If we’ve ever interacted, you know how much I love food. It’s one of my core values and I’m always thinking about the next restaurant I want to add to my bucket list, the next challenging dessert I want to tackle, or the next food memoir I want to devour. 2020 was a year that I came to appreciate my passion for making food and just how skilled I am at whipping things up.
Like everyone with an ambitious quarantine project, I started a baking Instagram account (follow me if you dare) to keep track of my culinary escapades and also stop annoying people on my main. Within months of consistently posting and meeting other baker enthusiasts, my account took off when I used my platform to highlight 5 Black Bakers at a time when people were feeling quite low. It even got the attention of my childhood hero, Ina Garten, who gave me the best compliment I’ve ever received (sorry mom)! So here’s to eating our feelings in 2020 and also in 2021!
One of the fondest memories I have of living in San Francisco was making my way to the Mission on a sleepy Saturday morning to snag the fresh pastries at Tartine. With an NPR podcast streaming through my earbuds, I would walk through the Mission and find a spot in Dolores Park to soak up the fog.
Months after leaving SF, I stumbled on Tartine’s cookbook after leaving the Bay and was delighted to see the morning bun recipe in all its glory. I especially loved this recipe because it challenged me into making croissant dough and the smell that wafted through my kitchen brought back so many memories of living in California.
Claire Saffitz’s Spicy Rigatoni Pasta
If I could get my PhD in any subject, it would be in pasta. One of the first dishes I made for myself in college was fettuccine with Rao’s vodka sauce and a heavy serving of parmesan cheese to add flavour. This dish is the grown up version of that college meal and I always have the ingredients to whip it up after a long day. At this point, I think I could make the dish blindfolded.
Rick Andrew Martinez’s Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Anytime I look at this cookie I think, “the perfect cookie doesn’t exi-”. Every baker has the recipe that they just turn to on days that they’re feeling low and need the sweet smells of sugar, butter, and chocolate to get them through the day.
I first made these cookies in 2018 when I challenged an old friend to a bake-off fueled by boredom. Since I took the cake at that competition, I make these cookies on a monthly basis. The purest combination of rich dark chocolate, crunchy toffee, nutty brown butter, and flaky sea salt, this is a definite crowd-pleaser!
Simply Recipe’s Summer Seafood Paella
Growing up, my mother would throw weekly dinners in our backyard hosting university students who couldn't make it back home to see their families. This summer, one of my friends couldn’t make it back home to see her family so I decided to crack on my hospitality hat and make her a feast to remember.
Since a lot of my creations are inspired by travel, I decide to give our taste buds a tour of Europe with a Spanish seafood paella, a Greek-inspired watermelon salad, and sweet summer corn slatthered in a cardamom compound butter.
Christina Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake
I love my birthday but this year I had to be creative in how I wanted to celebrate it. I started a new tradition where I make myself a cake every year to honor my trip around the sun and all the adventures that have come along with it.
I consider Christina Tosi to be a personal hero of mine and wanted to tackle the signature cake from her flagship store, Momofuku Milk Bar. In college, I would reward myself after a long run with some birthday cake truffles or a slice of that signature milk bar pie. When I found the recipe online, I had to take a stab at it and boy was it delicious!
Ricardo’s Montreal Style Bagels
Living in New York for four years forces you to make a bagels a significant portion of your diet. I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve started with a sausageeggand cheese on a toasted sesame bagel or an everything bagel slathered with cream cheese and topped off with the trifecta of smoked salmon, onion, and capers.
I was craving bagels one morning and decided to take matters into my hands by opening a bagel shop in my kitchen. Upon realizing that NYC bagels are boiled in barley syrup which I couldn’t find, I resorted to making its rival boiled in honey: Montreal style. The hardest part of making these was reading the recipe in French but overall a really wholesome experience. If you want to test out that inner breadmaker, highly recommend making these!
Lani Halliday’s Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Each year, I try to take on a baking challenge that pushes my limits. I thought baking would be a hobby that I would need to give up if I ever became vegan but these cookies proved me wrong. I had the privilege of making these with Lani Halliday, the owner of Brutus Bake Shop, and she shared the story of how she had to turn to gluten free and vegan bakes after she developed a gluten intolerance from years of being a pastry chef. Talking to her made me realize that when life throws you lemons, you make lemon bars.
These cookies are incredible and the tanginess of miso combined with a hint of coconut oil will make you forget that no animal products were involved in the making of such a delicious treat.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Pistachio Rosewater Semolina Cake
Since a college trip to Israel, I’ve been mesmerized by the flavours of the Mediterranean. Yottam Ottolenghi’s recipes have been a guiding light in understanding the bountiful flavours and complex techniques that make food truly exceptional. I made this cake for a fellow foodie friend who was celebrating Eid. The richness of pistachio and semolina pairs well with a rosewater-infused whipped cream that will yield a party in your mouth.
Melissa Clark’s Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Tarragon Tart
When I eat this dish, I am transported to the French countryside at a table surrounded by my nearest and dearest underneath tea lights on a warm summer night. The depth of asparagus with the creaminess of goat cheese makes for such a tantalizing dish that I get so emotional while eating it. The beauty of this dish is that you can slave away making a flaky puff pastry or thaw out a great storebought one (I’m team Dufour)! At the end of the day, you will still get the same delicious dish! All I ask is that you don’t skimp out on getting the quality cheese.
Samin Nosrat’s Cajun Shrimp Boil
This was the best dish that I made in 2020 because I made it for my best friends. Since planes weren’t an option this year, we loaded ourselves in a rental van and took a trip to Maine for our annual reunion. After a long day lazying about on the docks and playing hours of Catan on the porch, we set this seasoned combination of shrimp, sausage, and summer corn on some old newspaper and dug into a delicious feast.
In a year of loneliness, eating a communal meal took me back to the joys of the before times. Here’s hoping that we can eat this close to strangers in 2021 because I sure miss the low hum of a vibey restaurant.
If you feel like you can’t cook but want to impress someone, this is the pasta to make. I once made this for a boy after a very swell summer date and he was quite impressed by how something so simple can taste so sophisticated. I longer speak to this man but I hope that this dish lives rent free in his head. This dish pairs well with the coldest glass of white wine and some Fleet Foxes quietly playing in the background.
BONUS: Claire Saffitz’s Gourment Pop Tarts
This list has come full circle so we are ending on an ambitious note! This two-day project involving three tricky components was one of the bakes that gave me the confidence that I can really do this baking thing. I was a huge fan of Claire Saffitz’s Gourment Makes series where she woke up each day and chose chaos embarking on a culinary journey to discover exactly what it is in the snacks that colour our childhood! In the weekend, I felt all the emotions that Clare experiences from the sheer excitement at the idea to the midnight panic when you remember that you forgot to add sugar to the jam filling.
Thanks for reading along and apologies in advance if I made your mouth water getting through these. If you’re feeling inspired to make any of these dishes, please let me know how they turn out! If you’re a friend reading this, can’t wait to make something together in the new normal!
Need some help making dinner tonight or want to try out your skills in the kitchen? Feel free to shoot me a DM on Twitter!