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OUR FAVORITE RECIPES OF 1999

The Food Section publishes hundreds of recipes every year. At the end, we look back in hunger and vote on the dishes we’d most like to taste again. From tortilla soup and date squares to kimchi and ukoy, journey back with us to the tastiest moments of the year.

No.1

Staff writer Barbara Hansen visited a cooking class given by Jet Tila last March, and are we glad she did. Tila--short for Tilakamonkul--owns Bangkok Market in Los Angeles and is quite a whiz with food. (He’s now an intern in the Times Test Kitchen, creating more recipes to run in our pages.) As Hansen wrote, he’s good at demystifying Thai and other Asian ingredients, from kaffir (Thai) lime leaves to galangal, and makes them dance in a variety of dishes.

This soup, based on seasoned Thai-style chicken stock, is fairly simple. It has a slightly oily, reddened look, Hansen wrote, from chile paste with soybean oil. The paste has sugar, tamarind, garlic, shallots and dried shrimp. Tila suggests varying the soup by adding other seafood or vegetables such as bamboo shoots and baby corn. Add ramen or other noodles to make it a main dish.

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Tom Yum Soup

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes * Low-Fat

Look for straw mushrooms, Thai chiles and Kaffir leaves at Asian markets.

4 cups Thai Chicken Broth

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1/2 cup peeled shrimp

1 (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed

6 to 8 roasted dried Thai chiles

3 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons chile paste in soybean oil

2 to 4 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves

Cilantro sprigs

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* Bring Thai Chicken Broth to simmer over medium-high heat in large pot. Add shrimp, mushrooms and chiles and cook until shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and chile paste. Garnish with lime leaves and cilantro.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 76 calories; 1,089 mg sodium; 22 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 0.59 gram fiber.

Thai Chicken Broth

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

Look for galangal and Kaffir leaves at Asian markets.

1 chicken carcass

8 to 10 cups water

3/4 to 1 cup thinly sliced galangal

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6 stalks lemon grass, lower thick portion only, pounded

10 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves

* Place chicken carcass in Dutch oven. Add water, galangal and lemon grass. Roll lime leaves and crush lightly by hand, then add to pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes. Strain.

6 cups. Each cup: 20 calories; 580 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0 fiber.

No. 2

Times Test Kitchen Cook Mayi Brady regularly creates recipes for our Quick Fix and Second Helpings columns. When that far-away look in her eye turns to a glimmer, you know she has something good in mind. This spicy, filling soup by Brady was published as a Quick Fix in late July--prime swimsuit season, she noted--when you don’t want to eat a lot but do want something satisfying. The way we put it away, bathing suit profiles didn’t seem to matter.

Tortilla Soup

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes * Vegetarian

1 tablespoon oil

2 onions, sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 ear corn, husk and silk removed

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce, or more to taste

4 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth

1 avocado

1/4 pound Jack cheese, grated

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup tortilla strips

* Heat oil over medium-high heat, add onions and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add garlic, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, covered, 10 minutes.

* While onions and garlic cook, roast corn in dry skillet over high heat until slightly charred, turning so it does not burn, about 5 minutes. Cut kernels from cob and set aside.

* Add tomato paste and chipotle to onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes.

* While soup simmers, chop avocado.

* Puree soup in blender. Divide cheese, avocado, cilantro, corn and tortilla strips among four bowls and ladle soup over top.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 300 calories; 1,713 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 29 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 2.36 grams fiber.

No. 3

Talk about a simple recipe. Talk about fabulous taste. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons wrote in June about the easy trick of steaming salmon in the oven, a technique he learned years ago from Paula Wolfert. Spring’s wild salmon, which has a “rambunctious” taste, Parsons wrote, is ideal for this recipe. Yet any salmon filet will do; served with the cucumber salad, this dish is a natural for stress-free entertaining.

