Greatest Hits: 2008

All Cooking Light recipes have to meet our high standards, but a few each issue are so great they end up as staff favorites. Here are the best of 2008.

Duck and Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet

Becky Luigart-Stayner

December: Duck and Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet

Down-home Southern soul food meets high-class French fare in this recipe for Réveillon―a 19th-Century Christmas-meal tradition among French Creoles that's still alive in New Orleans. Smoked bacon, mushrooms, and tender braised duck bring deep flavor to this dish that's warm, hearty, and perfect for a meal with family and friends on a cold winter night.

View Recipe: Duck and Black-Eyed Pea Cassoulet

Sticky Date and Coconut Cake

Randy Mayor

December: Sticky Date and Coconut Cake

We cut almost half the fat from a favorite recipe submitted by a Pittsburgh reader to yield this cake, which is just as dense, sweet, and gooey as the original. The puddinglike cake is topped with a crunchy coconut-brown sugar mix that's irresistable.

View Recipe: Sticky Date and Coconut Cake

Teff Injera Bread with Carrot-Ginger Chutney

Becky Luigart-Stayner

December: Teff Injera Bread with Carrot-Ginger Chutney

The highlight of a story on Ethiopian foods, this tangy whole-grain bread is ubiquitous in that country's cuisine. It pairs excellently with the garlic, spice, and sweet flavors in the carrot chutney. The injera's a snap to make, and you can cook the chutney up to two days ahead for an easy, exotic snack or app at your next dinner party.

View Recipe: Teff Injera Bread with Carrot-Ginger Chutney

Mixed Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin with Shallot-Port Reduction

November: Mixed Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin with Shallot-Port Reduction

Beef tenderloin adds elegance to any dinner party. Using a combination of black, white, pink, and green peppercorns adds piquant new flavors to the basic cracked-pepper crust on this roast, and the sauce, with complex and sweet flavors of port and balsamic vinegar, balances the spice well.

View Recipe: Mixed Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin with Shallot-Port Reduction

Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns

Becky Luigart-Stayner

November: Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns

Just the name makes mouths water, but the flavor of these rolls will blow you away. With the fruity flavor of figs, the bitter crunch of walnuts, and an ooey-gooey topping to hold it all together, these are a nearly perfect breakfast or dessert.

View Recipe: Fig-Walnut Sticky Buns

Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Meringue Frosting

Becky Luigart-Stayner

November: Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Meringue Frosting

"This is the one thing everyone couldn't stop talking about at taste testing," says Food Editor Ann Taylor Pittman. This recipe is a classic in every way: light, fluffy and moist cake with just a hint of bourbon and vanilla flavor, covered with a traditional meringue buttercream-style frosting. You can use the same recipe to make cupcakes if you prefer―it makes 24 of them.

View Recipe: Yellow Butter Cake with Vanilla Meringue Frosting

Brown Sugar Shortbread

Becky Luigart-Stayner

November: Brown Sugar Shortbread

These rich and flavorful cookies are made from ingredients you almost definitely have in your pantry and fridge all the time, so you can whip up a batch on very short notice. The recipe also lends itself to variations―we enjoyed chocolate and lemon shortbreads, but you can try whatever flavors you like.

View Recipe: Brown Sugar Shortbread

This flavorful salad was legendary chef Eric Ripert's entry in our Market Basket Challenge.

Randy Mayor

October: Pan-Roasted Chicken, Squash, and Chard Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

 This flavorful salad was legendary chef Eric Ripert's entry in our Market Basket Challenge. He adds savory roast chicken to a fresh salad of apples, Swiss chard, and butternut squash, and tops everything off with a flavorful bacon-mushroom vinaigrette. It's healthful, comforting, and tastes like fall.

View Recipe: Pan-Roasted Chicken, Squash, and Chard Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

We love the combination of apples cooked in caramel and a flaky pastry crust. For more tips on caramelizing, check out our guide.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

October: Tarte Tatin

Legend has it this dish was created by two French sisters trying to correct a baking mistake. A happy accident it was, as we love the combination of apples cooked in caramel and a flaky pastry crust. For more tips on caramelizing, check out our guide.

