In the past year I barely cooked anything new. When I did it was mainly in summer, those three wonderful months when farmer’s markets were overflowing with freshly dug out goodness, when the stove was mostly off giving way to ingredients that do not require fire, just some lemon juice, but most importantly, when my mom was in Germany to help with the kids.
For long stretches of time I kept cooking only familiar dishes, because last year cooking has turned from an inspired act into a chore. There was a lot of (simplified) pasta Bolognese, broccoli omelets, baked cauliflower and sweet potato, ready-made gnocchi, and waffles, waffles, waffles. It may sound fancy to some, but these are staples in my kitchen that I prepare with my eyes closed. And I missed dearly the thrill of trying unfamiliar ingredients and testing new recipes.
It’s as if 2022, being a challenging year, has caused me to hibernate and only use the energy for vital activities. I usually go through a mind-boggling process of choosing only ten favorite recipes of the year out of the dozens I want to share, but in 2022 the number ten seemed like an unachievable target. I scrolled and scrolled through my gallery in search of something exciting. In the end I had to include one recipe of my own, and one recipe that is not even a recipe, but rather a dinner suggestion, and one recipe that I’ve been making for years and you’ve probably seen it on my Instagram, but there are a few real gems here too. So keep on reading!
Joshua McFadden’s Raw Asparagus Salad with Walnuts and Parmesan
The most surprising, eye-opening recipe I’ve made this year was raw asparagus salad from Joshua McFadden’s book Six Seasons.
First of all, have you had raw asparagus? I have never! I should probably preface this by saying that I tried asparagus for the first time in my late twenties, and haven’t grown fond of it until my early thirties when I moved to Germany. But it’s always been steamed, baked, or grilled asparagus, never raw. What a revelation!
Raw asparagus tastes bright and juicy and it has the most wonderful crunch to it. Add to that a lemony dressing and the sensation of freshness is almost overwhelming, like waking up out in nature early morning.
Get Joshua McFadden’s raw asparagus salad recipe here.
Aran Goyoaga’s Glazed Lemon, Yogurt and Olive Oil Pound Cake
Aran Goyoaga has become somewhat of a guru for me, ever since I started my gluten-free journey. This recipe comes from her latest book Cannelle et Vanille Bakes Simple. This cake is as delicious as it is easy. How easy? Put all of the ingredients in one bowl in no particular order and mix — this kind of easy! I made it three times in the last couple of months, once for Kroshka’s third birthday.
Get Aran Goyoaga’s lemon, yogurt and olive oil cake recipe here.
Deb Perelman’s Zucchini Butter Pasta
“I live for the moment when the garlic hits the butter in the pan and every person in the vicinity looks up from their devices in unison and says, “That smells nice. What are you making?” — don’t you?”
Deb Perlman is a good writer. And a good cook. Which is why every recipe of hers that I’ve tried to this point has become a staple in my home. Butter plus garlic plus grated zucchini is the definition of love. Why did I not think of it? Why did I only ever think of adding slices of fried zucchini to my pasta and never grated zucchini? What a wonderful summer discovery!
Get Deb Perelman’s zucchini butter pasta recipe here.
Stuffed and Baked Zucchini Blossoms
While we are on the topic of zucchini! Cooking zucchini blossoms was something I’ve seen time and again Italian and Italy-based food bloggers do in summer and dreamt of one day trying my hand at it. Zucchini blossoms are not easy to find, but I finally spotted some at my farmer’s market in July, beat another customer to it and took the last 10 blossoms home.
Inspired by my friend @mugelloru I stuffed the blossoms with a mixture of ricotta and herbs and baked them with tomatoes (make sure to bake tomatoes first until they reduce in size and only then add the blossoms for about 10 minutes, so they stay fresh and bright green). If you want a precise recipe, try this one by NYT or this one by Enrica Monzani.
Joshua McFadden’s Beet Slaw with Pistachio Butter
This is another recipe from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden, because the book is brilliant. Just like in case with asparagus, the novelty of this salad was in using raw beets. I come from Russia where beets reign supreme, but somehow raw beets escaped me for 34 years. McFadden recommends to use fresh beets during the season, so you might have to wait until summer to make this salad. If you prepare pistachio butter a day in advance, the rest is easy-peasy.
Get Joshua McFadden’s beet slaw with pistachio butter recipe here.
Zoë François’s Pavlova
A lot of firsts on this list, and Pavlova is no exception. I have never made merengue in my life until last summer we rented a house in German countryside for a few days. You might think: who sets out to make Pavlova at an Airbnb? But hear me out! The kitchen at this Airbnb was bigger than my whole apartment. The countertops could have served as beds for a little family. And it was stocked to the brim with food. When I spotted a KitchenAid mixer I knew what I was going to prepare.
My biggest fear — that I won’t be able to beat egg whites into stiff peaks — didn’t come true. Merengue, however, did crack in the oven, but I couldn’t care less. Topped with whipped sour cream, strawberry coolie and fresh berries, it was exquisite!
Get Zoë François’s Pavlova recipe here.
Lazy Summer Feast
This is the recipe that is not even a recipe, but merely a dinner suggestion for summer nights. Whenever I didn’t feel like cooking — which happened a lot — I would head to the market, get a few fresh tomatoes, some goat cheese or burrata, sliced mortadella, and a jar of pesto. At home I’d boil a few potatoes, but you can even get away with a loaf of bread to avoid cooking all together. The simplest, most delectable summer dinner. I know this idea is not new to you, but in case you forgot, this is your reminder.
Parsnip Lentil Soup with Mushrooms
This recipe is mine and, for a change, it’s perfect for winter, that is to say: go make it right now! The soup is inspired by Sri Lankan red lentil curry and topped with fried mushrooms. It’s warm and fragrant with a hint of fennel and a generous heap of parsley as garnish. I also explained in this post why food bloggers write long essays before sharing the actual recipe. So if you ever laughed at those jokes on Twitter that you always have to read about someone’s grandma when all you want to do is learn how to make tacos, this post is for you!
Get my parsnip lentil soup recipe here.
Diana Henry’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
This is my go-to gluten-free cake for any special occasion. The recipe comes from Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach. The texture is similar to a brownie: rich and moist on the inside, but the top layer cracks once you take the cake out of the oven and let it cool. Diana Henry herself says that the cake, with its deep and rich flavor, is meant for adults. I couldn’t agree more. With a dollop of crème fraîche on top it is a perfect pairing for espresso.
Get Diana Henry’s chocolate olive oil cake recipe here.
Last year I bought a waffle maker — a decision I thought I’d regret as kitchen gadgets often collect dust inside the cabinets. To my own surprise, I have made waffles two to three times a week ever since. I use a recipe from a Russian food blogger (@lu_pastry) as the base and then modify it depending on what I currently have in the fridge. Since the recipe is in Russian, I will translate it here.
2 tablespoons sugar
250 grams quark or farmer’s cheese
50 grams butter, melted and cooled
6 tablespoons milk
120 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Beat eggs with sugar and add quark. Then add butter and milk. Lastly, add flour and baking powder. Mix and the batter is ready. Use it according to your waffle-maker instructions.
I usually double the recipe for our family (2 adults and 1 toddler). I also substitute rice, buckwheat, or chestnut flour to make the waffles gluten-free. When I don’t have quark, I use thick yogurt instead. Sometimes I add grated zucchini or baked and mashed pumpkin to make a healthy-ish breakfast. I also skip sugar since we eat waffles with jam.
Making (and then devouring) these waffles cheered me up on the days when I felt down. I hope they will bring the same joy and the feeling of being happy and safe in your own home, as they did for me.
And we are done with 2022! I hope this year will allow me to spend more time in the kitchen, not making the familiar dishes over and over — which can be good in its own way — but rather following inspiration and creating. After all, the word I chose for 2023 is “create”, and although it relates mostly to my writing it will fit well in my kitchen too.
These are my favorite, tried and true recipes of 2022. What was the best food you’ve cooked or tried this year? Let me know in comments!
P.S. If you want to read more of my yearly reviews, here is what I had in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. 2019 is missing because I was taking care of a newborn and had no energy whatsoever for anything else.
Thank you for sharing the zucchini butter pasta – i made it last week and it was enjoyed by adults and toddler alike! Perfect summer dish right now in Australia :))))
Yay! So happy it worked out well! It’s my summer favorite too. Deb Perelman is a genius!