I'm trying very hard to be aloof about the end of 2012. You know, pretending that it's no big thing that I'm entering into the year when I will turn... 30. Which seems rather fitting for a year that ends in... 13.
Not that I'm superstitious or anything.
Not at all.
In the least.
That said, even with the large, looming 3-0 festering on the horizon like a darkening sky ready to explode rain all over my 20-something parade, there's a part of me that's also relieved to have the ups and downs of this year over. I'm ready to slough off the skin of 2012 and start in on the ups and downs of next year with every confidence that there will be (knock on wood) more ups than downs.
This year did have its moments, of course. The sun-kissed, carefree days spent in Palm Springs, the friendships found and strengthened over too many glasses of wine, and these recipes.
Because it can't very well be the end-of-the-year without at least one obligatory top ten list.
Olive Oil and Maple Granola
I've maintained a steady supply of this granola in my pantry ever since making that first life-changing batch this past March. Because it contains olive oil instead of butter, I like to tell myself that it's "healthy," but you'd be well advised to know that this is absolutely not health food. Even when it is spooned over Greek yogurt mixed with paper thin slices of cold banana in what has quickly become my favorite
Farro with Kale, Tempeh and Shiitakes
Full disclosure: This offensively dark, hastily-taken picture is not of farro with kale, tempeh and shiitakes, but rather of farro with kale, tempeh and coconut -- the first iteration of this recipe that I've eaten a disturbing number of times this year. While it's still deserving of a place on this list with coconut chips intact, after using slivers of shiitake mushrooms instead I haven't been able to go back to the original. It's like eating a warm, salty kale chip salad for dinner. With, you know, mushrooms and tempeh and whole grains thrown in for good measure.
Quinoa with Carrots, Currants, Chickpeas
Were it not for the strenuous arm workout required to grate all the carrots that I deemed necessary for this salad, I would have made this my brown bag lunch staple every week this year. As it is, I made it countless times, likely drawing raised eyebrows from my coworkers as I shoveled in forkfuls of the vibrantly orange-flecked quinoa whilst pouring over food blogs during the 15 minutes I call a "lunch break." A heartier take on a classic apple cider-dressed carrot salad, it's tart and sweet and utterly addicting. And also the reason I perpetually have little kernels of quinoa stuck in my computer keyboard at work.
Mozza's Butterscotch Budino and Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies
Perhaps the most labor-intensive of the recipes I made this year, it's only fitting that this intensely decadent butterscotch budino with rosemary pinenut cookies would make my top ten list. Particularly since the recipe comes from The Mozza Cookbook. Which is really all you need to know.
Curried Sweet Potato Soup, Kale and Chickpea Soup with Farro
Everyone needs a silver bullet soup recipe that comes together in less than an hour with a minimal number of ingredients and effort. While this soup didn't come my way until late November, it's quickly become a staple for me. So much so that I even bought red curry paste to store at my parents' house in Orange County. (People need silver bullet soup in the OC too.)
Warm Quinoa Salad with Tofu, Shiitakes and Cabbage
A remix of the tofu & shiitake cabbage cups that preceded it, this warm quinoa salad ended up completely overshadowing its predecessor. The ribbons of cabbage acquire a delicate sweetness when cooked that is a fitting counterbalance to the earthiness of the shiitakes and salinity of the soy-based sauce. Capped off with a heady amount of sesame seeds and crunchy cashews, it's almost reminiscent of a warm Chinese Chicken Salad. Without, you know, the chicken.
Peach Blueberry Pie
Making this pie was a triumph. It came at a time when I was feeling like the world was spinning too fast around me and that I'd never quite catch up. With this recipe, I didn't need to catch up. I could slow down and still accomplish something significant. Because, as we all well know, pie is always significant. This version with its cinnamon-sugar dusted crust and rightfully oozy interior of in-season peaches and blueberries is particularly so, and reason enough to sit down a savor a slice of life a la mode.
Wheat Berries with Caramelized Onions and Maple Roasted Squash
I adore this dish. The sluggish slurry of caramelized red onions, the maple-glazed cubes of squash, the crunch of toasted pepitas, and the unexpected flourishes of dried mulberries -- this warm wheat berry salad is fall. I'm especially partial to it paired with a side of balsamic-glazed pan-fried Brussels sprouts, and I've also taken to throwing in a handful of chickpeas when eating it as an entree. I like to think that served this way even the staunchest carnivore in the group could be converted into temporary vegetarianism.
Cashew Butterscotch Bars
I blame these bars on my current state of post-holiday bloatation that has had me shellacked inside the same pair of black Lululemon stretchy pants for the past five days. I can't even fathom my skinny jeans -- nor how I will possibly be able to zip up the dress my mother gave me for Christmas. That said, I can't fathom not having these bars as a new fixture in my family's ever-growing list of holiday cookies.
As someone who thinks nothing of going to two grocery stores, the farmers market and my local wine shop to make dinner, I often forget that sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. With the right ingredients, something as ordinary as toast can be made sublime.
I hope to remember this more in 2013 -- with regards to both food and life. It doesn't always have to be fireworks and tasting menus and bottles of Grand Cru. Beauty exists in everyday moments, and joy can be found in the seemingly mundane. Even a bottle of 14 Hands Merlot shared with friends at a soba noodle place. Or a slice of avocado toast, eaten over the sink on an ordinary Sunday afternoon.