View Recipe: Tarte Tatin

This rich custard gets its color and flavor from a caramelized-sugar topping that you can learn how to make in our guide to caramelizing.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

October: Classic Crème Caramel

This rich custard gets its color and flavor from a caramelized-sugar topping that you can learn how to make in our guide to caramelizing. It's a great make-ahead dessert that's sure to impress any gathering.

View Recipe: Classic Crème Caramel

This is a truly decadent dish: rich, creamy Arborio rice flavored with saffron and combined with fresh shrimp and scallops.

Randy Mayor

 October: Seafood Risotto

 This is a truly decadent dish: rich, creamy Arborio rice flavored with saffron and combined with fresh shrimp and scallops. This recipe serves two for an elegant, romantic dinner made in about half an hour, but you can easily double or triple the recipe to serve a larger group.

View Recipe: Seafood Risotto

This hearty recipe adds heat to the broth with a habanero pepper, and replaces the traditional pesto with an autumn-flavored Swiss chard–walnut combination.

Randy Mayor

October: Chicken Barley Soup with Walnut Pesto

 This entry in our Market Basket Challenge comes from Laurent Tourondel, who adds French flavor to American classics at his BLT group of restaurants. Inspired by soupe au pistou this hearty recipe adds heat to the broth with a habanero pepper, and replaces the traditional pesto with an autumn-flavored Swiss chard–walnut combination. Butternut squash and mushrooms complete the picture, for a healthful and filling entrée soup.

View Recipe: Chicken Barley Soup with Walnut Pesto

A simple sheet cake is dressed up with pleasantly bitter walnuts and a sweet, creamy frosting to create this treat both kids and adults will love.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

September: Walnut Cake with Praline Frosting

 A simple sheet cake is dressed up with pleasantly bitter walnuts and a sweet, creamy frosting to create this treat both kids and adults will love.

View Recipe: Walnut Cake with Praline Frosting

This simple pizza of golden roasted beets and feta cheese, baked and drizzled with honey, will make a beet lover out of even the most hardcore veggie-phobe.

Randy Mayor

September: Roasted Beet Pizza

This simple pizza of golden roasted beets and feta cheese, baked and drizzled with honey, will make a beet lover out of even the most hardcore veggie-phobe. And you can indulge with this dish―it's only got 104 calories per slice!

View Recipe: Roasted Beet Pizza

Our guide to stir-frying offered up this twist on traditional Korean bulgogi, with sweet-savory beef slices wrapped up in lettuce and fiery kimchi.

 Becky Luigart-Stayner

September: Korean Sesame Beef with Lettuce Wraps

Our guide to stir-frying offered up this twist on traditional Korean bulgogi, with sweet-savory beef slices wrapped up in lettuce and fiery kimchi. It'll feed four as an entree, or more as an appetizer.

View Recipe: Korean Sesame Beef with Lettuce Wraps

Ooey gooey and delicious, these sticky rolls are sure to please.

 Randy Mayor

September: Pecan Sticky Rolls

We cut 67 percent of the calories and 79 percent of the fat from an Ohio grandmother's family-favorite recipe, but dropped none of the delicious flavor. Not only did these sweet rolls earn our Test Kitchens' highest rating, they also earned the family's stamp of approval.

View Recipe: Pecan Sticky Rolls

You can make this tangy, spicy dish in well under 10 minutes, then add snow peas and rice for a complete meal that's supereasy.

Becky Luigart-Stayner 

 August: Thai Chicken in Cabbage Leaves

 You can make this tangy, spicy dish in well under 10 minutes, then add snow peas and rice for a complete meal that's supereasy. Rolling your own cabbage-leaf "sandwich" is fun, too.

View Recipe: Thai Chicken in Cabbage Leaves

These delicate, crumbly cookies are stuffed with tartly sweet dried cherries and nuttily sweet pistachios, then coated with purely sweet powdered sugar.

Becky Luigart-Stayner 

August: Cherry-Pistachio Wedding Cookies

 These delicate, crumbly cookies are stuffed with tartly sweet dried cherries and nuttily sweet pistachios, then coated with purely sweet powdered sugar. They're everything you could want in a cookie.

