Greatest Hits: 2009

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

Lamb Shanks Braised with Tomato

Becky Luigart-Stayner

December: Lamb Shanks Braised with Tomato

With meltingly tender shanks and a rich tomato-based sauce, this dish is so fabulous that you'd never guess it contains just five ingredients. After tasting it, our editor-in-chief quipped, "I'd serve this to my Italian grandmother, if I had one."

View Recipe: Lamb Shanks Braised with Tomato

Mushroom and Roasted Pepper Tarts

Becky Luigart-Stayner

December: Mushroom and Roasted Pepper Tarts

If you're looking for a holiday-worthy dish to serve your vegetarian guests, look no further. This elegant tart is as satisfying as it is pretty, with big hits of flavor from roasted red peppers, umami-rich Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and three kinds of mushrooms. Deliciously flaky homemade pie crust sends this recipe over the edge.

Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare these tarts up to two days ahead, chill, and reheat just before serving.

View Recipe: Mushroom and Roasted Pepper Tarts

Slow-Roasted Brown Sugar and Dill Cured Salmon

Becky Luigart-Stayner

December: Slow-Roasted Brown Sugar and Dill Cured Salmon

You many already know the wonders slow roasting does for beef, transforming tough cuts of meat into succulent, tender morsels. This technique works similar magic with muscular fish like salmon, giving the flesh a velvety, silken texture that melts in your mouth. Curing the fish first in brown sugar, salt, and dill infuses it with intense flavor.

View Recipe: Slow-Roasted Brown Sugar and Dill Cured Salmon

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

Becky Luigart-Stayner

November: Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

Replacing familiar potatoes with wintry turnip and parsnip gives this gratin a slight sweetness that's deliciously different. The mild flavor of the veggies screams for a strong, pungent cheese; substitute an aged cheddar, blue cheese like Stilton, or Monterey Jack.

View Recipe: Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

Leg of Lamb with Spicy Harissa

Ellen Silverman

November: Leg of Lamb with Spicy Harissa

Bring a touch of the exotic to your holiday table with our North African twist on tradition. Tender lamb is coated with pomegranate molasses, which makes a perfect contrast with the fiery tomato-spice paste it's served with. If you can't find pomegranate molasses, cook pomegranate juice down to a thick, syrupy consistency.

View Recipe: Leg of Lamb with Spicy Harissa

Bucatini with Mushrooms

Randy Mayor

October: Bucatini with Mushrooms

A large assortment of mushrooms, including luxurious dried porcinis, is the key to the huge earthy flavor of this dish. It's meatless, but you'd never know it with all the savory flavor of mushrooms, Parmesan, and truffle oil, plus the luscious texture the sauce gets from a generous splash of cream.

View Recipe: Bucatini with Mushrooms

Cinnamon Roll

Becky Luigart-Stayner

October: Cinnamon Rolls

The enormous cinnamon rolls at Chicago institution Ann Sather are a classic, though a bit out of control in the nutrition department. We captured their flavor in this recipe, but lightened them a bit by cutting down on butter and using skim milk in place of whole.

View Recipe: Cinnamon Rolls

Lobster Americaine

Becky Luigart-Stayner

October: Lobster Américaine

World-renowned chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York created this recipe for us. Though the name means "American-style lobster," it's a classic French preparation with a rich tomato-cream sauce. Any time you cook lobster, it's a special occasion, but this dish is well worth the cost and effort.

View Recipe: Lobster Américaine

Bacon Mac

Becky Luigart-Stayner

September: Bacon Mac

A Cooking Class column revealed the secrets to light mac 'n cheese that tastes as rich and indulgent as the original: a smooth slurry of milk and flour to thicken, and careful temperature control so the cheese melts just right. This creamy dish features lots of cheddar and bacon but still comes in under 400 calories per serving.

View Recipe: Bacon Mac

Plum Galette with Armagnac Cream

Becky Luigart-Stayner

September: Plum Galette with Armagnac Cream

Armagnac's robust and oaky but still smooth flavor makes it a classic partner for plums, and it suffuses this dish, flavoring both the galette itself and the rich cream topping each slice. It's a beautiful and tasty showstopper for any dinner party.

View Recipe: Plum Galette with Armagnac Cream

August: Sauteed Sole with Browned Butter and Capers

Becky Luigart-Stayner

August: Sautéed Sole with Browned Butter and Capers

As elegant as any restaurant dish, this recipe is unbelievably simple: Sauté the thin, flaky fillets for three minutes, then make a three-minute pan sauce that's rich with butter and bright with caper and lemon. Splurge on sole for a special meal, or substitute flounder, trout, or any flaky white fish for an everyday dinner.

View Recipe: Sautéed Sole with Browned Butter and Capers

August: Cast-Iron Burgers

Randy Mayor

August: Cast-Iron Burgers

Two secrets to the perfect burger are contained in this recipe: Salt the meat and let rest so the salt can penetrate, and shape lightly into patties that just barely hold together for a tender final product. A horseradish-mustard-mayo-ketchup sauce and bacon-caramelized onion relish for toppings don't hurt, either. These take a bit longer than your standard burger, but the magnificent results are worth it.

