As 2012 comes to an end, I’m taking stock of a few things this year, mostly food-related, because of course. But first, a few nice things to cook this winter to keep warm (it’s snowing out here something fierce in Boston as I type this):
Roasted Kabocha Squash: Steamed to soften, seeds and pulp scraped out, cut into wedges, basted in melted unsalted butter (experiment with adding a pinch of sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever spices take your fancy), roasted at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, basted in more butter, roasted at 400 degrees for 20-30 more minutes until the surface turns a crispy brown. Enjoy, skin and all.
Spicy Chicken Stew: I like making this dish because it is extremely easy and very tasty. My mother used to call this dish “Seoul Chicken.” Chicken legs are brined in salt water for 30 minutes, then browned in a large pan with some olive oil. Your spicy sauce is made from soy sauce, honey, grounded Korean red pepper powder, minced garlic, and minced ginger. Throw in some potatoes, and carrots for flavor towards the end. Cover and cook.
Favorite things of 2012:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake: This cake is stupid good. And I LOVE the look from cake rings + acetate. Thank you, Momofuku Milk Bar cook book!
Black Tea Grapefruit Muffins: These muffins are SO good and so unusual. Probably my favorite thing I’ve ever made to date.
Liddabit Sweets “King” Bars: This past year I have found my sweet tooth waning a bit. I can barely stand eating most store-bought sweets. However, these artisan candy bars, particularly the King candy bar, is all kinds of ridiculous good with banana ganache (the real delight).
La Colombe Coffee: I started drinking coffee in the sixth grade. I work in a neighborhood with 5 competing cafes. I love coffee. La Colombe makes some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. Their cold brewed coffees, especially, are so crazy good. I can’t go back from this.
Dollar Shave Club: Not only was this the favorite commercial I ever saw last year (the whole company seems beyond amazing in terms of culture and humor), but the service is inexpensive and really fantastic. Yes, the blades are advertised primarily for men, but the razors are deliciously sharp and quite perfect for womanly upkeep too.
Scotch Naturals Nail Polish: Non-toxic, high-quality, and eco-friendly polishes that come in a range of absolutely gorgeous colors.
Lucky Peach magazine: From the Momofuku Empire of David Chang, this food literary magazine provide some truly excellent writing on a wide range of culinary and lifestyle topics.
Mary Kay Facial Cleansing Cloths: I first got turned on to Mary Kay through being sucked into a Mary Kay party a former roommate was hosting. I’ve been a Mary Kay fan ever since. It’s the only line of skincare products that really clears up and brightens my skin without being hard or drying it out. These cloths are a fantastic addition to have if you need to remove makeup in hurry or are traveling (they come dry and only need to be dipped in water to start foaming, so you don’t have to worry about the liquids rule!). I cut the cloths in half and only use one half at a time because they produce SO MUCH cleanser, so I get twice the amount out of these cloths.
The Cook Books That Really Caught My Eye This Year
I’m a noted cook book-aholic. I can’t seem to stop buying more than I can possibly read and process. Here are my absolute favorites this year (well, the ones I’ve actually managed to read):
What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies: One of the most gorgeous cook books I’ve ever read, from one of the most gorgeous food blogs I’ve ever read.
The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss: Tim Ferriss is such a love-him-or-hate-him figure. Sometimes I want to smack him with a cold mackerel for all the smug name-dropping with which he peppers his writing and the almost excess of confidence (I’m not sure why one should take pride in winning a national kickboxing championship on a technicality rather than through true skill), but most of the time, I quite admire him and his admittedly inspiring can-do attitude. This latest “life-hack” book of his is by far my favorite. So much more than a mere cook book, The 4-Hour Chef is ridiculously well-produced, dense (almost 700 pages!), and chock full of so much fascinating knowledge about not only cooking, but learning.
The Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet: Buying the original hefty Modernist Cuisine set reminded me of the set of Britannica Encyclopedias my parents bought when I was little, only the pictures are so much prettier and the information is probably much more accurate. Fortunately, The Modernist Cuisine at Home is a much more condensed, “useable” version (although it still might be able to stop a bullet) for those who don’t have, oh, millions of dollars to invest in a science lab/kitchen. The quality is still the same (read: bonkers high) and information is a little more practical for the home cook, but, as ever, the book is entirely engrossing. I really love reading these books maybe not so much for the practical application, but to gain a deeper understanding of the science of food and cooking.
The Elements of Dessert by Francisco Migoya: I am a huge fan of Migoya’s blog, The Quenelle, for its mind-bogglingly astounding and aesthetically zen-like desserts. The innovations he is making in the pastry world are simply breathtaking (and sound mouthwatering). This book, this beautiful and huge book, could almost double as a coffee table book for its sublime photography, but it’s also a very thorough education in foundational pastry and baking tenets, as well as quite inspiring in its recipes. Not that its recipes are necessarily the easiest things to make. We are talking about Momofuku Milk Bar and Alinea cook book levels of nested recipes. We are talking about requiring cooking equipment and tools that lean more towards Modernist Cuisine than, say, just a 9″ cake tin and cooling rack. While I don’t know if I will ever create a fully plated dessert as presented in the book, I am certain I will be able to use many of the nested recipes (say, doughnut ganache filling, oh my god) for something.
Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi: This is a genuinely beautiful book full of gorgeous photos, mouth-watering Middle Eastern recipes, and rich, fascinating writing to underpin it all.
Ruhlman’s Twenty by Michael Ruhlman: I loved, loved, loved Michael Rhulman’s book, Ratio. I love his blog. I love his no-nonsense, practical approach to cooking and baking that is 100% authentic, knowledgeable, and just plain good. This book is all of that. A great book for those who are interested in cooking but may not know how to begin.