Staff Favorites: The 106 Best Recipes of 2016
Butternut Squash Queso Fundido
Butternut squash adds distinct flavor (and color) to this satisfyingly cheesy dip. To make it vegetarian, sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock. If you prefer, you can roast a halved, seeded butternut squash at 350° for 45 minutes or until soft. Scoop 10 ounces of flesh, and use in place of the puree.
We were amazed at how delectably creamy the sweet potato becomes in the juicer, plus it's a bit higher in calories and loaded with potassium to balance and replenish your electrolytes after exercise.
Tangy Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Classic lemon squares can contain up to 36 grams of sugar per piece. By putting a tangy cheesecake spin on ours, we’ve cut the sugar down to only 6 grams per pop. Your sweet tooth will agree that these bars are good enough to enjoy year-round.
Kids will love swapping forks for skewers to build their own kebab bites. The sweet-savory glazed chicken is perfect served with basmati rice and crisp steamed veggies.
Skillet Chicken with Seared Avocados
The tiniest bit of sugar helps the avocado halves char in the pan, adding robust toasty flavor.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
We love the heat level in this slow cooker take on tikka masala to fend off winter chill. If the spice kick is too much for your family, you can cut the red pepper down by half without losing any of the dynamic flavor layers.
Apple-Sunchoke Salad With Smoked Trout and Cider Vinaigrette
Sunchokes, the knobby, thin-skinned tubers also misleadingly referred to as Jerusalem artichokes (they're not artichokes and have nothing to do with Jerusalem), offer beguilingly nutty, sweet flavor. North Carolina chef Scott Crawford (of Standard Foods in Raleigh, NC) makes these root veggies shine in this elegant salad featuring 2 apple varieties—one sweet and one tart—and salty smoked trout.
Fava Bean and Mushroom Crostini
Nutty fava beans get the spotlight here in this festive spring appetizer. Lemon and goat cheese balance the deep umami notes from the mushrooms.
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Brisket
Traditional Mexican barbacoa involves wrapping meat in banana or avocado leaves and slowly cooking it over hot coals, partially steaming the meat to tender perfection. This slow cooker version replicates the flavors and a bit of that traditional method: Chipotle chiles, ground cumin, and oregano offer bold, smoky flavor, and the beef brisket steams to tenderness as it cooks gently in the slow cooker. For tacos, serve the saucy barbacoa in tortillas with green and red onion, cilantro leaves, jalapeño slices, and fresh lime wedges. Or build yourself one awesome burrito bowl with those same components by putting them over brown rice or quinoa instead of in tortillas.
Salmon in Smoky Tomato Broth
This delicate broth is a grade-A example of how to build big flavor—fast. Keep this recipe on deck for last-minute company.
Dad's Grilled Leg of Lamb
Barton Seaver likes to serve this to his own family with turnips glazed with brown sugar, vinegar, and butter. Haricots verts also make a good companion. Look for a boneless, butterflied leg of lamb, preferably Colorado or Icelandic, and trim any excess fat.
Golden Chicken with Cilantro-Cashew Pesto and Coconut Rice
Tart lime and tangy yogurt provide a necessary fresh, bright kick to balance robust earthy notes from spices like curry.
Sweet and Sour Turkey Meatballs with Polenta
This Asian twist on an Italian-style favorite just plain works. The four sauce ingredients create an instant, incredibly balanced barbecue-type lacquer, full of vinegar and chile punch, caramel notes, and umami richness.
Tomatoes simmer with anchovies, olives, and capers for a tangy, rustic meal sure to please all tastebuds. Bucatini are long noodles with a hole through the center that captures some of the sauce. As a substitute, use thick spaghetti.
Roasted Tomato Mac and Cheese
The gorgeous tomatoes are the icing on top of this creamy, decadent mac and cheese. You’ll love the artichokes, too. Make this dish gluten-free by using the brown rice elbow pasta and brown rice flour options listed in the ingredients.
Asparagus and Peas with Warm Tarragon Vinaigrette
Fresh spring produce needs little embellishment, although a quick toss with bacon never hurts.
