During these cold New York weeks, we’ve been learning how to warm our home in ways both literal and figurative. In between thermostat adjustments and cozy nights in front of the fireplace (read: space heater), we’ve enjoyed decking our halls for the holidays and inviting our friends and family in to see the house quickly becoming a home.
We had our first Armenian Christmas dinner in our new setting, complete with our first full-size Christmas tree. I dug excitedly into my new cookbooks for meal ideas. A holiday gift to ourselves, The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson, inspired my table settings with fresh fruit and flowers, plus an earthy dish of za’atar roasted carrots. And both of our parents gifted us beautiful books this Christmas. From Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden, I made delicious fried potatoes and a new staple spiced green sauce full of fresh herbs, peppers, and warm spices like cumin, coriander, and cardamom. The avgolemono I wanted to make from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl ended up on the backburner (pardon the pun) but I can’t wait to give it a try on a weeknight when I’m desperate for a bowl of comfort. Jon made Georgian eggplant roll-ups with walnut filling and, a requirement for the occasion, pomegranate seeds. For the main course, Mom brought an epic mac and cheese and I made oven-roasted pork loin, one of my very rare attempts at cooking meat. We surrounded it with some of our tried and true favorites like black rice and tabbouleh. To my excitement, Grandma even brought back a family favorite tradition of hiding a dime in the burek for good luck in the new year.
For dessert, I made my first (of what I’m sure will be many) creme caramels and it’s taking a lot of willpower for me not to go home right now and immediately make another batch. Am I still typing? What’s going on? Sorry, I think I must have fallen into sweets paradise.* These were top-notch, y’all.
There was just one more perfectly caramelized one left for the next day when Malvina came over for post-holiday lunch and lounging. But first, we devoured some leftovers alongside a big plate of tacos based on a recipe from Eat this Poem by Nicole Gulotta. They’ve become my new favorite weeknight dinner, so deliciously easy and so easily delicious. I try different variations based on what I have in the house, but the key ingredients are tortillas, black beans, cabbage, and avocado. The black beans get zipped in my mini food processor with a hot pepper, fresh garlic, and Adobo spice. The cabbage slaw is super flavorful and interesting with fennel like the recipe calls for, but I’ve subbed it with frisee or just more cabbage and it’s been great every time. The yogurt dressing is filled with punchy flavors like honey, lime, celery seed, and coriander that blend beautifully, though I’d probably never thought of combining them myself. It’s a truly adaptable recipe and remarkably filling for a vegetarian dish. This time I used parsley instead of cilantro and sour cream instead of yogurt because they’re what I had lying around. Also added toasted sesame seeds on top for added flavor, texture, and–well, look how pretty!
I could continue to wax poetic about the meals I’ve cooked in our kitchen so far, but it’s the end of the work day and my stomach is grumbling, so instead I’ll just go home and cook some more. Off to try out a lentil coconut curry and blackberry muffins. How will they come out? Only sweet heaven knows!*
*Suggested viewing: Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman. It’s a 12-episode Japanese Netflix series about a publishing sales rep who sneaks off in the middle of sales calls to eat dessert and experience rapture in “the paradise of sweets.” An episode makes a thoroughly enjoyable dessert at the end of a long day, I promise.