What a delightful year we’ve had in the kitchen.
We’ve baked biscuits, banana bread and lemon bars with readers and found shortcuts for getting dinner on the table on a busy school night. We found the best sugar cookie recipe this side of the Mississippi, not to mention a playful decorating technique that makes them easy to adapt for any holiday.
This was the year I finally figured out how to make focaccia that doubles as sandwich bread and even a thick-crusted pizza, and I had way too much fun making hot sauce-flavored salts to give away to friends and neighbors and putting a Tex-Mex spin on a hummus-like sauce with a cult-like following.
Looking back on the year, I collected our 13 favorite recipes from 2013. What favorites did we miss? What do you want to see us explore in 2014? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sweet Potato, Thyme & Apple Hash with Egg Baskets
Apples aren’t just for pies, you know. We featured this dish from Amy Pennington’s “Apples: From Harvest to Table” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $21.99) in our Recipe of the Week column on Sundays, which made its debut this year. Sweet potatoes are fried up into crispy cubes and paired with thyme-scented apples, and just before the hash is done, little “baskets” are made in the pan, and eggs are dropped in to cook alongside the vegetables.
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 medium sweet potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into medium dice
1 large apple, cored and cut into medium dice
4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (from about 10 sprigs)
4 large eggs
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and beginning to fizz, add the onion, salt and pepper and cook until it’s just beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the diced sweet potato to the pan. Without stirring, cook the sweet potato until the first side is just browned, about 4 minutes. Toss and stir well, redistributing, and cook for another 2 minutes without stirring. Add the apple to the pan and cook, stirring often, until it’s just softening and is warmed through. By adding ingredients to the pan slowly, you’ll get sweet and nicely caramelized onion, crispy sweet potato, and just-cooked apple that will maintain its shape and texture.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and make four 2-inch-wide wells in the sauté pan. To do this, push the vegetables aside with a spoon. Make sure the pan still has a bit of grease (add some butter to each well, if needed), crack 1 egg into each well, and cover the sauté pan. After 2 minutes, remove the lid and stir the sweet potato and apple without disturbing the eggs. Replace the lid and cook until the eggs are done to your liking: another 2 minutes (for an “easy” yolk), or up to 6 minutes (for a “hard” yolk). Serve immediately alongside toast. Serves 4.
— From “Apples: From Harvest to Table” by Amy Pennington (St. Martin’s Griffin, $21.99)
Three-Cheese Stuffed Shells with Spinach and Turkey Tomato Sauce
If your family tires of macaroni and cheese or is looking for a cheesy pasta dish with a little more nutritional oomph, try these stuffed shells with spinach and turkey. This recipe makes two 9-inch-by-13-inch casseroles, which means you can eat one for dinner and freeze the other for later. Or invite the softball team over after practice tonight and serve everybody.
1 (12 oz.) box jumbo pasta shells
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (you can use pork sausage instead of turkey, if preferred)
1 small onion, finely chopped kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-oz.) can tomato puree
3/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 (15-oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 (10-oz.) package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the shells for 1 minute less than it says on the box. Drain and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray.
Heat a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and, once it’s hot, add the sausage and cook until browned, stirring and breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes more. Season the mixture with a big pinch of salt and pepper, then stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, Italian seasoning, and 1/2 cup water, and simmer it all on medium low, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Give it a taste for seasoning and add a big pinch of salt if needed.
Meanwhile, add the ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, eggs, and 1 cup mozzarella to a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and give it a stir until well combined.
Spread 3 ladlefuls of sauce on the bottom of each prepared baking dish. Stuff each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture. Place twenty stuffed shells in each dish, then cover with even more sauce. Sprinkle each with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, removing the foil during the last 5 minutes of baking.
If you want to freeze the second dish, make sure it has cooled completely; cover with plastic wrap, then a layer of foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Remove the baking dish from the freezer and thaw completely in the refrigerator; bake as directed above. Each casserole serves 5 to 6 people.
— From “Jamie Deen’s Good Food: Cooking Up a Storm with Delicious, Family-Friendly Recipes” by Jamie Deen (Kyle Books, $29.95)
Hannah Banana Bread
Hannah Casparian is the charming dietitian and corporate chef whom we profiled in March. Her enthusiasm for baking, not to mention this Hannah Banana Bread, has stuck with me ever since.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 very ripe bananas
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using a stand-up mixer with a paddle attachment or a wooden spoon, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and bananas. In another bowl, mix together the flours, salt and baking soda. Slowly combine the wet ingredients with the dry, but do not overmix.
