Happy New Year! After months of preserving followed by weeks of holiday baking, travel, and celebrations, I am relieved to spend some time in January quietly taking stock of the previous year and making plans for the new. I’ve been thinking in particular of the new food-related skills I acquired in 2009 and the people who helped me learn something new, either in person or through their books and blogs. Here is my list of Kitchen-Inspiration Books, Blogs, and People of 2009.
- Helen Witty and her book Fancy Pantry taught me to make gravlax for our New Year’s Day open house and inspired me all year, from spring’s Ginger-Rhubarb Chutney and summer’s Countrystyle Chile Sauce to Cranberry Cordial in the fall and now, Candied Kumquats!
- Joining The Nourished Kitchen‘s Pantry Challenge in December 2008 pushed me to keep better records of how much I spend on food, showing me how much I save by cooking only with what I have on hand and giving focus to my 2009 food preservation efforts.
- Michael Ruhlman. Oh, let me count the ways he has inspired me. My husband and I learned to cure bacon and ham from his Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. I keep Ratio: The Simple Codes behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking on the top of my cookbook stack as it provides a springboard for experiments in everything from muffins to pickles. His blog fires me up. He is as passionate as I am about empowering everyday people in their kitchens, though he’s far more articulate and has his wife Donna taking extraordinary, mouth-watering food photos!
- Two other writers that really get my gears turning, Hank Shaw at Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook and Langdon Cook at Fat of the Land. Thanks to them, I’ve become more confident cooking with wild foods this year.
- Tips from Diane Morgan’s Online Cooking School and Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen (plus what I already knew and practiced from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking) helped me make even better pastry with less effort.
- Eugenia Bone’s Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods taught me to pressure can tuna without fear and we here at Chez Musser love the results.
- I can’t count how many times I’ve wanted a simple recipe for something, gone to Simply Recipes, and found just what I needed. Recently, I began to think Elise must be psychic, such as when I went looking for a good roasted Brussels sprouts recipe to find she posted about Roasted Brussels Sprouts the very same day.
- I have to admit, fusion food is not normally my thing and I even feel a little intimidated when I visit White on Rice Couple. This couple—meat-and-potatoes Oregon rancher boy meets bold and fiery Vietnamese girl—have such a bright, beautiful, SoCal thing going on. I can’t help but feel my frumpy, sodden PNW self does not belong there, but they make me feel welcome despite my sensible shoes and I’ve been learning so much about flavor from them. I especially ♥ their Tomato with Ginger “Ah…you so Asian!” Jam and Ultimate Umami Burgers.
- My friends Sierra and Teri at Grain-Free Foodies have shown me delicious ways to cook and bake without wheat and other grains. They make “going without” look and taste so good!
- And finally, my friend Melisa of Magpie Eats, who taught me cook my new favorite comfort dish, uppma with cranberry chutney. In listening to her rhapsodize about her favorite foods, I’ve gained a greater appreciation of bold seasonings and unexpected flavor combinations. Oh, and her sweet tomato chutney? I drool a bit just thinking about it.
In December, Melisa gave me a copy of Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking and in reading it I became aware of how much great food writing I have missed out on with my focus on cooking technique. This year, I want to read more Colwin, plus some of the other grand dames of food lit: Elizabeth David, MFK Fisher, Judith Jones, and Ruth Reichl. I’m looking forward to exploring the more sentimental side of cooking. I also want to continue explore grain-free cooking, dive more deeply into Indian cookery, and keep dipping my toes into those fusion food waters.
What about you? What did you learn about food and cooking in 2009? Who inspired you? What do you want to learn in 2010?
My Winter 2010 Schedule is up. Highlights include Winter Canning this Saturday; Chocolate Loves Fruit January 30; Stocks, Soups, and Stews February 19; and One Chicken, Many Meals February 20. If my schedule doesn’t fit yours, contact me to arrange for a private lesson or a class at your home, office, school, etc. I can customize classes to meet your needs and location.