I'm stealing a page from Clotilde over at Chocolate and Zucchini, who has reviewed her 2006 year of food blogging and experiences with a Best of 2006 list. 2006 has been a quiet but busy year for myself and Joe and, as usual, I haven't written nearly as often I would have liked and article ideas are stacking up (guess I've got my work cut out for me in 2007). I'd have to say that the most influential food experience I had in 2006 was joining Tantre Farms CSA and picking up a big bag of vegetables every week. I believe very much in buying as much locally produced food as possible. It was a challenge to try to use them all before they went bad. I did "all right," wasting less than I might have, and I'm looking forward to doing even better this coming year.
Here's my 2006 year in review...
Most Inspiring Cookbook: Neither are newly published in 2006, but I started using them in 2006. The prize goes to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything because, when I didn't know what to do with some of the vegetables I received from my farm share, Mark Bittman always had tasty answers. Contender: Fuchsia Dunlop's Szechuan cookbook Land of Plenty, a must-have book for authentic Szechuan cooking written for English speakers. (If you already know this book, her Hunan cookbook has just come out in the US. My sister-in-law in England already has it and says it's great.)
Favorite Meal in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti: This was a hard one, but Monahan's Seafood wins by a fishy whisker (do fish have whiskers? I guess catfish do...) in part because they've inspired me to cook with fish more often. Contender: Zingerman's Roadhouse Harvest Tomato Dinner. I haven't gotten around to posting a photo-review of the dinner yet, but I did do an interview with Zingerman's Chef Alex Young which mentions it.
Favorite Meal Elsewhere: I didn't review it, but last February we were in Austin, Texas and enjoyed a spectacular (if overwhelming) brunch at Fonda San Miguel, the premier Mexican restaurant in Austin serving traditional interior Mexican cuisine. We've also enjoyed dinner there previously. Contender: Wei Wei Noodles in Toledo, Ohio for geoduck clam sashimi. (pictured left)
Favorite Cheap Eats in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti: Taqueria La Loma, which continues to serve consistently good and cheap tacos, yummy tortilla soup, and the area's best (and cheapest) horchata.
Favorite Cheap Eats Elsewhere: Chung King in San Gabriel, CA for a meal that took us back to China and was also surprisingly inexpensive (this could also have been a contender in the Favorite Meal Outside Ann Arbor category, but it was so cheap I'm putting it here). Contender: Louisana Creole in Detroit, for their fabulous red beans and rice. And that cornbread...
Three selections from Chung King's cold appetizer buffet: peanuts with fish, shredded beef, and marinated green beans
Favorite Main Course Recipe: a quick Thai pork and green bean stir-fry, a common one-dish dinner in our household after long work days. At the end of summer, I harvest and freeze my basil so we can enjoy this dish year-round. The wonder-ingredient Lan Chi Chili Paste with Garlic -- available at any Asian grocery with Chinese items -- is what makes this dish so easy. (If you don't eat pork, try it with ground chicken.)
Favorite Vegetable/Salad: I've always enjoyed North African salads, with their simple dressings and fresh combinations of vegetables, olives, and even oranges. This carrot and olive salad is a good example.
Favorite Addition to my Baking Repertoire: it's a simple thing, but finally, I have a brownie recipe that I actually like. In the past, I avoided making brownies because the few recipes I had previously tried always tasted too sweet and didn't have a texture that I liked.
Favorite New Tool: Cuisinart Compressor Ice Cream Maker. Ice cream, sorbets, and slushes, oh my! (blueberry sorbet pictured left) And Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Dessert Book has become our first place to look for ice cream recipes.
Favorite Fear Conquered: Cooking squid, except I never posted about it so how about conquering the fear of serving Joe an eggplant dish. (You have to understand: he really hates eggplant.)
Favorite New Ingredient: Peanut butter. It sounds odd, but given that I've always hated peanut butter, discovering the deliciousness of peanut butter ice cream was a revelation. (Though I still won't eat a peanut butter sandwich. I have limits.)