Ah, the year-end list. The time to reflect, ponder, and in this case, crave. It being a few mere days into the new year and all, I’m sharing a look back at the recipes, whether they were from scratch, playing around with a cookbook, or the results of a whim, that were the most memorable in my own kitchen.
One word can easily sum up the culinary memories of a year where I can confidently say I cooked more than ever: Curry.
Things got heated when I got my hands on Curry Cuisine from the library and then came the spark fondly known as the “hiatus” (hiatus), aka a glorious, vegan cuisine tour of Thailand and Cambodia, up close and personal. Taking one-on-one cooking classes in both of these countries has been a huge influence on my home cooking. The thing is, I didn’t consider myself a stranger to curry, I’ve been enjoying curries from local Thai and Indian restaurants for years, and tried my hand at a few to decent results, but once I started making pastes and powders from scratch, well, everything changed. There was no going back. Thai curries are one thing, and a wonderful and versatile field, at that, but Curry Cuisine let me curry around the world…with plenty of room for tacos, soup, farmers market inspiration, and homemade liqueurs, among other things.
These are all recipes I can confidently stand behind and recommend. If nothing else, they give a glimpse into where my culinary style was at.
Starting with my favorite, go-to cookbooks of 2013:
Curry Cuisine: It takes a lot for a non-vegan cookbook to catch my attention, but when it’s all about curry, I’m all ears — with a spoon. Every single recipe in this book (a random library choice, at that) is entirely from scratch and entirely fascinating. The book is written by different regional experts from around the world, anywhere there’s curry (even Japan, Kenya and the UK), there’s a section in this book. Highlights include the Thai Geng Taepo, Northern Thai-style Jungle Curry, Pakistani Potato Curry, Vientamese Cari Chay with homemade curry powder and the Cambodian herbal and red curry pastes, to name a quick few. I couldn’t pick just one for the list below, because I don’t see my interest slowing down with this book.
Isa Does It: No surprise here, right?! As long-time PPK recipe tester, I super could not wait to get my eager little hands on Isa’s newest cookbooks, an ode to amazing, flavorful weeknight recipes. It’s now here, and remarkably epic, to say the least. You can check out my testing photos here.
Vegan Indian Cooking: Again with the curry. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this book, and I want to keep on cooking, toasting spices any time of day. Highlights include the Goan Coconut Curry with Black-Eyed Peas and the Rasam powder.
May Kaidee’s Vegetarian and Vegan Cookbook: I took May’s class on New Year’s eve in 2011, and this cookbook quickly became my vegan Thai bible. If you’re ever in Bangkok, take the class (and I have additional recommendations for veg-welcoming classes in Northern Thailand and Cambodia, if you’re heading that way).
Ms. Cupcake: Okay, I’ve only made one recipe from this book so far, the carrot cake muffins, but the entire book is so gorgeous and happy that I’m simultaneously praying for my old Kitchen Aid to miraculously start working again and a ticket to London so I can become Melissa Morgan’s friend.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a book or two and would love some recommendations about what cookbooks aren’t leaving your kitchen lately.
And now, my fondest recipes of 2013, in no particular order.
You should probably make these dishes:
Savory Grits with Sautéed Broad Beams, Roasted Fennel & Thyme (with variations on roasted vegetables & fresh herbs, galore) The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry. Looking back, this is so my go-to dish of the year. To make things even easier, I cook garlic, cumin, salt & pepper with oil in one pot, add in the coarse cornmeal, a heap ton of nutritional yeast, skipping the creamed cashews for all vegetable broth, and go from there, maybe with the smoked paprika and whatever else I want to season with to taste. Using the classic recipe as a base, a bowl of grits plus whatever roasted seasonal vegetables and beans are floating around my kitchen makes for one nice brunch, lunch or dinner. Plus a nice hot sauce that’s not scared of vinegar, of course. The original recipe is available online here.
Leftover Mashed potato & Cheese Biscuits…because sometimes I like to rotate between the Jewish Vegan “Buttermilk” Biscuits (which now are technically, and deservedly so, on this list), and sometimes we get on a mashed potato kick, so it works out. I’ve been making them every few months since veganizing the recipe last December, and each time, my ingredients differ a bit — different cheeses, roasted garlic, even caulipots standing in — all with tasty results. Get the recipe right here.
