Yesterday morning I made more cranberry compote, cored the last of the tiny apples and started my first batch of vinegar. For Christmas, I received copies of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation from my husband who’s both in tune with what’s on my wish list and very good at elbowing me when something important needs to happen. In this case, it’s a nudge to get my fermentation crock (last year’s gift) filled again. Which I will do as soon as this year is properly lullabied.
The simple tasks of combining ingredients and gathering fruit scraps for the vinegar left me some mental space to work through this post, to think about which recipes from this blog I’ll revisit in 2013.
There are quite a few. It’s been a good year for cooking. As I’ve said before, I’m not a recipe developer, but a home cook, an everyday cook. I never assume that the recipes here will be revelatory. Only variations on fresh produce that are worthy of repeating and that bring me a little closer to being a good home cook.*
In that regard, 2012 has been a success. My sensibilities in the kitchen have improved, as have as the flavor of our meals. These improvements define the year for me and manifest themselves in new little mottos, kitchen proverbs if you will. These adages originated with a particular recipe or in a moment when I was hovering over a steaming pot, my tasting spoon full of soup. There’s no better way to re-cap the year for you than a review of these sayings and the recipes that go along with them.
But first, there’s another re-cap that’s in order. In 2012, a few others have tried our creations themselves, told their readers about us, or both. Read this lovely post on Chie’s rhubarb compote at Life Through the Kitchen Window and Cook Up A Story’s version of my roasted okra. If you missed it, we were featured in this post on blogEATS, the Harvard Common Press’s blog about food blogs, in September. And last month we got a shout-out on a Foodie Friday post at CDKitchen. Olympia readers can always find posts linked on the OlyBlog feed page and those in the greater Seattle area can find the blog listed on the King5.com Food Blogroll.
Loving food is one thing. Growing to know and love the food community is another, bigger thing and one I’m so glad to be part of.
2012 Kitchen Adages
There’s more to life than another sauté.
Chie’s Warm Kale Salad with Marinated Shiitakes reminds me that there are ways to prepare foods that don’t involve a skillet. Marinating shiitake mushrooms for this salad is an unconventional preparation** and one I’d never tried. It’s outstanding and nothing could be simpler.
Always have seaweeds on hand.
In the pantry few ingredients have the nutritional punch and rich flavor of sea vegetables. Last winter, I discovered the versatility and variety of sea plants, a light in the middle of a season that’s quiet on the local produce front. I was used to nori sheets but after making Chie’s Salad of the Sea, I keep others on hand for broths, to fold into salads and to toss in with a rice dish. Now that it’s winter, I’m dreaming of dashi and this salad again.
Cook with the real thing.
Good quality vanilla extract is a necessity for good baking, of course. But to make something outstanding, even the best can’t beat a vanilla bean. Splitting my first one for Chie’s Rhubarb Compote was an “of course” moment: foods made with minimally processed ingredients taste amazing. If the occasion calls for the real thing, by all means use it.
Roasted vegetables are like the Cinderella at the farm-to-table ball. Everyone’s looking at these brown-edged parsnip discs, these crisp-tender green beans and asking, “Who are they? Where did they come from?” I’m no exception. When I discovered, for my post on okra, that roasting renders them un-gooey, I wondered why, for love or money, those bags of frozen, pre-breaded bags of okra slices even exist. Nothing could be easier or taste better than this.
At one point Kristin Kimball, the author and central figure in the farming memoir The Dirty Life, says of cooking, “keep your knives sharp, taste everything and don’t skimp on the salt.” Since I read that line in the spring I’ve seen another half dozen admonitions to taste your cooking. Taste as you cook. Add salt as you go. Don’t sit down at the table hungry, it means you haven’t tasted your food enough. If most people are like me, the insistence is not misplaced. I used to take my first bite when I sat down at the dinner table with my family and then feel disappointed with the end product. This creamy celery soup turned out to be such a hit because I tasted it as I went along (and wrote down what I did, to add another adage).
Outside the kitchen, namely at this computer, I’m feeling grateful for a year with you. Thank you for your comments and notes of encouragement; for reading and cooking and sharing your recipes and love of food with me. Here’s to a delicious 2013!
*I’m talking about my recipes and adaptations here. It goes without saying that Chie’s recipes, sprung from a chef’s intuition and training, are in a different category altogether.
**In the post for this recipe, I explain that some people develop a severe rash after consuming raw shiitakes.