Pork and Chive Dumplings With Red Chile Oil
The pleating of these dumplings is a bit more advanced; if guests have trouble, they can make half-moons and skip the pleating. Make the chile oil up to 5 days ahead; store in the fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving.
Spinach, Herb, and Cheese Phyllo Rolls
This kind of dish is traditional street food in Greece. The key is to think of it like a sandwich, an Eastern Mediterranean sandwich: There is an ideal balance between the crust and the filling. Freeze leftover rolls up to 6 months. To reheat, cover loosely with foil and bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes.
Carrot Cake Gelly Shots
Dessert meets cocktail: Bourbon-y spiced carrot gelatin delivers familiar warming flavors, and creamy vermouth is absolutely the "frosting" on the cake.
Crunchy-Chewy Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies
This has been Pittman's go-to "house" cookie for years—when she tells the kids she's making cookies, it's these guys, made with no-frills, good ol' whole-wheat flour. The good news is that they work with other flours, too (like brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, white whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour). They're wonderfully crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle; that soft center comes from using all brown sugar (no granulated) and a drizzle of honey.
Whole-Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl
This is a Tex-Mex riff on the Korean rice dish bibimbap, in which various toppings are arranged over a bed of rice. Here, burrito bowl must-haves such as smoky black beans, fresh pico de gallo, and slaw top brown rice.
The Cheeseburger Salad
Classic burger elements become a fast, fun salad for the entire family—a deconstructed take on a diner favorite. Instead of four burger patties, we cook just two, then chop and sprinkle them over the top. A handful of crushed potato chips adds crunch. Kick up the dressing with a pinch of ground red pepper.
Waffle Iron Turkey Melt Panini
This playful turkey melt's abundant crisp crevices and gooey interior will have the whole family wondering, "What can we waffle next?"
Charred Eggplant with Chermoula
While not Israeli in origin (chermoula is actually a Moroccan condiment), this dish speaks to the many culinary influences of Israel's North African and Middle Eastern neighbors. The sauce is wonderfully complex—bright, herbaceous, and spicy. Israel has a vegetable-centric cuisine (they are eaten at every meal); cooking vegetables over an open flame until deeply charred is a favorite cooking method.
Matzo Ball Soup
This staple Passover food can be enjoyed whether you're celebrating a Jewish holiday or not. Featuring soft, dumpling-like matzo balls made from matzo meal and eggs, this soup is the ultimate comfort food. While requiring a bit more effort than a jarred version, this homemade alternative is easy and definitely worth the results. Enjoy it as is, or garnish with parsley leaves. If you're making this for a crowd, make sure to start the day before so that it's served fresh and hot, and double the recipe to make sure everyone gets seconds.
Cantaloupe Margarita with Hint of Mint
Want to make a bigger batch? Doubling the melon should yield enough juice to make 6 drinks. Process and strain in 2 batches, and then mix up 3 times the rest of the ingredients in a pitcher.
Fresh Blackberry Granita with Lemon Syrup
Make the lemon syrup while the granita freezes, and refrigerate; strain before serving. Top with extra berries, if desired.
Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Red Onion
The pork gets a big flavor boost from achiote paste, a mix of ground annatto seeds, vinegar, salt, and spices. Find it at Latin markets.
Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
"When I cook at home, I use fish sauce in a lot of Italian food," says Quealy Watson of Hot Joy. "I took Latin for four years and read most of Apicius [a collection of ancient Roman recipes]. After seeing the prevalence of garum, a fermented fish sauce, in ancient Roman cooking, using fish sauce in Italian food just made sense. It's essentially anchovy juice." Look for crispy fried garlic at your local Asian market.
Cranberry-Almond Broccoli Salad
Broccoli salad is usually drowning in a creamy, often very sweet, dressing and studded with 1/2 pound crumbled bacon, making it more about the creamy dressing and bacon than about the actual broccoli. Ours uses a combination of canola mayonnaise and Greek yogurt to keep the calories in check. We opt for center-cut bacon (a bit less of it) and swap the usual raisins for lower-sugar dried cranberries to pack a subtle punch of tart. The best part of this salad? The longer it sits, the better it gets.