Homemade Bitters: In 2012, I tackled the massive project of near 30something jars of individual, extracted flavors in vodka and grain alcohol bases, which I then create custom blends from, on the dang spot. At the end of summer 2013, seriously the night before we embarked on the hiatus, I created three unique blends of bitters using fresh and dried ingredients, that I intend to bottle and have available one of these days. There’s the “Portlandia” (or something, it’s an unavoidable fall-back reference), Thai-inspired (because, obsession and always having the ingredients for curry paste around) and an “Elusive” blend. I hope to write full tutorials on both of these processes one day…
Mark Bittman’s Kosher New Dills, The Right Way At some point in 2013, I not only remembered my App store password, but managed to download Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything app for free during some promotion. Boring story short, during the great pickling craze of the long summer, I made my first legitimately kosher-style new dills, and I haven’t looked back. One bite, and I was transported to the sit-down Jewish delicatessens of my Long Island childhood. All that was missing was a hot knish and a cream soda, and it you go even further back, a big, warm bowl of chicken noodle soup. I now add a bit of crushed red pepper or whole, dried chili peppers, mustard seeds and sometimes,coriander seeds. I recently made them for my still-New York dwelling siblings, who were equally impressed. Also amazing: beer battered, fried pickle chips, just make sure to dust them with some flour before they meet the batter. Huffington Post has the method here.
Serious Eats’ Bagels à la Jo Goldenberg I don’t remember when I first made these, but surely, I’ve made them at least half a dozen times in 2013. I gripe and gripe about the state of bagels in Portland and the half-decent options that should really stop with the New York-reference already (you’re round and edible, that’s about it, deep breaths). Then, I made these, and learned that homemade bagel-making is pretty easy, pretty dang fun, and worth every step. And here they are.
Tom Kah This one comes from my precious, little May Kaidee cookbook, and one another one of our go-tos for 2013, especially when we wanted something quick after a farmers market visit. It was easily J. Legume’s most-ordered dish during our 6 week hiatus in SE Asia, and one that’s so easy to make at home…once you stock up on lemongrass, coconut milk and galangal, of course. Note to self: make a big batch of red chili paste ASAP.
Pasta E Fagioli, Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. V’con, which I can rarely successfully pronounce despite, like I mentioned, being a recipe tester for and ridiculously well-acquainted with, has a traditional, simple recipe for Pasta E Fagioli that I love so. I mean, so much that I try to only make it during the warmer months when ripe tomatoes are overflowing my fruit basket and there’s fresh basil around to mince on top. Because then, folks, it’s goddamn summer in Italy in my humble abode. Just in case you’re crazy and do not have this cookbook yet, the recipe shared on Vegan Mama.
Condensed Coconut Milk This was step #1 in the process of making homemade pumpkin coconut milk creamer, which I’ve been meaning to tackle on again, sans the pumpkin, for a while now. I’m a happy gal with a restaurant supply sized can of coconut milk in my kitchen. The golden, condensed milk was a really interesting process, similar to making a balsamic or wine glaze. The picture below is not the finished product.
Fried Rice! When it comes to meals that don’t make it to the Instagram (it happens), the award goes to fried rice. It’s so easy, and with a 20+lb bag of jasmine rice in my pantry over the summer and a whole lot of curry on our plates, it was nearly always ready to happen. Insert whatever veggies are in the fridge, the tofu I’m forever smoking or some fresh and crumbled, and the staple ingredients of soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil and a pinch of sugar, and it’s pretty good to go. Here’s my Curry Basil Fried Tofu with Scrambled Tofu.
Breakfast Tacos with Scrambled Tofu, Potatoes, Jalapeno & Queso Because…I went to Austin and my life changed forever. Here’s my go-to tofu scramble.
Butternut Nacho Sauce An addictive carry-over from 2012 and my ultimate go-to from my heavily used copy of Artisan Vegan Cheese. I sub garlic for the onions and add some more nooch and chipotle pepper. This one is requested by my sister every time I’m in NY. It’s fantastic and sheer cheesy goodness, perfect for any nachos or tot-dipping. Good news: Miyoko posted it on her blog in 2011.
White Miso & Coconut Palm Sugar-Caramelized Figs Conceived to adorn dark chocolate-coconut water mini tarts at Lauren’s Speakeasy, I did a test run of these figs on a very special Fronch Toast for VeganMoFo in September. Note: they can be either quickly broiled or pan-fried.
Lastly, the epic (yeah, I’m going there, because it’s true) Division Street Pho Chay I ate a lot of pho in 2013, starting out doing a vegan pho expedition of sorts, that ultimately led me slightly frustrated but quite enthused to take on my own. The full recipe is here on the Oregonian website, and trust me, it’s worth all the effort and the trip to an Asian market, but with our return to colder weather, I am working on a ‘cheater’ version that comes together in less than an hour.
On-wards, new year, new curries! And likely, a lot of soup.