Spoon into small loaf pans coated with butter or cooking spray and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your pan(s). (The smaller the pan, the less time in the oven.)
— Hannah Casparian
Shrimp with Green Curry
It’s amazing what a few tablespoons of jarred or canned curry paste and a can of coconut milk can do for a very simple preparation of vegetables and shrimp. You can substitute carrots, sugar snaps or peas in place of the green beans, and tofu, chicken or beef for the shrimp. You also can use a splash of fish sauce instead of anchovy paste, or omit both altogether if you’re avoiding animal products or don’t like their flavor.
1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. jarred Thai green curry paste
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 (13.5-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb. green beans, cut on the diagonal into bite-size pieces
2 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
Fresh lime juice
Sriracha or hot sauce (optional)
Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the curry paste and anchovy paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk and brown sugar and stir to combine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
Add the shrimp and green beans and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are almost cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. (Shrimp get rubbery when overcooked, so it’s better to remove them from the heat a little early and let the residual heat finish cooking them. You can always return them to the heat for another minute or two if you find them too rare.)
Stir in the scallions and a generous squeeze of lime juice, then check the seasonings. (If the curry and anchovy pastes didn’t provide enough salt, add some.) Serve the curry with steamed rice, sriracha and/or cilantro, if you like. Serves 4.
— From “Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen” by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion (Rodale Books, $26.99)
Mom’s Midweek Honey and Lemon Chicken
Serve this weeknight staple with rice, green beans and a little of the sauce that cooks in the bottom of the baking dish.
2 Tbsp. honey
3 garlic cloves, grated
Juice of 2 lemons
1 heaping tsp. whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the chicken, and mix well. Coat the chicken in the mixture and then transfer the chicken to a baking dish, reserving the remaining sauce. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, pour over the rest of the sauce. The chicken should be cooked through and the skin will be nice and crispy and golden brown. Serves 4.
— From “Cook on a Shoestring: Easy, Inspiring Recipes on a Budget” by Sophie Wright (Kyle Books, $19.95)
Redfish with Smoked Creamed Corn and Heirloom Tomato Salad
Before leaving the Four Seasons in Austin for one in Santa Barbara, former Trio chef Grant Macdonald gave us this recipe for a seared redfish with two side dishes best enjoyed when their primary ingredients (corn and heirloom tomatoes) are at their seasonal peak.
For the Smoked Creamed Corn:
3 ears corn
1/2 cup cream
Sea salt, to taste
For the Heirloom Tomato Salad:
3-4 heirloom tomatoes, cut into a mixture of slices and bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 sprig Mexican mint marigold leaves, picked
Juice of one lime
Sea salt, to taste
For the fish:
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 pieces (7 oz.-filets) redfish
To make the creamed corn, boil or steam the ears of corn for two minutes. If you have a smoker, either stovetop or standalone, smoke the ears of corn over wood fire for 10-15 minutes at 250 degrees. (You can skip the smoking step or add a dash of liquid smoke if you don’t have a smoker.) Cut the kernels from the cob and scrape the cobs with a butter knife to extract all of the juice. Add to a blender with the cream and pulse until mostly smooth. Season with salt to taste. Reserve.
In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes in the olive oil, Mexican mint marigold leaves, lime and sea salt until tomatoes are evenly coated. Set aside.
Heat a pan over medium heat, then add the vegetable oil. Allow to heat a few more seconds, then add the fish in a single layer. Raise the heat to high and cook on one side until almost done. Strain the oil with a spatula or paper towel, then flip the redfish over to cook for a few more seconds on the other side.
To assemble: Place a large spoonful of the creamed corn on each plate and smooth into a flat circle. On top, place one piece of redfish and garnish with the heirloom tomato salad. Serves 4.
— Recipe by Grant Macdonald, former chef de cuisine at Trio in the Four Seasons
Brown Rice and White Beans with Shiitakes and Spinach
This homey pilaf from our story on one-pot dishes is infinitely versatile, not to mention free of gluten and soy. Instead of rice, you can make it with quinoa, wheat berries or bulgur, and you can also swap out the white beans for cooked lentils, black-eyed peas or chopped seitan.
1 Tbsp. olive oil or 1/4 cup water
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. (about 2 cups) shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 1/4 cups uncooked brown rice
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, chopped
8 oz. (about 8 cups) fresh baby spinach, stems removed
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 1 (15.5-oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. minced fresh dill or basil
Heat the oil or water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Uncover, and add the scallions and spinach, stirring until the spinach wilts. Stir in the beans and dill. Cook for 5 minutes longer, or until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve hot. Serves 4.
