I don’t know about you, but the end of a year rarely gets me excited. I’m already prone to fits of nostalgia, I fear change, and I hate new year’s eve. I have also recently become a big believer in announcing my hatred of new year’s eve, since I have found virtually no one who disagrees with me and I think it’s time we all stop with the charade. But I digress.
When the end of the year approaches, I spend most of my time thinking back on the Year That Was. Elizabeth Taylor died. We ended the Iraq War. Hey, remember the royal wedding? But one of my new year’s resolutions is to focus on the positive…so now you’ll find me thinking back fondly on the foods I ate and loved this year. Feel free to read this with a picture slideshow playing and soft, uplifting music in the background.
**The 5 Best Foods of 2011**
1. Peanut Butter. Earlier this year I travelled to Amsterdam with my boyfriend to visit his cousin. Every morning I woke up to a great spread of wheat bread, chocolate sprinkles, honey, and peanut butter. After eating this every morning for days, I returned home virtually obsessed with peanut butter. For weeks I was eating it for breakfast, for dinner, as a snack, spread on anything I could find (including my fingers). In short order, I began experimenting, putting together what became a series of takes on the beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
2. Macaroni and Cheese. In general, I am a cheese fanatic, and I’ve never been one to kick a bowl of pasta out of bed (sometimes literally). But late this summer I got it in my head to make the perfect mac and cheese. I spent a good deal of time hunting for amazing cheeses wherever I was (Amsterdam, Italy, Vermont, Murray’s Cheese Shop in the West Village…). I even made a version with pearl onions. I found a mix of 2-3 cheeses to be ideal (although I’m of the mind that more cheese is always better), baking it till crusty and bubbly is always the method, and after some experimentation, I recommend using medium-sized shell pasta. Use this as a jumping off point…trust me.
3. Spaghetti Squash. Once I started experimenting with spaghetti squash, there was no stopping me. Inspired, yet again, by a BGSK post, I began replacing pasta with this seemingly magical gourd in almost every instance. If you’ve never experimented with spaghetti squash, lightly gliding a fork across its roasted insides, creating angel hair- like strands of starchy squash fibers in an instant, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. It’s the closest thing to playing with your food you can actually get away with as an adult. I’ve tried mixing it with a tomato-based sauce, a gooey cheese sauce, and have had great success tossing it in an Asian-inspired dressing with lightly seared tofu. I’m betting it would also be great with this (see item #1 on this list).
4. Truffle Oil. While in Italy I picked up a small bottle of truffle oil, and I began putting it on everything. Eggs, salad dressings, pizza–you name it, I’ve tried sprinkling truffle oil on it (much like my sriracha philosophy). The bottle is tiny, that was about 9 months ago, and it’s not even two-thirds empty. One drop and your whole dish (and kitchen) will become fragrant with truffles. It’s magical, but can be overwhelming, so proceed with caution.
5. Bread. For Christmas last year, I was given a book about making bread quickly and efficiently from one master recipe. From that recipe, you could make focaccia, pizza dough, whole wheat, a baguette, and more. Needless to say, the book went into my shelf only to resurface months later upon my return from Europe. Around the time of that peanut butter binge, I began eating dinners of fresh-baked bread, cheese, and a glass of wine. You’ll be amazed at what a difference fresh bread makes – and now, it feels like cheating when I buy a loaf at the store.