This creamy-crisp salad saves over 269 calories, 5g sat fat, and 121mg sodium over traditional broccoli salad.
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches With Coleslaw
Our quick homemade BBQ sauce is lower in sodium than bottled versions, and you can put this meal on the table in less than 30 minutes.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Green Onions and Cilantro
"Brussels sprouts are best when caramelized," says Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable. "Tossing the roasted vegetables with rich, salty fish sauce enhances the sweet notes created by the cooking process.
It’s hard to believe there’s anything you can do to make a creamy French cheese any better than it already is, but we found a new way to take it to a new level. As the summer beats on, you can still keep this party starter on the roster—just exchange the cherries for the most seasonal fruit: nectarines, plums, peaches, and blueberries all make a delicious pairings.
Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs
Dress this staff favorite with cold-smoked salmon atop a creamy filling seasoned with fresh dill. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd.
In Bordeaux, where châteaus and vineyards abound, a typical dessert is fresh strawberries sliced into a red wine glass and then topped with a great Bordeaux. Here, that regional tradition is adapted to make it more dessert-like. If you're pressed for time, do as the Bordelais do—quick and easy.
Slow Cooker Beef Lettuce Wraps with Quick Pickles
The low, even heat of the slow cooker helps flavor powerhouses like miso, sesame oil, and soy sauce to impart tenderizing moisture, umami depth, and savory personality to common pot roast.
Spicy Thai Red Curry Beef
This single-skillet supper is a quick ticket to rich, exotic flavor. Don't shake the coconut milk before opening; you want to keep the thick cream layer separated.
Ribbons of zucchini and bright cherries bursting with flavors are the perfect pair for this creamy ricotta base.
Vietnamese Pork Salad
Think of this impressive salad as a deconstructed version of a spring roll. Rice noodles cook in just 2 minutes; be sure to drain and rinse promptly with cold water so they don't overcook.
Why we love tempeh: It makes a delicious plant-based riff on a Reuben and packs 9g fiber (a third of your daily needs) into just 3 ounces.
Quick Summer Squash and Bell Pepper Gratin
You could also layer sliced tomatoes in between the onion mixture and the squash and bake a few minutes longer. We like the look of a baking dish, but you could use an ovenproof or cast-iron skillet: Sauté the peppers and build the gratin in the pan, and transfer to the oven.
Summer Squash and Chicken Chowder
This silky, veggie-forward soup is a fantastic way to use up a load of fresh summer squash. This would also work well with zucchini.
Steven Brown's Beet-Cured Salmon
Steven Brown (chef and owner of Tilia) uses beets to bring earthy flavor and bright, bold color to cured salmon, which he serves on sourdough toasts with fromage blanc, hard-cooked egg, radish slices, and a few drops of tangerine-infused oil. Feel free to sub store-bought smoked salmon that's thinly sliced. You can also go low-carb and serve the salmon on long cucumber slices.
Lighter "Fried" Green Tomatoes
Fried green tomatoes are a classic Southern summer treat often cooked in bacon grease and dunked in a mayo-based sauce. They are wonderfully delicious, with their combination of tart, juicy tomato slices and crisp, seasoned breading. This is a dish that absolutely needs to break away from its regional roots.
Seared Tofu with Sweet Chili Sauce and Broccoli
Halve the tofu lengthwise for more surface area so the water can drain out quickly; then pat dry so it won't spatter in the pan. Sweet chili sauce has less heat than Sriracha. A bit of sugar balances its vinegar punch. Find it in the international aisle.
Heirloom Tomatoes with Charred Okra, Vidalias, and Malt Mayo
"Okra doesn't have to be fried. Charring the pods is really fun—it shuts down the sliminess and gets beautifully crisp. Tomatoes just need a little salt, pure and simple," Christensen says.