View Recipe: Cast-Iron Burgers

Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes

Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes

Crispy, flaky layers of phyllo interspersed with cheese for a crust make this pizza unique, but the fresh tomato and basil topping gives it classic summer flavor. It's a great recipe to show off your own garden or local farmers' market.

View Recipe: Phyllo Pizza with Feta, Basil, and Tomatoes

Pan-Fried Trout with Fresh Herb Salad

Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Pan-Fried Trout with Fresh Herb Salad

Whether prepared over the campfire beside your favorite fly-fishing stream or in the comfort of your kitchen, this dish exemplifies the great but often overlooked flavor of trout. The crisp skin and flaky fish are balanced by the easy salad of nothing but herbs, lemon juice, and salt.

View Recipe: Pan-Fried Trout with Fresh Herb Salad

July: Caesar Salad

Becky Luigart-Stayner

July: Caesar Salad

This dressing is so easy and full of flavor that you'll never go back to bottled. Anchovies contribute salty meatiness, and the egg yolk binds everything together for a creamy texture, so don't omit either one. Homemade croutons are healthier than store-bought, take just 15 minutes, and are a great way to add crunch to any salad.

View Recipe: Caesar Salad

July: Watermelon and Cucumber Tonic

Randy Mayor

July: Watermelon and Cucumber Tonic

Gin and tonics are great, but they're a bit staid for an exuberant Fourth of July celebration. So, we added watermelon, lemon, cucumber, and mint to create this sweet, refreshing, and gorgeously pink cocktail. It'll be a hit at any outdoor party, and you can always leave out the gin for a virgin version.

View Recipe: Watermelon and Cucumber Tonic

Rainier Cherry Crumble

Randy Mayor

July: Rainier Cherry Crumble

Rainier cherries are sweet enough on their own that the filling for this crumble needs no extra sugar. The topping is crunchy and nutty, and the filling is sweet, warm, and gooey, for a perfect comforting dessert. You don't even need a cherry pitter: Hit each cherry with the flat side of a chef's knife (like crushing garlic cloves), and the pit pops right out.

View Recipe: Rainier Cherry Crumble

Raspberry-Rhubarb Pie

Randy Mayor

June: Raspberry-Rhubarb Pie

Sweet raspberries balance tart rhubarb in this summer treat, while a touch of créme de cassis in the filling and almond in the topping add notes of elegance. We use both tapioca and cornstarch to thicken the filling, ensuring a properly ooey-gooey pie.

View Recipe: Raspberry-Rhubarb Pie

Grilled Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado

Randy Mayor

June: Grilled Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado

Grilled shrimp skewers are pretty commonplace, but this dish adds grilled mango and avocado wedges for something extra-special. The balance of creamy avocado, sweet-and-sour mango, and savory shrimp is mirrored by the Vietnamese-style dipping sauce, with its combination of sugar, tart lime juice, and pungent fish sauce.

View Recipe: Grilled Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado

Heirloom Tomato and Herb Pappardelle

Randy Mayor

June: Heirloom Tomato and Herb Pappardelle

With all the great fresh produce available in the summer, it's a good time to try a vegetarian entrée or two, and this recipe is a perfect choice. The simple sauce highlights the flavor of tomatoes with fresh herbs, shallot, and garlic, and it comes together in seven minutes―about the time it takes to cook the pasta.

View Recipe: Heirloom Tomato and Herb Pappardelle

Pan-Fried Chicken

Becky Luigart-Stayner

June: Pan-Fried Chicken

You thought fried chicken was off-limits in a healthy diet, didn't you? Well, think again with this recipe, which contains just 245 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving. Frying in a thin layer of peanut oil yields the same crunchy crust and perfect juiciness as deep-frying with much less fat, and our breading, flavored with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and paprika, is intriguingly different.

View Recipe: Pan-Fried Chicken

Limoncello-Mint Sorbet with Fresh Blackberries

Becky Luigart-Stayner

May: Limoncello-Mint Sorbet with Fresh Blackberries

The bright flavor of citrusy Limoncello, an Italian liqueur, clears the palate, while the combination of cool sorbet and fresh blackberries ends any meal with a flourish. With only 184 calories per serving, you won't feel a hint of guilt.

View Recipe: Limoncello-Mint Sorbet with Fresh Blackberries

Vanilla Bean Shortbread

Randy Mayor

May: Vanilla Bean Shortbread

We swapped out half the butter for healthy-fat-rich canola oil, which makes these delicate cookies crisper without sacrificing that buttery richness.

View Recipe: Vanilla Bean Shortbread

Soy Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles

Randy Mayor

April: Soy Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles

It's hard to believe, but this dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. With quick-seared scallops over hearty soba noodles, it's a great meal for any night, but the sweet-salty-sour-spicy marinade/sauce is what made it a staff favorite.

View Recipe: Soy Citrus Scallops with Soba Noodles

Aioli

Becky Luigart-Stayner

April: Aioli

If you've never had homemade mayonnaise before, this aioli will be a revelation. Making it is nowhere near as hard as you think, and its wonderful garlicky flavor is miles above the jarred stuff. Make a batch and try it in everything―sandwiches, dips, dressings, sauces, you name it.

