Favorite Recipes for 2009


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Sometimes, you know the second you taste it. Or perhaps after your family or guests clamor for more, or your friend asks you to give it to her. Or perhaps you're the one asking for it, and tucking it into your file.

"This recipe is a keeper."

Everyone who cooks collects good recipes, to make again and again regularly, or to make again for special occasions.

We asked Food & Flavor contributors and friends to share their favorite recipes -- the really special ones -- that they discovered this year. And here's to another year of us sharing recipes back and forth with you food section readers.

Hanger Steak with Chimichurri

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I first tested this recipe, from Gerald Hirigoyen's new book, "Pinxtos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition," for work, for the Post-Gazette's Plush special section. The chimichurri was a revelation. I made this classic Argentinian condiment many more times over the summer and fall, spooning it heavily on various cuts of steak (especially sirloin) as well as on potatoes, bread, fish -- you name it. I bet it would be great on eggs . . .

While I continue to use this good recipe as my guide, I tend to freestyle it, especially when there are herbs and peppers in my garden (as there were into December). Usually I add both fresh and dried red pepper, having found a can of the Basque Piment d'Espelette. I almost always add extra herbs: Mint for sure, even rosemary and tarragon.

Gathering handfuls of various herbs from the backyard for this chunky herb "sauce" -- more like a chopped salad, really -- became a Sunday evening ritual that I'm going to sorely miss this winter.

-- Bob Batz Jr

For the Chimichurri Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes or minced jalapeno chile (optional)
  • 1 hanger steak or flank steak, about 3/4 pound
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

To make the sauce, in a small bowl, stir together the chives, shallot, parsley, oregano, sherry vinegar, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Set aside. (Chef Hirigoyen advises, "If you make the sauce ahead, hold out the vinegar until just before serving, so the herbs remain brightly colored.")

Season the steak generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle, cast-iron skillet, or saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil and warm it until it ripples. Add the steak and cook on the first side for about 1 minute, or until lightly browned. Using tongs, turn and cook on the second side for 1 minute more, or until lightly browned. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for about 3 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the steak registers 125 degrees (because of the thinness of the meat, you can also make a discreet cut with a small knife to check), or to desired doneness. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes.

To serve, slice the steak across the grain on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Arrange the strips on a warmed platter, and drizzle with the sauce.

Serves 4.

-- "Pinxtos: Small Plates in the Basque

Tradition" by Gerald Hirigoyen with Lisa Weiss (Ten Speed, 2009, $24.95)

CHICKEN MINESTRONE

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My husband and I have committed to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. During the summer months, this means harvesting from our own garden. Each weekend, I try a new soup, and this recipe has become one of our favorites. I change the ingredients as the garden changes, and sometimes make a vegetarian version. The soup makes a wonderful weekend dinner, with fresh bread and a salad of crisp garden greens -- and then continues to satisfy for lunch throughout the week.

-- Diane Juravich

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup small pasta
  • 1/2 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped green cabbage
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, stems removed, washed and drained
  • 8 basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent and has a little bit of color on it, about 15 minutes.

Add carrots, bell pepper, tomatoes and zucchini and cook about 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer, being careful not to brown garlic.

Add broth, chickpeas, chicken, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Add pasta, green beans and cabbage; bring the soup back to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until pasta is al dente. Stir in the spinach, basil and oregano. Remove soup from heat and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, topped with fresh parmesan cheese.

-- "Fresh Every Day" by Sara Foster (Clarkson Potter, 2005)

PEAR CUSTARD PIE

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Sometimes desperation leads you to the best recipes. A friend offered free pears from her backyard. I arrived, bucket and boxes in hand, and picked more than I knew what to do with. This recipe from the "Simply in Season" cookbook helped to solve that problem.

-- Rebecca Sodergen

  • 9-inch unbaked pastry shell (homemade or store-bought)
  • 4 to 5 cups pears, peeled and sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place pears in pastry shell.

In small bowl, beat together remaining ingredients with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Pour mixture over fruit. Bake in preheated oven at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until set, 30 minutes.

-- "Simply in Season" by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert (Herald, 2009)

Lentil Salad with Mint Marinade and Feta Cheese

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Wineries are a great source of recipes and this one came to me this summer from Blackstone Winery in what my husband refers to as "my tribal area," Monterey County, Calif. Both leeks and lentils are favorite ingredients but the idea of combining the two was new. It has become a household favorite. Serve it warm with toasted garlic bread and a bottle of chardonnay for a perfect light supper.

-- Elizabeth Downer

  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 6 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces feta in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 leeks, cut in thin slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 2 cups cooked green lentils

Combine nuts, mint, parsley, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons oil and feta in bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Saute carrots, leeks, 3 cloves garlic together in 1 tablespoon oil until tender.

Grind cumin and coriander and add to pan with ginger.

Saute 3 minutes, add lentils and cook until warm.

Whisk vinegar with remaining oil, add to lentils and stir in nuts/herbs/cheese mixture.

