The New Way to Cook Light Recipes
Fresh Food and Bold Flavors for Today’s Home Cook
"Fully delicious is what interests us: food that proves that a desire to eat healthfully need not sideline you from what I call the revolution in American eating. Millions of Americans are now excited about food that is local, global, authentic, fresh, slow, organic, heirloom, heritage, artisanal: real food. Our nation’s fantastic stew of cultures has put more and more global ingredients onto store shelves, and more global dishes onto restaurant menus. At the center of all this fun and ferment stands you, the home cook, who wants to turn out great food for the people you care the most about." -Scott Mowbray, Cooking Light Editor
Crowned our best chocolate recipe ever when we did a 25-year look-back, these deliver that intense, back-of-the- throat chocolate satisfaction from the first bite.
Use a beautiful olive oil here. With peppers at the base, the hint of lemon, heat, and salt develops into a complex, satisfying appetizer. Reserve excess oil from the marinade, then toss it with pasta and grape tomatoes or sautéed shrimp. The best fresh mozza, made with whole milk, is fantastically creamy and slightly sweet.
A Meyer lemon is not your average lemon. It’s sweeter and less acidic and has a floral essence. It also has a brief season. Grab a good one (usually plump, bright, and thin-skinned—not hard) when you see one. If you can’t find Meyers, use tangerines or oranges, maybe with a spritz of lemon juice.
This fish is like the chicken breast of the sea: an American favorite. It’s lean, mild, and pleasantly firm. Creamy polenta complements spice-rubbed fish. Cooking polenta in milk and cheese enriches it with both flavor and calcium.
Lighter, yes, but we did not deviate from the classic ingredients that define this dish. Frisée, also known as curly endive, has lacy leaves and a bitterness that marries with the creamy yolk. If you can’t find frisée on its own, it’s often included in mesclun combinations, along with radicchio—and that’s fine.
We’re not above reaching for a bottle of supermarket ranch dressing, if we can jazz it up with horseradish and ancho pepper. Top the toast slices with the salad mixture if you like. Ancho chile powder is made from a dried poblano chile; it has mild to medium heat and a slightly sweet fruit flavor, with hints of coffee.
Crispy-crusted catfish without deep-fat frying—brilliant. Fried catfish is one of the genius dishes of the South. Banish the thought of dull-tasting fish: Today’s farmed catfish is sweet and meaty, with a hint of earthiness.
Pour the bacon drippings into a cup; measure 2 teaspoons and pour back into pan to cook shrimp. This recipe offers options for how to spice up the dish: Use hot pepper sauce for bright, vinegary heat, or chipotle chiles for a fruity, smoky burn.
Crab cake lovers are fierce about the ratio of crab to filler. Our light cakes put the crab forward—and lose calories and fat—by using just enough mayo and breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together. Plus, we skip the deep-fryer and sauté in oil to ensure crunch.
Many home cooks avoid the whole-fish routine, thinking it tricky. It’s not. Just as cooking meat on the bone makes for richer flavor and extra succulence, so does cooking fish this way. Scoring the fish helps it keep its shape during cooking. Select whole fish with clear eyes, shiny scales, pink gills, and moist skin. Use this versatile preparation with almost any small, whole fish and your favorite fresh herbs. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds.
If you haven’t tried skirt steak, prepare to have your world rocked. It’s one of the richest, beefiest cuts. When you have a very long piece of steak, it’s OK to cut it into smaller pieces so they’ll fit in the pan; just be sure to slice against the grain once it’s cooked.
This is one of the most delicious dishes we tested in 2011—a sublime Southeast Asian riff on beef and cabbage from Naomi Duguid. Slow simmering like this is favored in northern Thailand and among the Shan people in Myanmar. Ingredients that have been combined with very little water and little or no oil are cooked under a tightly sealed lid. The result is ethereal.
Fast, easy, and terrifically crunchy: the taste of fried chicken for less than 300 calories. It’s versatile, too—use as a stand-alone entrée, perch atop salads, or use as a base for chicken Parmesan. Add kid appeal with a honey-mustard dipping sauce.
Saltimbocca means “ jump in the mouth”—apt for a fast dish that marries woodsy sage, bright lemon, and salty prosciutto. Serve over a bed of angel hair pasta or polenta.
Sometimes you just want pure, homey comfort. Our version hits all the flaky, creamy, potato-rich notes of the classic but is much lighter in calories and sodium.
The fish is sautéed to create a beautiful browned crust, then finished in the oven. Wild arctic char from the northern seas is available only for a few weeks in late summer, when the ice has melted enough for fishermen to reach them. It’s a sought-after delicacy, and one that will cost you. If you find fresh, it’s worth the splurge.
Pop a prepared casserole in the oven and let it bake while you sip coffee—that’s the way to wake up on a lazy Sunday. Seems like every family has a beloved version of this type of breakfast strata. This one is much lower in fat than most.
Spectacular and ridiculously easy—just pile fresh cherries over store-bought crust, and bake. Rainier cherries have delicate, white flesh and yellowish-red skin—they're larger and taste sweeter than Bings. If you can’t find them, add an extra tablespoon of sugar.
