Greatest Hits: 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
May: Steamed Pork Buns
These flavorful buns are a perfect combination of Asian-spiced meat and slightly sweet, chewy dough.
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.
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.
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.
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.
April: Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Shiitake Mushroom Sauce
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.
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.
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.
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.