— From “One-Dish Vegan: More than 150 Soul-Satisfying Recipes for Easy and Delicious One-Bowl and One-Plate Dinners” by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press, $16.95)
Hot Sauce Salt
Inspired by a recipe for sriracha salt that is plastered all over the Internet, I made this flavored salt using one of my favorite Austin hot sauces, Yellowbird, a bright orange condiment that gets its color and flavor from habaneros and carrots. Feel free to use whatever hot sauce you like.
1/2 cup kosher salt
5 tsp. Yellowbird, Sriracha or other hot sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together salt and hot sauce. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the salt/hot sauce mixture in a thin layer.
Turn off the heat and place the baking sheet in the oven. Every so often, stir the salt to help break up the clumps. (I found that rolling a chopstick over the salt was the easiest method to do this.) After two or three hours or up to overnight (or once the salt has dried), store in an airtight container, such as a small glass jar.
— Addie Broyles
Tex-Mex Yum Sauce
While making knock-off versions of Oregon’s popular Yumm Sauces for a story last spring, I decided to make a Tex-Mex version, using chili powder instead of curry powder, and adding fresh cilantro, lime juice and jalapeños. The garbanzo beans, nuts and nutritional yeast are the three key pieces to the Yumm puzzle, but feel free to experiment with all the other ingredients to make a flavor-packed sauce that tastes good on everything from sandwiches to stir-frys.
1/4 cup garbanzo beans
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/8 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. lime juice or apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. diced jalapeño
Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
— Addie Broyles
I adapted a recipe from baker extraordinaire Peter Reinhart that originally appeared in Fine Cooking way back in 2004 for this No-Knead Focaccia recipe. In the months since we originally published it, I’ve made the focaccia in far less time than called for in the recipe. The bread wasn’t as flavorful or airy, but it was still a great all-purpose dough that I turned into pizzas for the kids and blue cheese caramelized onion focaccia for the adults.
5 1/2 cups (1 lb. 9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. table salt (or 3 1/2 tsp. kosher salt)
1 packet (about 2 1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
About 8 to 10 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling
One or two days before you plan to bake the bread, slowly mix the flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. (You can combine these ingredients with a wooden spoon, but, if you have one, a stand mixer is preferred over mixing by hand, which is less consistent and requires far more arm power.)
The ingredients will start to form a ball around the paddle after about 30 seconds on low. Scrape the dough off the paddle and replace it with the dough hook. Mix on medium low speed for about three minutes, scraping the dough hook and sides of the bowl if needed. Let the dough rest for five minutes, and then mix on low for another two or three minutes. The dough will be relatively smooth and very sticky at this point.
Use 1 Tbsp. olive oil to coat a bowl that is large enough to hold the dough as it doubles in size. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn it to coat in oil.
Hold the bowl steady with one hand, and wet the other hand in water. Grasp the dough and stretch it to nearly twice its size, and lay the stretched section back over the dough. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat this stretch-and-fold technique. Do this two more times so that you have rotated the bowl a full 360 degrees and stretched and folded the dough four times. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough, flip it over, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least eight hours, or up to two days. Alternatively, you can leave the dough at room temperature for three to four hours, but it won’t have the flavor or texture of the slow-fermented dough.
Two to three hours before you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator. This is a large batch of dough, so you can either use one 13-inch-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet or two smaller baking dishes. (Another option is to divide the dough into four or more parts and make smaller free-form loaves.) Spread a generous amount of olive oil (about 2 Tbsp. for the 13-inch-by-18-inch baking sheet) on the bottom of the baking dish.
Use a rubber spatula to help slide the dough from the bowl to the center of the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil on top of the dough and, using your fingers, dimple the entire surface of the dough and gently push the dough to the corners of the pan. If the dough starts to resist moving toward the edges, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes before trying again.
The more even the thickness (between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch is ideal), the more evenly the bread will bake, but if the dough doesn’t reach all the edges of the pan, don’t worry because it will continue to spread as it rises. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for at least an hour but up to three, until the dough has risen and filled out the pan.
Thirty minutes before baking, heat oven to 475 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and place toppings, including a generous sprinkling of sea or kosher salt and maybe even another drizzle of olive oil, on the dough.
Lower oven temperature to 450 and place the focaccia on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and then continue baking another five to 10 minutes, until the top of the bread is a golden brown and toppings have started to lightly brown.
Let the focaccia cool for at least 20 minutes in the pan or on a cooling rack. Slice into pieces to serve alongside a meal, or cut into squares (and then cut in half to make slices that resemble sandwich bread) to use for sandwiches.