Tracy Singleton's Sprouted Quinoa with Marinated Veggies
Sprout a grain like quinoa (it takes time but almost no attention) for a pleasing bite and a nutrient boost. Add veggies and nasturtiums and marigolds (flowers optional) for a peppery kick.
This raw-food dish needs planning and patience, but the payoff is a salad that pops with each crunchy bite. Tracy Singleton (owner of Birchwood Cafe) says using cooked and cooled quinoa instead of sprouted quinoa is a fine shortcut, but the salad won't be 100% raw.
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
The Perfect Lobster Roll
Neptune Oyster in Boston and Red's Eats in Maine, on which this recipe is based, both give the option of butter or mayo. Offering that choice means they can't hide anything about the quality of their lobster.
A taco is only as good as the quality of its simple components, especially the salsa. Good salsa is about balance: not too spicy, too tart, or too watery. Charred tomato and serrano bring bold flavor to this versatile salsa.
Coconut-Lemongrass Chicken Bowls
Marinated chicken simmered in an aromatic coconut broth = flavor building at its finest. This Southeast Asian-inspire bowl is all about big flavor with minimal effort. When working with lemongrass, give the stalk a couple of whacks with the back of a knife before chopping to release its flavorful oils.
Charred Shishito Peppers
Charring refers to singeing and blistering the outermost layer of a food over extremely hot heat. This makes for a bolder flavor and adds a smoky nuance. Be aware: This type of high-heat cooking creates a lot of smoke, so be sure to ventilate the kitchen, or cook (in the pan) over an outdoor grill. Shishito peppers are tender, usually mild, and enjoyed whole. Serve with our spicy sauce or squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
This grown-up float gets classy with sweet wine and a hit of fresh basil (you can substitute sparkling grape juice or cider). Blending the frozen cantaloupe makes the drink wonderfully frothy and refreshing. Freeze the fruit ahead; then blend and assemble just before serving. This staff favorite can't be beat when you want a seasonal summer drink to serve at a backyard barbecue, al fresco dinner party, or as a quick weeknight pick-me-up. One batch serves six, so double or triple for a group as needed. Garnish with basil springs and cubed cantaloupe to add to the summertime appeal.
Nori (dried seaweed) adds a layer of toasty umami and this flavor bomb ingredient works magic on more than just fish. Keep the steak juicy and tender by letting it rest for several minutes after cooking, then slicing thinly against the grain.
Sticky Asian Chicken Wings
Because the wings get a good bit of char, the type of honey you use isn't as important here (it'll lose its subtler nuances). Though we remove the skin from the wings, you'd never know it—they pick up an irresistible crispy crunch as the glaze cooks under the broiler. Give yourself a better grip when skinning each wing by holding it with a paper towel in one hand and pulling the skin with another paper towel in the other hand.
Fresh Corn Cakes with Summer Salsa
This speedy vegetarian entrée is absolutely bursting with peak-season produce. Side suggestion: an herby white bean and arugula salad.
Golden Beet Nachos
With their awesome crunch and yellow color, thinly sliced golden beets make a great stand-in for tortilla chips. A mandoline works beautifully for slicing; try to cut the beets between 1/8- and 1/16-inch thick. If you use a knife instead, aim to get the thinnest slices possible.
Cashew Cream Pad Thai
Thanks to the nifty spiralizer, raw vegetable "oodles" can be cranked out in a jiff. Packed with plant-based ribbons, whole grains, cabbage, peas, nuts, and herbs, this version of Pad Thai is satisfying and refreshingly raw, saving 400 calories over the classic.
California Steak Salad
This salad is ideal for cold grilled steak, as reheating may overcook the meat or cause the basil and arugula to wilt. Grilling the red onion adds another layer of char and a bit of sweetness to counter the tartness of the vinaigrette.
Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crab
Minneapolis Chefs Jamie Malone and Erik Anderson lay Asian flavors on this stone-cold stunner. "Varying texture keeps things interesting," Chef Malone says. "Don't overcook your noodles," Chef Anderson says. "You don't want them to be too soft or mushy. You want a pleasant, chewy texture. It's all part of the fun of eating noodles."