Chestnut Almond Cake (Torta Pisticcina)

This recipe left me dumbfounded.  You literally just mix everything in a bowl with a spatula.  No careful separation of eggs, no patient creaming of butter, no cumbersome whisking till stiff peaks – you put a handful of ingredients into a bowl, stir, pour into a lined cake tin and bake in a preheated oven.  I was dubious of the outcome, but the cake was dense, moist, earthy and all the positive adjectives you can associate a dessert with.
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Citrus Fennel Risotto

We’ve all had dreadful risottos.  You know the kind that comes congealed on your plate like a stiff pudding, with every mouthful an overcooked mush. Most of the time these taste of nothing but generic cheese.  You want a glossy, loose pool of risotto.  When you ladle it to the center of the plate you want it to gently spread into a thin layer.   You want it to still have a bite, and you want it to be light and you also want it to be creamy.  It’s a plate of pure delight when done right.  And it doesn’t need some protein protagonist to sit on top of it, let it be by itself.
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Pea Tahini Dip

Despite having grown up in Beijing with a Chinese mother, there are aspects of the Chinese culture I’ll never understand. My mother grew up during The Cultural Revolution – one of the most horrific movements in the 20th century that led to chaos, violence, deaths, f*cking mayhem –  yet she has never opened up to me about the pain and atrocities she witnessed and experienced in that time. It’s not appropriate in Chinese culture to share your misfortunes, I suppose, especially not with your children. She shares the fond memories from her childhood, like the monthly joy of receiving that rationed jar of sesame paste and smearing it on bread (plain Chinese bao bun) that’s sprinkled liberally with brown sugar. It’s like a sad PB&J. She still absolutely loves that snack.
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Rye Apple Pancakes with Rosemary Honey

I’m not ashamed to say it – my affinity with apple desserts started with the McDonalds apple pie: the golden pocket of fried crisp pastry with hot, sweet apple filling. It was the compulsory last course of my McDonalds Happy Meal. In my teenage years I was introduced to apple strudels, and to this day it’s still one of my favorite desserts, with just the thought of it making me salivate.
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