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If you want to drive yourself a little bit crazy, read predictions about what to expect in the new year. Predictions are about as common a New Year’s resolutions and, it seems, about as effective. When it comes to food, many of the guesses — and that’s really all these predictions are, guesses — are particularly maddening.

Countless press releases are touting the disappearance of recipes, as AI — artificial intelligence — replaces cookbooks, pantries, shopping and what we think of today as cooking. Before long, they say, AI will suggest what you might like and need to eat based on your preferences, ancestry, DNA, health profile, allergies and perhaps even what kind of music you like. Press a few buttons and out comes your personalized gluten-free vegan bowl of sustainable regional delights, all at the perfect temperature. If other predictions prove true, expect the bowl — that is to say, the food, not the vessel holding it — to be garnished with colorful flowers and flakes of 24-karat gold and, quite possibly, dusted with ground oyster shell and ants that taste like lemongrass.

We will begin to be concerned about the source of our ingredients, the food pundits predict, and will start to care about how both the land and the animals that provide us with food are cared for. Edible flowers will be huge in 2018, they say, and Middle Eastern food will become popular.

Some critics promise the demise of such businesses as Blue Apron, while others suggest that these business that provide everything but the heat for your next meal will become bigger and more popular than ever.

I have a prediction of my own: We will continue to use recipes as we do now, not merely as a way to prepare a dish but as a story, passed on to us from someone we once loved or heard about from a distant relative. We will continue to eat edible flowers, as we have in Sonoma County since the 1980s. We will still enjoy shopping for our food at local farmers markets and specialty shops, such as Sonoma County Meat Company, where we talk with farmers and ranchers and often see photos of the hens who lay our eggs and the field of kale that was the source of the bunch we are taking home.

I don’t expect to find a lot of gold in my food, and I’m not currently honing my ant-preparation techniques.

What am I doing? Cooking, a lot, and vowing to do a better job of cutting down on the amount of food I waste, which seems to me a great place to start the new year.

Americans, it seems, waste more food than any other country. Personally, I simply buy too much, as I’m always dazzled by our farmers and their harvest. Others waste food because they don’t necessarily understand how to make, say, a roasted chicken last through three meals, or what to do with that leftover lamb or beef roast.

It is, to the inexperienced, easier to toss carrots that are looking a little tired than it is to remember that you’ve got them in the refrigerator and to think of a way to preserve them if you won’t get to them soon. Pickled carrots are an easy solution, a concept that can be applied to almost any vegetable. So that’s what I’ll be doing this year, perfecting pickling and offering as much practical advice as I can about turning down the volume of kitchen waste this year.

Sonoma magazine remembers 10 beloved Wine Country restaurants, landmarks and wineries destroyed by the fires here

I’ve made this dish for years using raw lamb but it is also an ideal way to use leftover meat, especially lamb or beef. It is easy to make and reheats well.

Minted Rice with Lamb & Chickpeas

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, trimmed and cut into small dice

4 garlic cloves, minced

— Kosher salt

— Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cups long-grain white rice of choice

3 cups meat stock, boiling hot

1½ cup boiling water

4 cups cubed cooked lamb or beef (see note below)

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

— Zest of 1 lemon

— Black pepper in a mill

½ cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 lemon, cut in wedges

— Mint, parsley, or cilantro sprigs

— Plain whole milk yogurt or raita

Pour the olive oil into a heavy sauté pan set over medium-low heat, add the onion, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Season with salt and pepper and add the red pepper flakes.

Add the rice, stir, and pour in meat stock, boiling water, and lamb.

Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat but do not uncover the pan; let rest 10 to 15 minutes.

Uncover, add the chickpeas and lemon zest, taste, correct for salt, and season generously with black pepper.

Fold in the mint, parsley, and cilantro.

Tip into a serving bowl, garnish with lemon wedges and herb sprigs, and enjoy right away, with yogurt or raita alongside as a condiment.

Note: If you have leftover leg of lamb or a roast of beef or lamb, cut the meat into 1/2-inch cubes. To make the dish using raw lamb or beef, you’ll need to brown the meat before cooking the onions and garlic. In addition, you’ll need to cook the meat in the meat stock for about 30 to 40 minutes before adding the rice.

Expect to see shakshuka on more restaurant menus, pundits are telling us, for 2018. A better option is to put it on your own table. The dish is popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa and for good reason: It is delicious, easy to make, and full of good nourishment. And you needn’t relegate it to breakfast; it makes a great lunch or dinner, too.


Serves 1, easily increased

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, cut into small dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

— Kosher salt

1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1/4 teaspoon round cumin

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

1 poblano seared, peeled, seeded, and cut into medium julienne

— Black pepper in a mill

2 farm eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh Italian parsley or cilantro, for garnish

— Hot hearth bread

Pour the olive oil into a small sauté pan set over medium heat, add the onion, and cook until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 2 minutes more, season with salt, and stir in the paprikas and cumin.

Add the tomatoes and poblano, taste, and correct for salt. Add several turns of black pepper. Heat until the sauce is bubbling and very hot.

Preheat an oven — a toaster oven is ideal. Warm a single-serving clay pot or ramekin and tip the sauce into it. Carefully break one of the eggs into the dish, followed by the second egg, setting them next to each other.

Set in the oven and cook until the egg whites are fully set. Check after about 5 minutes and use a soup spoon to drizzle some of the sauce on top of the eggs.

Remove from the heat and carefully set on a wooden or other safe surface.

Let cool slightly, top with parsley or cilantro, and enjoy right away, with the hearth bread alongside for dipping and sopping.

Several local farmers grow sunchokes. and they should be easy to find at your local farmers market. This version of a popular French dish is from Brittany, where butter is the preferred fat. A Provençal version replaces the butter with olive oil and omits the creme fraiche. Both versions are excellent.

Ragout of Sunchokes

Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons butter

11/2 pounds of sunchokes, scrubbed and sliced very thinly

3 garlic cloves, minced

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

1/3 cup creme fraiche

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh Italian parsley

— Lemon wedges

Put the butter into a medium sauté pan set over medium heat. When the butter is fully melted, add the sunchokes and garlic, toss, and cook for 1 minute.

Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the sunchokes are just tender but not at all mushy, about 10 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to high, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more, turning once or twice, until the chokes take on a bit of color.

Add the creme fraiche, jostle the pan, and when the creme fraiche has been heated through, tip the pan from side to side so the juices will meld. Do not stir.

Transfer to a serving bowl, add a few turns of black pepper and another light sprinkling of salt, scatter the parsley on top, garnish with lemon wedges, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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