We set out to make a serious dent in the calorie and fat content of good old mac and cheese, while preserving the creamy comfort-food texture. Solution: Butternut squash. Combined with milk and Greek yogurt, it adds rich flavor, sneaks in a vegetable, and gives color to a three-cheese sauce that contains no cheddar.
Sage and butternut bring out the best in each other. Caramelized onions, fontina cheese, and sautéed spinach complete the fall festival of flavors. A béchamel-style sauce creams the dish up.
Robust Japanese buckwheat noodles and seared scallops get coated with a marinade that has been reduced to a glaze. Serve with still-crunchy snow peas or sugar snap peas. You can toss them right in with the noodles.
Here’s your knife, fork, and two napkins kind of deep-dish pie, invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago more than 60 years ago. We retained all the gooey-cheesy-crusty deliciousness of this dish while lightening it significantly.
This is about as healthy—and tasty—a side as we can cook up: whole-grain goodness plus sunflower seeds and dried fruit.This recipe calls for long-cooking barley and brown rice (both whole grains), but if you’re in a hurry, substitute instant brown rice and quick-cooking barley. Just be sure to adjust cooking times according to package directions.
All the appeal of a loaded baked potato, delivered in a hearty soup. It’s about that simple. If you aren’t in a rush, you can chop the onions and cook the bacon in a skillet or baking sheet in the oven.
This easy bread, with far less of the drenching saturated fat than most recipes, is one of the tastier treats to come out of our Test Kitchen. Peanut butter is whipped into the basic recipe for a moist bread with a hint of nutty flavor. A small amount of chopped roasted peanuts offers crunch and more nutty goodness.
Zing goes the chile, pop goes the fresh, sweet corn, for those who like their corn bread busy. When cutting corn from the cob, corral the kernels in a bowl so they don’t fly all over your counter. You’ll likely have leftovers; seal extra portions in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature for up to one day.
It’s absolutely worth the time to cook grapes for three hours. Low and slow heat concentrates the grape-y sweetness and turns fruit buttery-soft with almost no effort. This is a restaurant-quality dessert, easily made. The yogurt holds the layers together. Chopped walnuts on top add crunch and a dose of healthy fat.
This is a simply amazing recipe—layers of crisp phyllo interspersed with mixed nuts and hazelnut-chocolate spread, with just enough butter to enhance the flavor yet keep the sat fat low. Lightly spiced honey syrup gives the gooey, sticky quality that makes baklava so heavenly.
Sharp cheese plays against sweet onions in a seriously delicious sandwich, made lighter with lean beef. Lean sirloin has about the same amount of saturated fat as ground turkey. With blue cheese mayo and tangy-sweet onions, it makes a mighty juicy burger—if you’re careful not to overcook.
Bread salads put day-old loaves to brilliant use. The crunchy bread (it needs to be good, chewy bread) sops up the dressing, softens, and makes a counterpoint to the vegetables. Toss in grilled shrimp or chicken.
The convenience of canned beans is a gift. In less than 20 minutes, you can have a meaty, herbed bean side. For lower-sodium beans, buy organic or no-added-salt canned versions.
Ribbons of squash have a cool, delicate quality that only a sushi master could achieve with a knife. So we use a vegetable peeler or a mandoline. A sprinkling of salt brings out the flavor and helps put a fine curl on the squash. Ricotta salata is an Italian sheep’s milk cheese: At its best, it’s dense, crumbly, earthy, and milky.
Jilt the traditional super-sugary sweet potato casserole for this more streamlined, fresher, and certainly healthier version. Sweet potatoes are already naturally sweet. Why lay on more sugar? Here caramelized shallots add a savory note. Olive oil provides richness and bypasses the saturated fat you’d get from butter.
Fresh lime zest and coarse sea salt mimic the flavors of a margarita in a treat that’s lickably good. Two sugars and two salts serve their purpose; turbinado and coarse sea salt add texture to the tops of the cookies, while table salt and granulated sugar mix well into the cookie dough.
Don’t skip the gremolata. It melds all the elements and adds bright notes to a hearty dish. Larger ribs will obviously take longer in the oven to get fork-tender, and one of the big ones will be a serving.
Slightly bitter greens, parsnips, and cipollini onions: Here’s our new favorite interpretation of the Sunday dinner classic. Beef cuts that require a slow and moist cooking method go by many names: blade roast, cross rib roast, seven-bone pot roast, arm pot roast, and boneless chuck roast.
Abandon your commercial lemon pepper in favor of this perfect homemade fish seasoning. Though generous with the spice, this preparation is perfect for the mild, delicate flavor of flounder. It’s also good over pork or tofu. Add asparagus spears to the pan and roast along with the fish.
A fusion BBQ sauce: Asian and Southern, sweet and vinegary. Once it’s cooked, set aside 2 1⁄2 cups sauce to serve with the pork, and use the rest to baste as it cooks.
