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.



15 thoughts on “Top Bites of 2005

  1. Can’t wait to try all these wonderful recipes, I may have to work backwards though! Here’s to a wonderful and delicious 2006 to you and yours…I can’t wait to hear about your upcoming adventures!Hugs!

  2. I really enjoyed this post as do I enjoy your site. Two things on your list really peaked my interest and are now on my "to make" list–the french olive cookies and the lavender cake. I had just purchased lavender last week, wanting to do something special with it. Now I know. Thank you and Happy New Year.

  3. Melissa, I’m so glad you started this site. I can’t believe you’ve only been around since March, though! Great, great wor. Isn’t it amazing what passion and a peculiar habit of bending over food to take photographs can yield? I only started my site in May (but really, in July, when I look at the first entries), and it has been one of the richest experiences of my life. Meeting you through this has been a joy. I’m only annoyed that you were visiting Seattle before I was a food blogger, or I would have happily shared meals with you. Have a wonderful year, my dear.

  4. Happy New Year, dear Melissa! I agree with, well, everyone: you do such beautiful work here, and my 2005 was better read and better fed for it. Please know that should you find yourself in New York, I will run, not walk, to meet your plane. Furthermore, when Lloyd and I return to Edinburgh — and we know we will — we will beat a hasty path to your door. (But we won’t come empty-handed. Moochers, we are not. πŸ™‚

  5. Happy New Year 2006, Melissa. Congratulations about the offer from Food and Travel (it’s one of my favorite magazine since I love both travelling and eating). Good luck on new adventure in 2006. Your writing is wonderful: personal, original and has style. You’re a great writer. Your recipes and photos have been making me hungry all the time. I’ve been your blog’s reader since 2 months about. I ‘found’ you from links of links but it seems like you’re always in people’s favorite blogs. I visited and I bookmarked your blog right away. I wish I can cook like that, but I’m a true eater. I love food…it seems like I live to eat kind-of-thing πŸ™‚ Anyways, great work, great recipes, great photos…Inspiring, very well-done. Good luck for more new exciting things in the new year…Have a great fun in Jamaica later on. I can’t wait to hear more of your stories…thanks a lot for sharing here. A hello from Antibes, South of France.

  6. hi melissa, what a wonderfully thoughtful post…happy new year to you! may 2006 be even more delicious…

  7. Hi Melissa-it’s called Jamaican Banana Brunch Soup & it’s on page 6 of Sheila’s book..if you check the index at Amazon under J there’s a slew of other Jamaican recipes or in the Table of contents.Congradulations on winning your free trip.So pleased I found you πŸ™‚

  8. Happy New Year, Melissa! As you remember, reading your blog (thanks to Guro’s hint) inspired me to start my own – although I have had the Estonian recipe site for 5 years already, foodblogging was totally unknown to me somehow. Your story on the Moroccan poussin was one of the first I read – I still remember drooling at it!Thanks for all the wonderful pictures and stories so far, and may 2006 be just as awe-inspiring!

  9. Thanks for introducing me to all these wonderful recipes. It’s been lots of fun stopping by your blog. Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best,Paz

  10. Melissa – Happy New Year! I hope 2006 brings many more beautiful stories and photographs and recipes from you. Your site is just a joy.

  11. Melissa, many thanks for compiling this list! You’ve posted so many beautiful and delicious-sounding dishes that I sometimes have a hard time deciding which to try first–a terrible problem, I assure you! Happy New Year, my friend, and cheers to more "top bites" in 2006.

  12. congrats! you totally deserve the accolades! i voted already. πŸ™‚ i added your blog as a link on mine. I hope you dont mind. shaz a foog blogger from singapore

  13. Hi Matt, thank you and all the same to you! It’s been a mighty pleasure ‘meeting’ you and your unbelievable photographic talents!Hi Kat – Thank you! :)Hi Fran – Thanks and Happy New Year to you too! That cake was my inagural recipe for my first purchase of lavender, and let me tell you, it certainly cemented the relationship. I hope it enchants you just as much!Shauna, the pleasure has been all mine, my friend. I’m also sad that our paths had not yet crossed last time I was in Washington, but there will surely be future visits, and without a doubt plenty of opportunity to share some delicious moments.Dear Bakerina, empty-handed or not, you are always welcome at my door. Thank you for your kind and generous words, and for always serving as such eloquent inspiration.Hi Maya – Welcome, and thank you. I sincerely appreciate the feedback, and I hope you will be back often!Hi J – A very Happy New Year to you too, my dear. Here’s to unbelievably good food… and far too much of it! ;)Hi Carolg – Thank you for the reminder. That book is unfortunately one of a last box that I haven’t yet been able to bring over from the U.S. And thanks for your visit!Hi Pille – I’m so glad you’ve been able to join this wonderful community, and happy I was instrumental in making it happen. I’ve learned a lot from your wonderful blog! In the new year let’s come up with a plan for introducing the world of food blogs to more of Edinburgh’s residents, shall we?Hi Paz – Thank you for being such a frequent and enthusiastic visitor! (and questioner!) πŸ™‚ All the best for you, your family and your lovely pooches this year!Dear Santos, thank you! I wish you all of the above and more – though in your case I’ll change it to ‘stay cool’. :)Hi Luisa – Thank you! May 2006 bring an unending stream of stellar recipes and burgeoning readership to your wonderful blog!Hi Molly – Funny how the same thing happens to me whenever I visit Orangette… In fact your recipes occupy both a folder on my computer and a list on my bedside table πŸ˜‰ Happy New Year to you, my dear, and here’s to another year of delicious cross-fertilization!Hi Shaz – Thank you, thank you, and thank you again! I’m honored πŸ™‚

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