This month, Epicurious editors are sharing their 2019 all-star recipes—the ones that inspired us, taught us valuable lessons, and fed us well all year long.
I know a woman who only likes recipes that are projects: pain au chocolat, soup dumplings, cassoulet. I’m not that kind of cook—I make a fuss out of the opposite kind of cooking every January—but I understand my friend’s impulses. Sometimes you want a recipe that will keep you in the kitchen all day; sometimes you want dinner to take hours, not minutes. A 20-minute pasta will get dinner on the table, but it won’t exactly take you out of the rote rhythms of your life the way making croissants will.
When Adeena Sussman’s Sababa came out earlier this year, it made me want to do the kind of cooking I could get lost in. I was drawn to the eggplant-and-feta galette, as well as the from-scratch falafel. I flagged any recipe that required rolling or shaping or filling or frying. Anything that would allow me lots of time with the book.
Then I planned a party. And at that party I did precisely what you’re never supposed to do: I cooked recipes I’d never made before. The galette and the falafel were pushed to another time (I’m not so crazy that I wanted to cook recipes I didn’t know and deep-fry while I was at it). Instead, I found a recipe that was a project, but a manageable one: Chard-Wrapped Fish with Lemon and Olive.
The recipe is a love letter to olives. A lemony, garlicky olive paste gets smeared on each piece of white fish (I chose cod) before it is wrapped in chard leaves, and those bright-green packages are simmered in a sauce with even more lemon and olives. It’s a powerfully flavorful dish, punchy with all that acid and brine. And because the fish and olive paste are hidden in the chard leaves like an oversized dolma, waiting to be sliced into, the flavors came as a happy surprise to my guests.
As much as I love olives, it was the chard that drew me to the dish. I loved the idea of serving tidy packages in edible gift wrap to each person at the table. And more than that, I looked forward to the slightly-time-consuming process of doing the wrapping, of getting into a rhythm and concentrating on my hands and the task in front of me, leaving no space in my usually-spastic brain for anything else.
But as I got going, it seemed like the recipe wasn’t going to work. I had picked the biggest chard I could find at the market, but few of the leaves were perfect—they were torn, or had holes, or seemed too skimpy. As the recipe promised, though, it all turned out fine—the leaves were big enough, and wrapping 16 pieces of fish (I’d doubled the recipe) provided the quiet, focused, meditative cooking I’d been looking for.
Cooking can’t always be that way. I know that. But now that this recipe is in my repertoire, it can be that way a little more often.Adeena Sussman
Originally Appeared on Epicurious