January has never been my month. As someone who excitedly anticipates the holidays, beginning in the weeks (okay fine, maybe months) leading up to Halloween, it's always been a bit of a come-down. But this year feels even more dreary and I know I'm not alone in feeling that way. The things that normally pepper the month aren't currently possible and the world is heavy, even with the promise of a new year, so I've been looking for ways to connect with my friends and family while finding little things to be excited about.
I was talking to my friend Marta on the phone recently and asked her about the best meals she and her family have been making. When phrased that way, people rarely answer with the bland, repetitive dishes we all fall back on, a.k.a. most of what we've been cooking as of late. Instead she rattled off a list of delicious-sounding dinners: brown butter scallops, Swiss steak, seared broccoli and potato soup, and her go-to schnitzel. I felt immediately invigorated and excited to get into the kitchen to try the recipes she raved about.
That night, while searing the broccoli for my soup (I used this recipe), I felt more like myself than I have in a while. I listened to 'The Trinity Sessions' by Cowboy Junkies, one of the albums that always reminds me of my parents' home. It was just getting dark when G pulled up with Sloan after returning from a bike ride. The house smelled of onions and nostalgia and for a moment things felt, dare I say, normal...and it was lovely. I haven't seen Marta in months—longer than we've ever gone in our nearly thirteen year friendship—but that evening I felt closer to her in a way that even FaceTime can't replicate.
The next morning I was so inspired by what I'd made (and how connected I felt) that I called several other people in my life to ask what they've been cooking lately. Cristina offered these Mojo Meatballs she's made "eight times in quarantine - they're that good." Brooke swears by this Chicken Tikka Masala that I can't wait to make on a cold night at home. I even plan on tackling this Earl Grey Tea Cake that my cousin Nik loves, though it's far classier than the majority of the desserts I make. Raina makes this Asparagus and Mint Frittata once a week since "it works for breakfast and lunch (and is good the next day, too)." And I'd be remiss to not mention some of the comfort food my parents have been making: Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Ricotta, Eggplant Parmesan (that has five stars out of nearly 3,000 ratings), and Caramelized Shallot Pasta.
I've always loved connecting with people over food. When traveling, my favorite conversations are with readers who dole out recommendations like candy—the hole-in-the-wall spots I can't miss, the quaint bistro whose windows fog up on cold nights, and where to get the best martini in the city. Some of my most cherished memories with my friends are from hours-long dinners, laughing over shared plates and embarrassing stories. These are the moments I look forward to most and in the meantime, I'll be recreating the dishes they swear by until we're able to enjoy them together.
And with that, I'd love to hear what the best recipes you and your families have been making recently? x