Oven-Steamed Salmon

Active Work Time: 5 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes * Easy

Parsons likes to serve the salmon whole; there’s something about spooning it off the platter that emphasizes just how moist and rich it is. Feel free to experiment with accompaniments, he says. He likes the cucumber salad because of the way its cool green color and crisp texture complement the salmon.

1 (3-pound) salmon filet

Salt, pepper

* Remove skin and pin bones from salmon filet. Trim sides to form roughly rectangular shape that is fairly consistent in thickness. Place salmon on baking sheet and salt and pepper liberally.

* Place roasting pan in bottom of 300-degree oven and fill with boiling water. Place baking sheet with salmon on middle rack of oven and cook until salmon flakes, about 20 minutes. Carefully slide onto serving platter, surround with Cucumber Salad and serve immediately. 6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings, salmon only: 193 calories; 97 mg sodium; 75 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 0 fiber.

Cucumber Salad

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation time: 35 minutes

5 cucumbers

Salt

2 tablespoons snipped chives

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

* Peel cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seedy center with spoon. Cut each half in three lengthwise strips, then in 2-inch sections. Salt, and place in colander to drain 20 minutes.

* When cucumbers have drained, rinse under cold running water and drain again. Transfer to work bowl, add chives, sesame seeds, rice vinegar and sesame oil and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning--sesame oil should be almost undetectable, cucumbers should be slightly tart from vinegar, and herbs should be in balance. Just before serving, add cilantro and mix well.

6 servings. Each serving: 39 calories; 54 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.58 grams fiber.

No. 4

Madeleines are such dainty little cookies, but when they’re done right, they pack one delicious buttery wallop. And these are done very right, indeed. This recipe was published in Culinary SOS in October after reader Rebecka Dickson of Calabasas asked columnist Rose Dosti for the recipe. It comes from Keswsick Hall at Monticello in Keswick, Va.

Keswick Hall Pistachio Madeleines

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 2 hours chilling

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, plus more for greasing

1 1/3 cups sugar

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dash salt

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

2 cups flour

* Heat 1 1/2 cups butter in small saucepan over low heat until it melts and separates. Spoon off any foam on top. Spoon off clear clarified butter and reserve (you’ll need 1 1/4 cups), leaving milky residue in pan. Discard residue. Cool clarified butter and refrigerate 2 hours until firm but not hard.

* Mix clarified butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time. Add vanilla and salt. Fold in pistachios and flour.

* Pipe or spoon batter into greased madeleine molds. Bake at 350 degrees until light brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from molds.

3 1/2 dozen madeleines. Each madeleine: 118 calories; 79 mg sodium; 38 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.04 gram fiber.

No. 5

There may be those who don’t understand the wonders of dates, how sweet and buttery they can be, how richly satisfying and oh-so-decadent. But freelance writer Marcy Goldman, whose bar cookie recipes were published in September, knocked our socks off with these dense, chewy cookies. They especially captivated the date-lovers among us. Goldman, author of “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” (Doubleday, 1998), began her baking career with squares--bar cookies. These homey miracles are best served large and chilled with a glass of milk, a cup of tea or espresso.

Pleasantville Deluxe Date Squares

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 40 minutes cooling

2 1/2 cups pitted dates (about 1 1/4 pounds)

1 2/3 cups light brown sugar, packed

1 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon orange oil, optional

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cold

* Combine dates, 2/3 cup brown sugar, water, vanilla, lemon juice and orange oil in 2-quart saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook until dates are softened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from stove and cool. Puree in food processor until smooth.

* Place flour, oatmeal, 1 cup brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in work bowl of food processor. Pulse to combine, then add chunks of cold butter until mixture is crumbly.

* Pat 1/2 mixture into lightly greased 9-inch-square baking pan. Cover with date mixture, spreading evenly. Top with remaining crumb mixture as evenly as possible. Press down lightly.

* Place pan on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until top is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool 20 minutes then put in freezer 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

12 to 16 squares. Each of 16 squares: 327 calories; 47 mg sodium; 31 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 56 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.73 gram fiber.