View Recipe: August: Cherry-Pistachio Wedding Cookies

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbs and Capers

Becky Luigart-Stayner

August: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbs and Capers

This summery salad combines as many varieties of heirloom tomatoes as you care to use―the more the better―with fresh herbs, feta cheese, and sharp capers. The grilled sourdough on the side completes a light meal.

View Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Herbs and Capers

Ham and Cheese Tartines with Cherokee Purple Tomato Salad

Becky Luigart-Stayner

August: Ham and Cheese Tartines with Cherokee Purple Tomato Salad

The spicy red-wine flavor of Cherokee Purple tomatoes matches perfectly with the Spanish cheese and ham on the open-faced tartines. This dish makes for an easy and elegant lunch you can make ahead and take to work or on a picnic, and contains only 269 calories per serving.

View Recipe: Ham and Cheese Tartines with Cherokee Purple Tomato Salad

Maple Grilled Salmon

 Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Maple Grilled Salmon

Our guide to marinating featured this salmon, which has double sweet-sour flavor: The marinade it soaks in is cooked down to a glaze, which is then brushed on during cooking.

View Recipe: Maple Grilled Salmon

Parmesan Flans with Tomatoes and Basil

Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Parmesan Flans with Tomatoes and Basil

 An Inspired Vegetarian column on California wine country cuisine produced this recipe that looks and tastes elegant enough to have come from a world famous three-star bistro, but takes about a half hour to make. The secret is using the freshest tomatoes you can get your hands on.

View Recipe: Parmesan Flans with Tomatoes and Basil

Enjoy authentic Cajun flavor without worrying about your waistline

Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Shrimp Étoufée

We cut 288 calories and 20.3 grams of fat from each serving of Katharine O'Hara McIntyre's recipe for the Lighten Up column, so you can enjoy authentic Cajun flavor without worrying about your waistline. The McIntyres could barely tell the new version from the original.

View Recipe: Shrimp Étoufée

Spiked Peach Limeade Granita - Peaches and mint bring summery flavor, while tart lime balances the sweetness, and rum adds a punch.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Spiked Peach Limeade Granita

A story about urban orchards in Boston provided this dish that combines cocktail and dessert. Peaches and mint bring summery flavor, while tart lime balances the sweetness, and rum adds a punch.

View Recipe: Spiked Peach Limeade Granita

This dessert is surprisingly easy to prepare and makes great use of the fresh summer berries that region is famous for.

July: Blueberry and Blackberry Galette with Cornmeal Crust

 Part of a New England Fourth of July menu, this dessert is surprisingly easy to prepare and makes great use of the fresh summer berries that region is famous for.

View Recipe: Blueberry and Blackberry Galette with Cornmeal Crust

They can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried, and eaten plain or paired with any number of toppings or fillings.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

June: Arepas

The Inspired Vegetarian column journeyed to Venezuela this month for these corn cakes that are ubiquitous in that country's cuisine. They can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried, and eaten plain or paired with any number of toppings or fillings. Try them with Simple Black Beans and Avocado Salsa for a authentic Venezuelan meal.

View Recipe: Arepas

Our guide to grilling featured this classy update of the greasy fast-food mini-burgers everyone's ashamed to admit they love. The elegant relish beats ketchup any day.

Becky Luigart-Stayner 

June: Sliders with Shallot-Dijon Relish

Our guide to grilling featured this classy update of the greasy fast-food mini-burgers everyone's ashamed to admit they love. The elegant relish beats ketchup any day.

View Recipe: Sliders with Shallot-Dijon Relish

This indulgent cheesecake brings tropical-fruit flavor to the party, but still has only 295 calories per serving.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

June: Guava-Swirled Cheesecake

The Summer Cookbook is always full of great recipes, and this year was no exception, yielding three staff favorites. This indulgent cheesecake brings tropical-fruit flavor to the party, but still has only 295 calories per serving.