Tempeh’s soy-nut quality and considerable chew are matched with a spice-spiked peanut sauce.Tempeh is a textured, high-protein soy product that originated in Indonesia; we love it, but substitute extra-firm tofu if you want subtler flavor and softer texture. Everything is cooked in one skillet using different techniques—stir-frying, steaming, and glazing—to bring out the best in each ingredient.
A flavored butter takes grilled corn into the stratosphere. Blistered jalapeño chiles mellow, tasting more fruity and “green” than fiery. You don’t need to slather on lots of butter—just a little, combined with honey and oil, is plenty to coat the corn and keep it moist.
The caper-dotted classic gets a beautiful, light update, fragrant with the perfume of Meyer lemons. If Meyer lemons are unavailable, put 3 tablespoons orange juice in a 1-cup glass measuring cup, and add enough lemon juice to reach 1⁄3 cup juice for the recipe.
Here’s one of our Test Kitchen discoveries: Reversing the usual roasting technique makes for a moister bird. This chicken starts at moderate heat and finishes at high heat, as opposed to the usual high-heat start and low-heat finish. Be sure to turn on your vent: The final blast may generate some smoke.
Retro comfort food—wonderful. Here, we break the processed cheese rule (we rarely use it) because it lends a creaminess to the sauce that we just otherwise couldn’t achieve. It’s a nostalgic flavor and texture throwback.
For this ultra-simple pizza, use the best fresh mozzarella and basil available. The thin, lightly crisp yet chewy crust is blistered and bubbly. Fresh mozzarella may exude water as it cooks, making for a soggy crust. To prevent that, pat the slices dry with paper towels before placing them on the pizza.
This dish is a Thai-restaurant standby, but worth making at home, especially if you can put your hands on some excellent shrimp. To avoid mushy noodles, undercook them a bit—they continue to absorb liquid from the sauce during the stir-fry action. Heat lovers will want to lace the bowl with bit of extra Sriracha.
The state dessert of Massachusetts isn’t a pie at all but is welcome anywhere that approves of vanilla pudding between cake layers, coated with chocolate glaze. Our version boozes up the chocolate glaze with a bit of Cointreau, though that can be omitted.
Diced white cheddar makes this comfort food seem more indulgent than it actually is—fewer than 300 calories per serving. Serve with a salad or mashed potatoes. To make fresh breadcrumbs, place torn bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until fine crumbs form.
Every cook needs a fish taco in her repertoire; it’s one of the world’s finest fast foods. We ditched the fried fish commonly used by those irresistible food trucks and loaded on onion relish to make up some crunch. Shrimp would be a good sub for fish.
About 30 minutes: You won’t make a healthier meal. Quinoa, avocado, beets, and citrus: This baby is packed with monounsaturated fat and fiber and is a good source of iron and calcium. When blood oranges and kumquats aren’t in season, substitute a combination of oranges, tangerines, and Meyer lemons.
A very fast riff on the classic, taking a few liberties. Several shortcuts—packaged lettuce greens, shredded carrots, and frozen corn—put this on the table in just 20 minutes.
A mock hollandaise sauce, made from mayonnaise and buttermilk, replaces the traditional clarified butter. Big chunks of sweet lump crabmeat drenched in creamy egg yolk are a welcome, fancier change from the traditional Canadian bacon. Serve with steamed asparagus.
Basic chicken salad is boosted with a hint of sweet onion, tarragon, and tangy Greek and lemon yogurt. Greens surround the chicken salad, giving it a delicate crunch and preventing the bread from getting soggy.
A lighter version of the soup served in Thai restaurants around the world. Light coconut milk smooths the edges of tart lime, salty fish sauce, and fiery chile paste.
An almost-homemade chicken noodle soup made faster with store-bought stock. The broth mixture is heated in the microwave to jump-start the cooking. Meanwhile, sauté the aromatic ingredients in your soup pot to get this dish under way.
Jewel-like brandy-soaked fruit in an enriched dough—this bread is a joyous celebration of the season. It’s also a mighty fine gift that’s a big step beyond fruitcake. You may need to order candied citron online, or omit it and add extra dried apricots and increase lemon rind to 1 tablespoon.
A fluffy, delightful hybrid—part classic spiced pumpkin pie, part creamy cheesecake. Wrap foil around the springform pan to make sure water doesn’t sneak in from the water bath.
Billowy meringue crowns a sunny citrus filling in a pie with about one-fourth the fat of classic versions. Vastly lighter but with that crucial balance of lime and sweetness. Best enjoyed the day it’s made.
This dish is rich with the umami notes of soy and mushroom and the fragrance of sesame. Fresh albacore (also called tombo) is firm, meaty, and lighter in color than other tuna species. Here, you virtually have a complete meal. But for a healthy starter, try steamed edamame in the shell, sprinkled with sea salt.
A big, flat classic. Toasty nuts and fudgy cake get topped with a thin, crackly glaze. It’s easy, and it’s been a reader favorite since it first appeared in the magazine in 2000.
A lime-and-cuke Oaxacan cooler, lovely with spicy food. The small amount of serrano provides a hint of heat. Use the rest of the pepper in your favorite salsa, or toss it into a lime-based salad dressing with cilantro.