The flavors/textures of the year were smoky, creamy, herbal/foraged, and sour. Forgive any lack of parallelism there.
Chipotles, dried and en adobo, rocked my world this year in a number of dishes, with smoked paprika, liquid smoke, and flame-roasting also playing important roles. Highlights: butternut squash bisque with flame-roasted chilies and turnip chips and pumpkin chili.
My blender and I became closer than ever, as I refused to buy an immersion blender while continuing to explore new pureed soups, including spicy mushroom-ginger soup, green lentil soup with curried coconut oil, and my two new favorites: Janet's creamy broccoli dal and my own roasted broccoli and potato soup. I also discovered some delicious new spreads, including ginger-lime-wasabi-edamame hummus and the amazing caraway havarti beer-cheese spread I made at Thanksgiving. I also made almond milk for, surprisingly, the first time ever!
I started the year very interested in foraging edible things around LA, incorporating them into pestos and jams, and (best of all) infusing them into liquors and oils. Sage-infused whiskey remains my favorite; there was also a lovely lavender vinaigrette.
I've long admitted that I am an "acidity monster," always wanting to add one more squeeze of lemon juice or wine or vinegar to a dish than others might deem wise. 2012 did not mark a change in this habit. Lemon juice is one of my most essential ingredients, and it makes this lentils-and-greens soup, adas bil hamud, one of my favorites of all times. Lemon rind, saffron, and olives made the mediterranean roasted tofu pungent while roasting made it chewy and succulent, and tamarind was the magic ingredient in the incredible spicy and sour eggplant with tempeh and green beans.
Over the past few years, I've raved over puuy lentils, kala namak, berbere, and za'atar. This year, though, it seems like the strongest trends in my cooking were also some of the most mundane. My favorite dishes this year overwhelmingly feature broccoli, potatoes, and/or mushrooms. In those creamy broccoli soups (above), in the two amazing potato salads I made this summer--Armenian, with mint and lemon; and new potatoes with asparagus and shallots--and in the two exquisite mushroom-potato curries I tried, these simple, cheap, and nutritious vegetables really shone. As the above list also suggests, lentils are probably a close fourth.
Sometimes (though less often, I think, than in years past), I enjoyed making something a bit more complicated. Two other recipes I'm quite proud of (one half-mine, the other direct from a cookbook) are: sausage florentine with tofu steaks and hollandaise sauce and apricot rugelach.
I know that I posted far less frequently this year than in years past. I had thought that this was due to the rest of my life (academics, relationships) taking precedence, but looking back over what I chose to cook in 2012, I can't help but wonder if these different parts of my life actually took rather similar paths this year. I am still a curious, learning person, but I am also becoming more comfortable with my own strengths, my own preferences, and my own voice.
Happy New Year!