View Recipe: Guava-Swirled Cheesecake

This dish is grilled first for a nice charred flavor, brushed with mustard and rolled in herbs to add a bright freshness you don't normally get with grilled food.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

June: Beef Tenderloin with Mustard and Herbs

Also from the Summer Cookbook, this dish reverses the normal order―it's grilled first for a nice charred flavor, and then brushed with mustard and rolled in herbs to add a bright freshness you don't normally get with grilled food.

View Recipe: Beef Tenderloin with Mustard and Herbs

This salad combines sweet caramelized peaches, crispy meaty prosciutto, creamy tangy goat cheese, and slightly bitter arugula in a balsamic-honey dressing.

Becky Luigart-Stayner 

June: Grilled Peaches over Arugula with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

The 2008 Summer Cookbook included this salad, which combines sweet caramelized peaches, crispy meaty prosciutto, creamy tangy goat cheese, and slightly bitter arugula in a balsamic-honey dressing. It's the perfect mélange of tastes for a light lunch or first dinner course.

View Recipe: Grilled Peaches over Arugula with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

The Lighten Up column featured this pudding-and-whipped-topping creation, whose original version was jokingly called the "Girdlebuster."

Becky Luigart-Stayner

May: Cool, Creamy Chocolate Dessert

The Lighten Up column featured this pudding-and-whipped-topping creation, whose original version was jokingly called the "Girdlebuster." We cut the calories by a third and the fat in half to create something reader Claudia Smelser called even better than the original.

View Recipe: Cool, Creamy Chocolate Dessert

This sweet creation is packed with juicy pockets of berries, and the turbinado sugar on top adds a crunchy texture.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

May: Blueberry Coffee Cake

This sweet creation works well for breakfast, brunch, dessert, or a snack. It's packed with juicy pockets of berries, and the turbinado sugar on top adds a crunchy texture.

View Recipe: Blueberry Coffee Cake

These flavorful buns are a perfect combination of Asian-spiced meat and slightly sweet, chewy dough.

May: Steamed Pork Buns

These flavorful buns are a perfect combination of Asian-spiced meat and slightly sweet, chewy dough. Part of a Cooking Class story on steaming, the grab-and-go treats are a popular street food in China.

View Recipe: Steamed Pork Buns

With exotic spices like black mustard seeds and garam masala, simple red potatoes take on an amazing depth of flavor.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

April: Roasted Potatoes with North Indian Spices

 An Inspired Vegetarian column on the varied cuisine of the Indian crossroads city of New Delhi produced this fantastic side. With exotic spices like black mustard seeds and garam masala, simple red potatoes take on an amazing depth of flavor.

View Recipe: Roasted Potatoes with North Indian Spices

The tomato-and-bacon sauce packs a red-pepper punch, balanced by creamy melted mozzzarella in this lasagna.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

April: Semolina Lasagna with Spicy Amatriciana

Legendary Italian cook Lidia Bastianich shared her grandmother's surprisingly easy recipes for from-scratch homemade pasta, including this Semolina Lasagna with Spicy Amatriciana, whose tomato-and-bacon sauce packs a red-pepper punch, balanced by creamy melted mozzzarella.

View Recipe: Semolina Lasagna with Spicy Amatriciana

We're not kidding when we say these baked chips capture all the flavor of the fried kind with much less fat.

Randy Mayor

April: Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dip

 We're not kidding when we say these baked chips capture all the flavor of the fried kind with much less fat. Add a creamy, cheesy dressing for dipping that only tastes sinful and you've got what's quite possibly the perfect snack. If you have access to a mandoline, use it to ensure uniform paper-thin slices.

View Recipe: Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dip

With the Southern flavor of pecans combined with a light-as-air texture, they make a great dessert any time of year.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

April: Chocolate-Pecan Macaroons

 Our Multicultural Seder story featured these chocolaty treats, which use matzo meal instead of flour to make them kosher for Passover. But with the Southern flavor of pecans combined with a light-as-air texture, they make a great dessert any time of year.