No. 6

You really don’t need to wait for summer to grill in Southern California. Any time is fine. This recipe from Times Test Kitchen Director Donna Deane was published as part of a barbecue package in July. At this season, warm things up by adding another poblano or cayenne pepper to the sauce. Of course, if a warm Santa Ana is blowing, you can always tone down the heat by adding more whipping cream.

Grilled Pork Chops With Poblano Cream Sauce

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Work Time: 1 hour plus 3 to 24 hours marinating time

PORK CHOPS

4 loin pork chops, about 3/4-inch-thick

1/2 teaspoon crumbled Mexican oregano

Salt

1/3 cup garlic oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

* Season pork chops with oregano and with salt to taste. Arrange chops in glass baking dish in single layer, pour garlic oil over and add sliced garlic. Cover and marinate several hours or overnight.

* Grill chops on hot outdoor grill or heavy cast-iron grill pan set on stove until brown on outside yet light pink in center, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with warm Poblano Cream Sauce and garnish with cilantro and reserved pepper strips (from Cream Sauce).

POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

4 poblano chiles

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup whipping cream

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

* Roast poblano chiles on rack over gas burner or on pan beneath broiler until charred on all sides. Put roasted peppers in paper bag and fold end over to seal. Let stand to allow peppers to sweat, about 15 minutes. Peel peppers, then cut each in half and remove ribs and seeds. Cut 2 pepper halves lengthwise into strips and set aside for garnish. Chop remaining peppers coarsely and set aside.

* Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion just begins to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in broth and whipping cream. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until sauce begins to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

* Stir in chopped chiles and simmer 1 minute. Pour into blender and puree. Return Sauce to skillet, add salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

4 servings. Each serving: 640 calories; 307 mg sodium; 172 mg cholesterol; 58 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 27 grams protein; 0.32 gram fiber.

No. 7

Summer intern Gordon McKnight decided he wanted to pickle. And pickle he did. Jars were everywhere, as were cukes, as he called them. He pickled at home late at night after pickling all day in the Test Kitchen. He brought in jars and jars, and he wrote about his escapades in September. This was our favorite; though it got its name because of its bright red and green, we think Christmas Bread & Butter Pickles are good any time of year.

Christmas Bread and Butter Pickles

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 3 hours for chilling

McKnight adapted this recipe from the 1951 edition of “Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. The combination of green and red in these pickles will remind you of Christmas. Process them in 12-ounce jars and give as gifts. The red bell peppers (green or yellow work fine too) add a bit of sharpness to a smooth and sweet pickle that has been modestly tempered by using both brown and white sugars.

About 4 pounds pickling cucumbers, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

6 to 8 onions (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

4 red bell peppers, cut in 3/4-inch dice

1/2 cup coarse salt

5 cups white wine vinegar

3 cups granulated sugar

2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 (1-inch) stick cinnamon

* Place cucumbers, onions and peppers in large bowl. Top with salt and cover with weighted lid. Refrigerate 3 hours. (This softens vegetables so they can absorb syrup.) Place vegetables in colander and thoroughly rinse off salt.

* Combine vinegar, grnaulated and brown sugars, turmeric, allspice, mustard seeds, cloves and cinnamon in large stockpot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add vegetables with very little stirring. Heat to scalding point, but do not boil, 5 to 7 minutes.

* Divide vegetables among 6 (12-ounce) jars, cover with liquid, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Remove air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula down the side of the jar and press gently on the food to release any trapped air. Close with two-piece caps. Can according to instructions.

Makes about 6 (12-ounce) jars. Each of 30 servings: 40 calories; 239 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.67 gram fiber.

Can It

Although canning seems like a lot of trouble, it’s not. Just make sure that everything is clean and that you follow directions carefully. Use only Mason jars with two-piece lids. Wash jars in hot soapy water or run them through the dishwasher. Heat the jars before filling them; the “plate warmer” or dry cycle on a dishwasher works well.