Serve warm or cold.

Serves 4.

-- Blackstone Winery

Mince and Tatties

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I first made this Scottish dish this spring seeking a meal my then two-toothed baby granddaughter could eat right along with us all. We -- and she -- still love it for its Worcestershire-tinged fumes and winter comfort. We often make it with lamb. But Fergus Henderson should describe it: "A dish discussed as much as cassoulet is in Castelnaudary [birthplace in southwest France of cassoulet]. Questions such as should you add peas or carrots can start a gastronomic row of great proportions. Sticking my neck out, I know Caledonia MacBrayne adds peas to its mince, but I don't, although I do like a spot of carrot in mine ... " This is his recipe.

-- Virginia Phillips

  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, cleaned, sliced lengthways in half, then thinly sliced across
  • 1 carrot, peeled, sliced lengthwise in half, then thinly sliced across
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tinned tomatoes
  • Handful of oatmeal
  • 1 shot glass of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 bottle red wine, my gesture to the old alliance
  • Chicken stock if needed
  • 1 dozen proper boiling potatoes (as in small red or Yukon gold)
  • Sea salt and black pepper

In large pan, sweat the onion, leek, carrot and garlic in the splash of olive oil, until softened. Add the mince [ground beef], giving it a healthy stir to break it up. Add the tinned tomatoes, crushed in your hand -- a subliminal gesture. Keep stirring and add the oatmeal, not so much that you end up with porridge. Stir, add the Worcestershire sauce and red wine, then stir again. Take a view on the liquid content; if it seems a wee bit dry, add some stock. You are looking for a loose lava consistency. Check for seasoning.

Now allow the mince to simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, if not 2 (if it is drying out, add more stock). Time allows the mince to become itself, as is the case for most of us.

While the mince cooks, peel the potatoes and simply boil them in salty water. After a long journey, there is no dish more welcoming. Also a dram doesn't go amiss.

-- "Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omniverous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook" by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly (Bloomsbury, 2007)

GREEN ONION PANCAKES

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When I cook Chinese, I almost always round out the meal with these scallion-studded flatbreads, which I first enjoyed while living in Hong Kong in the mid-1980s. They're nothing fancy -- little more than streetfood, actually -- but the taste is fabulous. Just ask the crowds who lined up for the samples my daughters and I handed out at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show in March.

-- Gretchen McKay

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus 3 tablespoons for frying
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion

In a medium bowl, combine flour and water. Stir well to mix and turn into a soft dough.

Lightly flour a work surface and your hands, and then scrape the dough out onto the work surface. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, turning and pressing to form it into a smooth, soft dough. Cover the dough with the bowl for a 5-minute rest.

Divide the dough into 3 portions with a butter knife or pastry scraper. Leaving the other 2 portions covered while you work, place one portion on the floured work surface, and roll into a big, round pancake, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter.

Use about 1 teaspoon of oil to lightly and evenly coat the surface of the pancake. Sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon of salt, and then scatter about 1/3 of the green onion over the pancake. Carefully roll pancake into a plump log and roll up into a fat spiral. Using your rolling pin, roll it gently into a 7-inch pancake. The green onion may tear the dough, but that's not a problem.

To cook, heat a heavy, medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add about 2 teaspoons of the oil and turn to coat the bottom of pan evenly. When a pinch of dough sizzles at once, place the pancake in the hot pan and cook until handsomely browned and fairly evenly cooked on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for about 1 minute, until nicely browned and bread is cooked through. Use the remaining dough to roll out, season, shape and cook 2 more pancakes, using additional oil as needed. Cut into wedges, and serve hot or warm with a soy-vinegar sauce for dipping.

Serves 4 to 6.

-- "Quick & Easy Chinese" by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle, $19.95)

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

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I found this gem on a Web site I frequent: 101Cookbooks.com -- a beautifully presented treasure trove of recipes featuring whole foods and no/less meat. I have been semi-vegetarian for five years, and I have witnessed among meat eaters a general dubiousness -- how in the world can something meat-free be tasty? To that, I respond with this pesto.

-- Allison Hong

  • 12 plump, chewy sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • A couple big pinches of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted

Pulse the tomatoes, garlic, pepper flakes, olive oil, thyme, and salt in a food processor until it comes together into a textured crumble. Add the walnuts, and pulse a few more times. Set aside.

If using with pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and cook the pasta per package instructions. Drain, but reserve about 1 cup of the hot pasta water. If not using pasta, heat one cup of salted water.

Combine 1/2 cup of the water in a large mixing bowl along with 2/3s of the sun-dried tomato pesto. Add more of the hot pasta water if needed to thin the pesto out -- it should make a nice chunky sauce. Taste and add more of the pesto to suit your personal preferences.

Serves 2 to 4.

-- 101Cookbooks.com

We have a lot more favorite recipes than we have space this week, so look for more in the next Food & Flavor section. Because of the holidays, that will be on Jan. 7.



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