this dish, but this recipe might get me closer to that goal, though I’d be inclined to omit the lemon. Other versions throughout the years have yielded tasty sauce by dry meat, or moist meat but bland sauce. Hazelnuts, in my opinion, are a ruinous addition. I’ll keep trying.
* Strudel—not to be confused with a standard fruit tart; the dough, traditionally pulled so thin you can read a newspaper through it, looks like a formidable challenge. This just might be my year to give it a go.
* Ricotta Gnocchi—on my list for years now, after first eating these at Zuni Cafe back in, say, 1999. Recipes from the Zuni Cookbook are meticulous, so that’s the one I’ll be using for my first attempt.
* Croquetas—why, oh why, has it taken me so long to get around to this project? I ate so many delicious versions of these in Barcelona yet have had nothing but paltry imitations here in S.F. I’ve been promising these to my husband for nearly three years now.
And, to end 2014 in style, a few favorite dishes from the last year:
* Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)—you’ll notice this is another from Andrea Nguyen. Her recipes are foolproof and delicious, without exception.
* Simple, Indian-inspired Potato and Spinach Patties (boiled red potatoes, plenty of sauteed spinach and onions, garlic, asafoetida, cumin, fresh cilantro, ginger and toasted coriander seeds; bind with a little egg and some breadcrumbs, coat with chickpea flour and pan-fry)—delicious with a simple chutney of tomatoes, ginger, mustard seeds, vinegar and a little sweetener.
* Homemade Krispy Kreme doughnuts—there’s still a bit of the pastry geek in me, but it doesn’t come close to the passion and dedication of Jenni Field. Thank goodness she did all that research, and I had only to reap the rewards. This recipe is a real keeper.
*The World of Paleo Cooking—one of my clients opted to go full-on Paleo this year (though I gather it’s an absolute endeavor, and “full-on” is a redundant use of the term when talking about this; it’s more a lifestyle than a food plan). To my surprise, it’s opened up a world of interesting eating—first and foremost because bread is on the list of forbidden foods. Cucumber baguettes, sweet potato hashbrown “buns” for sliders, and jicama taco shells are just a few of the standouts I’ve been giving a go.
* Vegetarian Pozole—this deceptively modest recipe creates a framework for spectacular results (the backbone of this dish is the flavorful broth). While Pork Pozole remains my favorite, the vegetarians in your life will love having this as an option. Be sure to serve with all the garnishes. Which reminds me…trying Rancho Gordo’s hominy needs to be on my list of goals for 2015.
* Tempura—made by request for a client’s daughter and—because I wanted it to turn out right—with the help of Alton Brown.
* Smores Bars—made several changes to this recipe (omitted the chipotle, used less butter in the crust) and used the best milk chocolate I could get my hands on. Out of this world, if this is your kind of thing.
There aren’t a lot of originals on this Favorites list, but it just tells me that 2014 was a year of learning. It’s testament to the good instruction of an expert: When I haven’t known quite how to proceed, there are lots of cooks I’ve grown to trust as reliable sources over the years, and their recipes are excellent starting points. To broaden my repertoire, I need to be willing to learn, and that’s one of the things I like best about this work. I consider this a stroke of good fortune—to do work that continuously invites me to discover and grow.
Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2015. Cheers!