View Recipe: Chocolate-Pecan Macaroons

The deep, earthy taste of shiitakes makes for an excellent sauce that compliments the meaty, flavorful beef for a satisfying dinner all around.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

April: Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Shiitake Mushroom Sauce

 From a guide to sautéing, these steaks develop a crust on the outside from cooking at high temperature, while the mushrooms get flavor from cooking in butter. The deep, earthy taste of shiitakes makes for an excellent sauce that compliments the meaty, flavorful beef for a satisfying dinner all around.

View Recipe: Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Shiitake Mushroom Sauce

The golden-brown onions add sweetness, while the cheese brings a salty flavor, both tempering the bitter arugula. A garnish of sour lemon slices brightens the flavor.

Randy Mayor

 March: Risotto with Italian Sausage, Caramelized Onions, and Bitter Greens

 This recipe was featured in a story about balancing flavors. The golden-brown onions add sweetness, while the cheese brings a salty flavor, both tempering the bitter arugula. A garnish of sour lemon slices brightens the flavor.

View Recipe: Risotto with Italian Sausage, Caramelized Onions, and Bitter Greens

These brownies are dense, fudgy, and seriously good.

Randy Mayor

March: Chocolate-Mint Bars

 Many readers can't believe that the recipes in our Lighten Up column are as good as their heavier counterparts. When Imogene Reppe brought a batch of these lightened Chocolate-Mint Bars to her local beauty shop along with a batch of the old version, her tasters couldn't tell the difference, and many thought the light version offered more chocolate-mint flavor. These brownies are dense, fudgy, and seriously good.

View Recipe: Chocolate-Mint Bars

A long braise leaves the leeks flavorful and tender, while the dressing adds meaty, sweet, and sour flavors that match perfectly.

Randy Mayor

March: Braised Leeks with Warm Pancetta Dressing

 Leeks are one of the few vegetables that are fresher and more abundant during the winter and early spring than any other time of year. And it's just as the weather starts to warm that their flavor is most delicate and mild, a characteristic we take advantage of in our Braised Leeks with Warm Pancetta Dressing. A long braise leaves the leeks flavorful and tender, while the dressing adds meaty, sweet, and sour flavors that match perfectly.

View Recipe: Braised Leeks with Warm Pancetta Dressing

Our feature on Fresh Fruits to Try included this mild marmalade recipe using Uniq fruit (also known as Ugli fruit).

Randy Mayor

January: Uniq Fruit and Lemon Marmalade

 Our feature on Fresh Fruits to Try included this mild marmalade recipe using Uniq fruit (also known as Ugli fruit). Often seedless, the interior of this citrus fruit is like a cross between a grapefruit and a mandarin orange, but without the acidity and slight bitter taste of grapefruit.

View Recipe: Uniq Fruit and Lemon Marmalade

Mollie Lee won the Starters and Beverages Category of our 2007 Cooking Light Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest with these delicious appetizers.

Howard L. Puckett

January: Korean Spiced Beef and Cabbage Rolls

 Mollie Lee won the Starters and Beverages Category of our 2007 Cooking Light Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest with these delicious appetizers. Inspired by a favorite dish from her Nebraska hometown, she paired the traditional ingredients with spices from her husband's Korean culture.

View Recipe: Korean Spiced Beef and Cabbage Rolls

Leeks and potatoes provide the base for this hearty vegetable soup, and butternut squash adds a hint of sweetness. Gruyre toasts add a salty note.

Becky Luigart-Stayner

January: Golden Winter Soup

 This recipe was featured in a collection of soups from around the world. Leeks and potatoes provide the base for this hearty vegetable soup, and butternut squash adds a hint of sweetness. Gruyère toasts add a salty note.

View Recipe: Golden Winter Soup

This creamy dish contains 3 cups of milk, and offers about one-fifth of your daily calcium needs per serving.

Randy Mayor

January: Butterscotch Pudding

 Our Body Boosters article featured foods with health-enhancing benefits. For building better bones, calcium works best in combination with phosphorous and Vitamin D, all of which can be found in dairy products. This creamy dish contains 3 cups of milk, and offers about one-fifth of your daily calcium needs per serving.

View Recipe: Butterscotch Pudding

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