Fig and almond tart

  (Myung J. Chun, Los Angeles Times)

This year the Food section published 380 recipes. How do we remember them all, much less decide on 10 best?

It's a perennial dilemma. Take Russ Parsons' spiny lobster story (Oct. 20). It offered three lobster recipes that each received an equal number of votes. The recipes were so consistently good that they canceled each other out, and no lobster crawled across the finish line. Is this fair?

Of course not. But we bit the bullet, took all considerations into account and decided on a list that reflects the cooking that most wowed us this year. As usual, it highlights the Southland's culinary diversity and our long love affair with fresh produce.

A number of recipes came very close, and we would have loved to include them all. Regina Schrambling's portabello-arugula sandwich, for example. Donna Deane's plum upside-down cake or her grapefruit curd tartlets. Sarah's Mallomars, concocted by one of our kitchen interns, Sarah Carter, were hugely popular. Russ Parsons' tart of garlicky greens and black olives or his honeydew ice with blackberries and white Port. Susan LaTempa's parsnip flan. Carolynn Carreno's duck ragu.

Then there were the chef recipes that bowled us over but didn't make it onto the list. Eric Klein's choucroute. Oven-braised short ribs from Villa Creek in Paso Robles. Bollito misto from the Mendocino Inn. From Govind Armstrong at Table 8, kurobuta pork chops with white bean puree, ham hock jus and salsa verde. Hazelnut brown butter cake from Lucques. Fudgy brownies from Recchiuti in San Francisco. Butternut shrimp bisque from Brigtsen's in New Orleans.

And, of course, anything with spiny lobster.

Spring vegetable ragout

Time: 40 minutes, plus shelling and hulling time

Servings: 8 to 10

Note: Regina Schrambling's spring entertaining menu included several outstanding side dishes to be served with lamb. This ragout is such a knockout, it's likely to upstage the entree. If the peas are not very young, blanch them.

Salt

2 bunches baby carrots, trimmed and halved

lengthwise if thick

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) butter

3 baby leeks or scallions, white part only, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 cups shelled, hulled fava beans (about 4 1/2 pounds

unshelled)

4 cups freshly shelled spring peas (about 2 pounds

unshelled)