Top Bites of 2005

2005 has been a landmark culinary year for me. I ate incredible food in Barcelona, Paris, Norway and Seattle. I had my first-ever Michelin-starred meal, acquired more than 30 new cookbooks, and discovered the wonders of Smash! and olive jam. I taught myself how to wield a camera over a plate of food without dropping it in. I cooked with more focus and confidence than ever before, pushing myself to stray beyond my comfort zone and attempt things that leave even professionals trembling. I revealed far more skeletons in my culinary closet than I probably should have. I even managed to secure myself a pretty nifty vacation in a warm and sunny place. But without a doubt the most significant and meaningful event – not just in my culinary life but in my life in general – was starting this website in March. It has been an adventure that has brought me more friends, expansion of horizons and wonderful experiences than I would have ever dreamed possible.

So to both new readers and to those who have been here since the beginning, thank you for all your wonderful feedback, support and encouragement, and to wrap up this amazing year of food, here’s a list of my picks for the top ten dishes to appear on these pages in 2005. Enjoy, Happy New Year, and see you with plenty more delicious food in 2006!

235974743_93e634253e.jpg Moroccan-Spiced Poussins with Saffron, Honey and Tomato Jam
Posted on May 9 
This dish qualifies as one of the most delicious main courses I have ever eaten, let alone made myself. It was an adaptation of a recipe in Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, and combines the succulence of crisply-roasted poultry with the perfumes of rose, cinnamon and saffron, the sweetness of honey and the richness of almonds. Exotic and addictive.

235975235_484a05e1d0.jpg Lavender, Orange and Almond Cake
Posted on May 11
This cake made an appearance at the same dinner as the poussins above, and was inspired by a recipe to be found in the very same cookbook. As I admitted in the post, I’m not normally a big cake fan, but this particular recipe blew me away: moist, citrusy, nutty and floral. It’s incredible – give it a try.

235979770_76cab6a6a0.jpg Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spicy Feta-Olive Salad
Posted on June 9
I just realized with some embarrassment that this is yet another recipe from the same cookbook as the previous two! Well, never mind – give these a try anyway (or else just go out already and buy the book for yourself). What I love so much about these sweet potatoes is that besides being absolutely delicious, they’re perfect ‘everyday’ food – quick, easy and healthy. We have literally been eating them non-stop since this post was published.

235982111_94bf123107.jpg Chocolate Gelato No. 2
Posted on July 6
Out of all the recipes I’ve posted, this has gotten perhaps the best response, with the highest number of people contacting me to say they’d tried it and loved it. It’s a fantastically deep, dark ice cream with a velvety texture and comforting smoothness. It’s also easy to make without an ice-cream maker, and stays creamy and scoopable in the freezer. Since chocolates and cocoa do vary, I would recommend that you take the guidelines for sugar loosely – taste the mixture before you freeze it and if it seems a little too bitter for you, add another spoonful or two. And of course use the best chocolate and cocoa you can find – it makes a BIG difference.

235984054_0ad20fa97c.jpg Prawns with Lemon, Chili, Garlic & Feta
Posted on July 26
Shrimpy, cheesy, garlicky goodness – the name says it all. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll be in heaven. Kind of a bizarre story about how I acquired the recipe, too.

235984992_3ccdf7f01c.jpgCherry-Almond Gratin
Posted on August 4
I always used to think of myself as being more on the chocolate side of the fence when it comes to dessert, but a few amazing fruit and nut creations I made this year have me rethinking my preferences. I made this gratin when I went home to Seattle with perfectly ripe, local Ranier cherries. Their succulence and tartness in combination with the sweet marzipan-like topping, burnished golden from the oven, was a revelation – I would take this over most forms of chocolate anyday.

241595599_87957aa70f.jpg Chicken Braised with Figs, Honey and Vinegar
Posted on September 12
This dish from Judy Rogers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook is like poetry in flavors – everything is perfectly balanced with a simple, restrained elegance. One of my favorite things to do when figs are in season.

235958737_313d4d2f70.jpgPerfect Hot Chocolate
Posted on October 18
The name says it all – rich, chocolaty comfort in a cup to combat winter chills. This recipe has also just appeared in the Dec 29th edition of the Christian Science Monitor!


235958562_563b8870b3.jpgApple, Hazelnut and Vanilla Crisp
Posted on November 6
The backbone of this recipe has been passed down in my family now for generations, getting better with each subsequent one. Whether dressed up with hazelnuts and vanilla, like here, or left plain and simple, there are very few things I would prefer to eat on a blustery fall night.

235957937_4390f482ea.jpgScourtins (French Olive Cookies)
Posted on November 27
These olive cookies are as delicious as they are different. Although I made them as part of a virtual Christmas cookie swap, I think they’d be equally at home nibbled outside on a warm summer evening with a glass of wine. Sweet, salty and meltingly buttery, they’re one of my favorite recipe ‘finds’ of the year.