— Adapted by Addie Broyles from a recipe by Peter Reinhart that originally appeared in Fine Cooking (March 2004)
Nell’s Lemon Bars
For our In The Kitchen series, we often cook with readers in their own homes or share their beloved recipes. This recipe from Austinite Nell Rice González originally came from a community cookbook from St. John’s Lutheran in West Bend, Wis. González will sometimes make this recipe using limes, or as she discovered in a pinch while living in Brazil, passion fruit.
To make the crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
For the lemon filling:
6 whole eggs
3 cups white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (do not use concentrate or bottled lemon juice)
Zest from 2 or 3 lemons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour and powdered sugar together, then pour the butter over the dry ingredients and gently combine until just crumbly. (I use my Kitchen Aid on the lowest setting with the paddle attachment.)
Line a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with parchment and press the crumbs firmly into the pan in an even-ish layer. If you prefer (or you’re out of parchment), you can grease the pan with butter or cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes at 350, but keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
While the crust is baking, whip the eggs until they are uniform and light in color. (To avoid beating a lot of air into the eggs, I use my stand mixer on the lowest setting with the whisk attachment.) Add sugar, baking powder and flour, and stir to combine well. Add the zest and lemon juice.
Pull the crust from the oven, and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Pour the curd mixture over the hot crust, scraping the bowl to get all the lemony goodness, and pop the pan back in the over for 20 to 40 minutes. Watch them closely; they’re ready to be pulled when they don’t jiggle in the middle. (I find this takes about 25-30 minutes in my current oven; it may take more or less time in yours.)
Once out of the oven, let them cool completely (this means until the bottom of the pan is cool) before slicing into squares. Dust the top with powdered sugar.
Kneel and pray before the lemony goodness.
— Nell Rice González
Colored Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Melissa Martinez and I fell in love with this sugar cookie recipe back in February, when we made them for Valentine’s Day. She made them again a few weeks ago, but instead of using pink and purple dough, she made red and green dough to make the holiday cookies on the front of this section. Not only do the cookies look great, they aren’t too sweet and bake beautifully.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium high until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture, beating until combined.
Divide dough and use your hands to knead the various colors of food coloring into the cookie dough. Flatten dough into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour, or up to three days.
When you’re ready to make the cookies, lightly flour both sides of the disk on a large sheet of parchment paper, cover with more parchment and roll out to 1/8-inch thick.
Remove top sheet of parchment. Working on a lightly floured surface with dough of a different color, roll pieces into small balls, thin snakes, or other desired shapes. Arrange in desired pattern on top of the disc of dough you already rolled out.
Top decorated dough with more parchment paper and gently roll over until decorative pieces are flush with the base dough.
Carefully remove the top sheet of parchment. Use a cookie cutter in your desired shape to cut dough. Do not remove cutouts from the dough yet; transfer the dough as is to a baking sheet and into your freezer until firm, about 15 minutes. While they freeze, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line another cookie sheet with parchment paper.
After 15 minutes, remove dough from freezer. Remove the cutouts from the excess dough and transfer to the newly lined baking sheet. Bake until set, 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Makes 2 dozen cookies.
— Adapted by Melissa Martinez from “Everyday Food,” Issue 98, December 2012
I got a hands-on lesson in biscuit-making from Austin author Martha Hopkins this fall. These biscuits, which were originally published as scones in her bestselling book, “InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook,” freeze nicely, and you can use just about any combination of herbs and cheese you’d like in place of the rosemary and Manchego.
3 cups self-rising flour, preferably Martha White or White Lily
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp. finely chopped rosemary, or less if desired
1 Tbsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. (1/2 cup) high-quality lard, chilled
1/2 to 1 cup grated Manchego cheese
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the flour, salt, pepper, rosemary and sugar in a food processor and pulse just to combine. Add the lard and pulse just until the mixture becomes the texture of coarse meal, but with some large pieces of lard still remaining. (Alternatively, just use your hands and work the the lard into butter-bean-sized pieces.)
Place the mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the cheese, tossing to combine. Add the buttermilk, and stir until just combined. Remove the mixture to a floured surface.
Using your hands, quickly pat the dough until it is about an inch thick. Cut the biscuits out of the dough and place on the baking sheet and brush with melted butter or cream. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
The biscuits are best eaten immediately, split open with a thick smear of softened butter or as a mini-sandwich of Serrano ham, sliced Manchego and a touch of mayonnaise to bind it all together.
— Adapted from “InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook” (Terrace Publishing, $29.95) by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge