By now, if you're a regular reader of more than one food blog, you've read plenty of anniversary posts, celebrating one year, five years, and sometimes more. You've probably read some of those posts here, too. A few days ago, this blog turned 10, and the occasion calls for some words.
Ah, but what kind of words? Aspirational, or inspirational?
I considered telling the truth: I spend many hours writing blog posts in my pajamas while watching shelter shows on HGTV, which means I might be even better at home renovation now than I am at cooking.
Instead, I decided to look back through the archives, and as I did, I realized that not only has my blogging changed, but my cooking also has changed: simpler, less complicated, cleaner. I learned that I cook better in even-numbered years, though I can't explain why, and that, thankfully, my photography has improved a bit.
So, no great words of wisdom. I had fun looking back, and I hope you will, too, as we peek into the pantry to find the best recipes, year by year. Thank you for sharing this decade with me. I promise to stick around and keep cooking -- and if that doesn't work out, maybe I can rehab your house.
How cool is it that the very first recipe on the blog in June, 2006, was, and still is, one of our absolute and enduring favorites? Shish taouk (garlic chicken on skewers) kickstarted my food writing career, years before I'd ever heard of blogging. In fact, we love it so much that I reimagined it as a slow cooker dish in 2012. In 2006 I also shared my "house special" recipe for jambalaya, though I didn't photograph it until a few years later.
Vegetable fried rice made with brown rice, a recipe I first posted in 2007, demonstrates how my cooking began to change from the early days of the blog. By the time I updated and photographed the recipe in 2013, I'd already changed the proportion of rice to vegetable, and that's the way I make it today.
By 2008 we were peeking into Other People's Pantries all around the world. That kept us busy, which was good, because there wasn't a whole lot of interesting cooking going on. I did fall in love with slow-roasted tomatoes; bruschetta made with tomatoes and goat cheese is still my go-to appetizer, and I always have my own garlicky slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer. That year I also shared a really good shrimp etoufee recipe, updated with photos in 2010. I don't make that often enough.
The year 2009 marked the start of what became a relentless march of turkey meatballs through The Perfect Pantry, so many meatballs that they ended up in a book. These turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs were the biggest crowd pleaser. And when my husband Ted and I tired of meatballs, we retreated to the comfort of my streamlined version of nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice, made with kecap manis).
After all of those meatballs, much more variety found its way to The Perfect Pantry in 2010. In fact, it was an amazing year for creative new recipes, and it's been hard to choose the best ones. Ted provided the definitive answer, as his eyes lit up when I mentioned shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese. I love turkey mole chili, which debuted on the blog in 2009, and watermelon gazpacho, which I make by the gallon every summer. I began to collect Bundt pans, for some odd reason as I'm definitely not a baker, and made this yogurt coffee cake with pecan filling, which is great to bake when friends come for tea.
A recipe I make over, and over, and over again, quick and easy black beans and rice was, for me, the standout recipe of 2011.
I'm mystified by the fact that 2012's Greek pasta salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette remains the all-time most popular recipe on the blog. It's very good, to be sure, but is it better than the same year's lobster, corn and basil quiche, or the grilled portobello mushroom and goat cheese sandwich with smoked pepper spread?
Many briskets gave their lives in 2013 for a slow cooker barbecue brisket recipe I worked on for weeks. It has everything: "burnt" ends, drippy goodness, smoky sauce. My local grocery store in Rhode Island proved to be a great source of boneless turkey breasts, and I put all of my favorite condiments into the marinade for this grilled Asian turkey breast with soy, garlic and chili paste. And 2013 was the year of Irish soda bread muffins, which we served first for Thanksgiving, and many times after that.
Another creative year in the kitchen, 2014 began with a trip to Costa Rica that inspired me to make shakshuka (not a Costa Rican dish, of course, so read the post to get the story) and also gallo pinto, the black beans and rice we ate every day, with every meal. In the slow cooker, I made a wonderful Caribbean pepper pot, and in the pressure cooker, shrimp and asparagus risotto. My family loved chicken and spaghetti squash casserole with bell peppers, olives and cheese, and warm Brussels sprouts, almond and goat cheese salad.
In 2015, we ate our colors -- all of the colors -- in lighter recipes for confetti spaghetti squash with peppers, zucchini, lemon and capers, and Greek chicken chopped salad with creamy poppy seed dressing. I could eat either of these dishes every week. West African chicken mafé turned out to be one of the great entertaining dishes, so much so that I created a meatless West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce, too.
While it's too early in 2016 to choose a favorite recipe, the year is off to a good start. I can't imagine that spicy Sriracha grilled chicken won't be high on the list, and the irresistible Brazilian lambe-lambe (rice with mussels) will be there, too. Pressure cooker pozole verde beef stew, while perhaps not an authentic recipe, brought a bit of the Southwest into our kitchen. I'm learning how to work with my new grill, and there are some great recipes coming in the next few weeks.
I still look in my pantry for inspiration from around the world, and I hope you do, too. Let's keep cooking together. This year -- an even-numbered year -- should be a good one.
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