View Recipe: Aioli

Butterscotch Bars

Randy Mayor

April: Butterscotch Bars

For the Lighten Up column this month, we trimmed 75 calories and 4.7 grams of fat per serving from this crumbly, chewy, delightful dessert without sacrificing an iota of flavor. Walnuts and oatmeal in the crust and topping are crunchy and hearty to match the ooey-gooey sweet butterscotch filling.

View Recipe: Butterscotch Bars

Herbed Passover Rolls

Randy Mayor

April: Herbed Passover Rolls

Because Passover dietary laws prohibit leavened products, kosher-for-Passover baked goods are often dense and heavy. We got around that by using the same procedure as cream puffs to yield these light and airy rolls that are kosher for Passover and great for any time you want a deliciously different dinner roll.

View Recipe: Herbed Passover Rolls

Broccoli and Chicken Noodle Soup

Randy Mayor

March: Broccoli and Chicken Noodle Soup

Lighten Up: To create a more healthful version of this creamy soup, we replaced the original recipe's fat-laden, processed base with a white sauce that thickens low-fat milk with a little butter and flour. The result: 40 percent fewer calories, 63 percent less fat, and a 44 percent reduction in sodium―without sacrificing the creaminess of this childhood favorite. Cook time: 40 minutes.

View Recipe: Broccoli and Chicken Noodle Soup

Curried Beef Short Ribs

Randy Mayor

March: Curried Beef Short Ribs

This recipe gives an international twist to a slow-cooker favorite: short ribs. Finished with lime juice and a little zest that adds a bright note, this rich, spicy dish pairs well with bold, fruit-forward, peppery red wines. Serve the saucy ribs over basmati rice and pair with a side of bok choy for a hearty meal.

View Recipe: Curried Beef Short Ribs

Monday Morning Potato Rolls and Bread

Becky Luigart-Stayner

March: Monday Morning Potato Rolls and Bread

Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest Finalist: Reader Catherine McMichael of Saginaw, Michigan put leftover mashed potatoes to delicious use in this fluffy bread, which works well as both rolls and loaves. They're so named, she says, because "they never last until Tuesday!" See other winning recipes and hear contestants' lightening tips from the 2008 cook-off.

View Recipe: Monday Morning Potato Rolls and Bread

Mango-Agave Sorbet

Randy Mayor

March: Mango-Agave Sorbet

This Mexican dessert is sweetened with agave nectar, which is made from the desert plant that is used to make tequila. A wonderful alternative to table sugar, agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which means it is better for people with blood sugar issues.

View Recipe: Mango-Agave Sorbet

Seared Mahimahi with Edamame Succotash

Randy Mayor

January: Seared Mahimahi with Edamame Succotash

This recipe demonstrates that proper portion size never has to be boring. Four-ounce portions of flavorful mahimahi are simply seasoned and quickly seared, then topped with a delightfully fresh and healthful mix of edamame, corn, and bell pepper for great flavor. It's chock-full of protein and fiber, but contains only 379 calories and 9.4 grams of fat per serving.

View Recipe: Seared Mahimahi with Edamame Succotash

Chicken with Dark Beer

Becky Luigart-Stayner

January: Chicken with Dark Beer

Similar to southern France's coq au vin, this nothern French recipe simmers chicken in deeply flavored beer for tenderness and nice caramel flavor. Add in juniper berries and a little bit of gin for their fresh taste, plus the creamy texture of yogurt stirred in at the end and you've got a recipe for a great cold-weather meal.

View Recipe: Chicken with Dark Beer (Coq à la Bière)

Cassoulet

Becky Luigart-Stayner

January: Cassoulet

This classic, from our guide to casseroles, is the definition of heartiness. It's got creamy beans, luscious duck, spicy sausage, and plenty of garlic for a one-pot meal that's sure to become an instant favorite. It cooks for a long time, but a batch made over the weekend will feed a family of four for half the week (and they won't complain about eating leftovers, we promise).

View Recipe: Cassoulet

Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter–Pecan Frosting

Becky Luigart-Stayner

January: Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter–Pecan Frosting

This dish, winner of the desserts category in the 2008 Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest, starts with roasted bananas, which adds caramelized notes to their tropical sweetness. Those flavor the light-and-fluffy bars, which are topped with cream cheese icing and chopped pecans for the perfect amount of tanginess and crunch.

View Recipe: Roasted Banana Bars with Browned Butter–Pecan Frosting

Smoky Slow Cooker Chili

Randy Mayor

January: Smoky Slow Cooker Chili

For the new Test Kitchens Secrets column, our resident pork and smoke expert Mike Wilson created this chili that offers huge flavor. A smoked ham hock, cooked with the chili and then discarded, adds just the right amount of smokiness with minimal effort. The best part is, though it cooks for five to eight hours, you can just set up the slow cooker in the morning and come home to a steaming bowl of fresh, homemade chili with no effort after work.

View Recipe: Smoky Slow Cooker Chili

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