I blame the arsonist.
I fully intended to post my favorite recipes of 2011 on New Year's Eve while I sat on my couch, my hand glued to a giant glass of white wine. That was the big plan. Couch time. Giant glass of white wine time. Sentimental reflective time.
It was going to make me uber-emotional and obnoxious. I was going to tell you that "2011 was a year of monumental change for me." I was going to tell you that I got a new job, a new car and a renewed sense of self. It was going to be gross and cliched and everything that makes me hate New Year's and resolutions and people who get reflective after they drink too many giant glasses of white wine.
Instead, I spent New Year's Eve driving down to my parents' house in Orange County because I was convinced that the LA arsonist was going to torch my new car, Molly. I didn't even consider that Molly was more likely to get in an accident driving on the 405, in the fog, on New Year's, than she was to be singled out for the arsonist's next sparkler. Clearly, my reflective skills were not functioning properly.
Again, I blame the arsonist.
Today, four days into the new year, I'm not feeling nearly as sentimental about 2011. I'm feeling convicted. Ready to eat 2012 whole with big messy bites. Just like I ate these recipes -- my favorite of 2011 -- this past year.
While I was, you know, going through all those monumental changes.
Nancy Silverton's Bran Muffins
These will always be the muffins I ate on the morning *I* bought my first car. It's only fitting that they were practically perfect in every way - hearty specimens with an unexpected depth of flavor and tenderness to their interiors. I wouldn't expect anything less from LA's queen of bread and pastry.
Spice Krinkles with Dried Apricots and Chocolate
I thought I'd moved passed the days when I could eat a half dozen cookies in a single sitting. Until this recipe came along. I ate no less than 15 of them this holiday season. These spicy vixens killed all my restraint with their chewy interiors, crackly exteriors and bold accents of apricot and chocolate. Joy to the World, indeed.
Colorful Lentil and Couscous Salad
I never knew a salad could smell intoxicating before I encountered this recipe adapted from the Kitchn. Lentils become anything but ho-hum with the addition of pomegranate molasses, sundried tomatoes and sauteed onion and peppers. Eating it almost made me forget that I'm supposed to be the Quinoa Queen -- not the Lentil Lady.
The only way to improve the most famous tomato sauce in the country is to add an egg and serve it on top of toasted bread. Scott Conant = Genius.
Warm Quinoa Salad with Fried Egg, Spring Vegetables and Herbs
This dish was the theme song of my spring. I scoured the farmer's market every weekend for asparagus and fresh English peas, and went through four basil plants from Trader Joe's making it over the course of the season. This is what delicious obsession looks like.
I coined these squares of sin the "Be-All End-All Brownie" for good reason. I have no desire to make any other brownie recipe ever again.
Warm Chickpea and Roasted Cauliflower Salad
Nine months later and I'm still hopelessly hooked on this salad. It's gotten to the point where I can't pass a cauliflower at the farmer's market or grocery store without envisioning it in this form. The key is using absurd quantities of lemon, garlic, parsley, basil, and Parmesan. You'll need a good half head of cauliflower per person.
Red Quinoa Salad with Apples, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Smoked Gouda
This is the salad I make for people who say they don't like quinoa. It's trail mix in a less depraved form --utterly addicting with the different textures and assertive tang from the dried cranberries and sherry vinegar. The deal is sealed with the tiny cubes of smoked gouda. Quinoa haters don't stand a chance.
I'm fairly convinced that this recipe is why Molly Wizenberg married her husband Brandon. I would marry a blender if he made me a crock of these saucy, seductively spiced chickpeas. Particularly if he served it to me with quinoa and roasted cauliflower on the side.
Braised Kale with Chickpeas
This simple dish was the sleeper hit of the year. While perfectly worthy of best recipe status as is, it was also a saving grace without the chickpeas -- a proper side dish for a roast chicken dinner with the parents or companion for a serious steak. It was perhaps most significant, however, when curtly topped with a runny fried egg. It would be indecent of me to not to admit how many mornings I relied on it as a recovery breakfast after one too many indulgences the evening before.