It’s been a fun year of food discoveries. The trip to Asia opened our eyes to a huge array of flavors and favorites. The chilies in Bhutan were fiery. Our lunch at the Jim Thompson house in Bangkok was so exceptional that I now have a mission to find wild fresh betel leaves in Tucson for Mieng Kam. The South Indian breakfast in Delhi was one of the best meals of my life. Masala Dosas. Fresh mint chutney. Coconut chutney. Closer to home there were surprises as well. The blog Tasting Table steered us to new favorite restaurants like Jam in Chicago, a BYOB with a prix fixe 3 course dinner for $25.Â How about the spice Vadouvan? A french inspired variation on masala. Dusted on scallops. I added it to cauliflower soup. The farmers markets allowed us to try new vegetables and herbs. How about some fried zucchini blossoms for lunch? Chocolate Habaneros? Greek basil with variegated leaves and the taste of lemon. Eating local and seasonal. We have the best of both worlds traveling between Tucson and Michiana.
The following is a start, in no particular order, of my favorite foods of 2010.
1. Chilies de Padron from my favorite organic farmer on Three Oaks Road in Michigan. It’s a mild green chile from the Galicia region of Spain. I charred them in a large cast iron skillet, and then served them drizzled with olive oil, lemon and fried garlic. Served with goat cheese and a glass of white wine, these chiles were the perfect way to start a summer meal.
2. Cream of Radish soup from Pelago Restaurant in Chicago. Delicate yet complex, this seasonal soup was one of my most unlikely favorites of the year. Although I like radishes, I couldn’t imagine soup from radishes. It wasn’t strong and peppery at all. It was the biggest surprise of the year.
3. Zucchini. Why zucchini? It was the most versatile vegetable in my kitchen during the past year. I practically lived on zucchini carpaccio last summer. Paper thin mandoline slices, served on a platter, drizzled with olive oil and lemon and topped with shaved parmesan and mint. Zucchini can be transformed into “pasta” for a low carb dinner. Or sliced into flat strips for lasagna. It can be stuffed with almost any filling and baked. I turned it into guacamole. I made zucchini pickles. Zucchini caponata. Zucchini pesto. And zucchini bread. I bet you could even make zucchini hummus, but I’ll try that next summer.
4. Watermelon radishes from the farmer’s markets. On the outside, a non-descript vegetable resembling a turnip, peeled and thinly sliced, transformed into a colorful reddish pink disk. Sprinkle with Portuguese Salt Cream, from the Spice House in Chicago, serve with a glass of wine and you have a simple appetizer. I liked them so much I am growing them in my winter garden in Tucson.
5. BK Carne Asada Sonoran Hot Dogs on 12th Avenue in South Tucson. Mesquite grilled, bacon wrapped hot dogs served in a homemade bun with pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, mustard, hot sauce, and mayonnaise.Â These are not part of my weekly diet but a special treat when company visits. Viva Sonora!
6. Oat Bran. Last winter I need to lower my cholesterol and I read about the benefits of Oat Bran. In less than five weeks, I lowered my cholesterol by 20 points by eating oat bran 4 – 5 times a week. I never really liked oatmeal. It’s too gummy for my taste. But oat bran it nutty with a great texture. I eat it for lunch. Cook it like oatmeal, top with a little maple syrup or honey, and a touch of sea salt and enjoy.
7. Vola Trebbiano Pinot Grigio. I don’t know how they do it, but Trader Joe’s sells this wine for a $1.99. Yes, you read that correctly. Cheaper that 3 buck Chuck. Of course I’ve had better white wines. But for an excellent every day wine, you can’t do any better than Vola.
8. Carrot cake from Big Skye, a specialty baked foods company that sell product at the St. Phillip’s farmers market in Tucson. Vegan, moist and delicious, with a hint of orange, it is the best carrot cake I have ever had. Seek out Big Skye at the farmer’s market and say hello to Bodie Robins. And save a carrot cupcake for me.
9.Â Blood Orange Olive Oil, from Local Southwest, the surprise ingredient in the Big Skye Carrot Cake. The blood orange oliveÂ oil is made of a blend of olive varieties-Â Arbequina, Arbosano, and Koronikei olives from the area around Oroville, CA.Â Drizzle it over grilled salmon, over salad greens, or add it to your favorite brownie recipe, it will brighten every dish.Â The other olives oils are delicious too, especially the Arbequina. Rich also has three certified organic Â EVOO’s. Plus a variety of other flavored olive oils, includingÂ Lemon, Lime, Garlic, Basil, and Habanero.Â Stop by the farmers market and ask Rich Roth for a taste.
10. My homemade Honey Crisp apple jam. With a hint of nutmeg and indonesian cinnamon from the Spice House in Chicago. I made it with other apples as well including Jonagolds and Mutzu. But the Honey Crisp jam was the best. The jam is like a spoonful of apple pie. I think my blueberry jam finally has some competition!