You must begin processing immediately after you’ve filled the jars. First, pack in the vegetables or fruits as tightly as you can without crushing them. Fill the jars with liquid to within 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top, depending on the recipe. Release any trapped air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula down the side of the jar, pressing gently on the food.

After closing with two-piece caps, process by submerging jars in simmering 180- to 185-degree water for 30 minutes. Put a tea towel or small rack in the bottom of the canning pot to keep the jars away from direct heat. Cool jars overnight. Test the seal by pressing on the center of the lid. A correctly sealed lid will be very difficult to push. And if it does push, it won’t pop back. If the lid presses in and pops back, it is not sealed and must be either reprocessed or refrigerated. For more information, call the Ball & Kerr home canners help line at (800) 240-3340.

No. 8

“Brussels sprouts are ugly and they smell bad.” A strong statement from Times Food Editor Russ Parsons, one you wouldn’t expect to find with a top recipe. But that happens only when they’re overcooked, as he pointed out in this recipe published in February. When Brussels sprouts are given a little respect, they’re darned good. Parsons made a “he-man out of a scorned vegetable.” That alone deserves notice, but the recipe stands on its own.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

2 pounds Brussels sprouts

3 strips bacon

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Salt

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

* Trim Brussels sprouts, removing any outer leaves that are too dark or are damaged. Trim dried-out base of sprouts and cut an “X” 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in each.

* Steam sprouts over rapidly boiling water just until tender, about 5 minutes, no longer than 7 minutes. Cool and cut into lengthwise quarters. Set aside.

* While sprouts steam, cut bacon into thin strips. Cook in skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Raise heat to high and add red wine vinegar. Cook until vinegar loses raw smell, about 3 minutes.

* Reduce heat and add sprouts. Heat through, season to taste with salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons additional red wine vinegar if necessary. Add pine nuts, stir and serve.

6 servings. Each serving: 120 calories; 138 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 2.34 grams fiber.

No. 9

Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee’s family so loves kimchi that they put it on pizza, on hamburgers and even in the stuffing at Thanksgiving. In September, she shared several family recipes with us, including this one using cucumbers--a different take than the traditional nappa cabbage. We liked the crunch and the flavor, slightly sweet and spicy.

Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Sobaegi Kimchi)

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 1 day standing

Buchu, or wild leeks, can be found in Korean markets.

1/2 gallon plus 1/3 cup water

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon salt

20 Asian pickling cucumbers

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 bunch green onions, sliced into 1/2-inch lengths

1 bunch Korean buchu, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup Korean ground chile

1 teaspoon sugar plus 1 teaspoon, optional

* Mix 1/2 gallon water with 3/4 cup salt, stirring for salt to dissolve. Soak cucumbers in salt water about 30 minutes. (Be careful not to soak too long.) Remove cucumbers and rinse. Cut about 1/4 inch from each end of cucumbers. Cut cucumbers in half in middle, not lengthwise. Hold cucumber facing circular middle. Cut in half lengthwise, leaving about 1/2 inch at end uncut. Cut in half lengthwise again, perpendicular to your first cut, leaving the end uncut. You should have 4 semi-equal parts of cucumber, cut but still attached. Repeat with remaining cucumbers.

* Place garlic in a food processor or blender and mince. Combine onion, green onions, buchu, garlic, ground chile, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon optional sugar in large bowl. (If mixing with your hands, be sure to wear rubber gloves to avoid chile burn.)

* Set 3 (1-quart) jars on work surface. Using your fingers, separate cucumber quarters and stuff mix into cucumbers. Divide evenly among jars, pressing cucumbers down firmly into jars. Stir 1 teaspoon sugar into 1/3 cup water until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour sugar water over cucumbers.

* Let sit 1 day before serving. Cucumber kimchi ferments very quickly. Refrigerate after opening.

3 quarts. Each 1/4 cup: 10 calories; 0 sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.45 gram fiber.

No. 10

Former intern Rommel Delos Santos wrote in March of his boyhood in Manila and the many food memories he had. He would munch on fresh sugar cane as he watched TV; he would meet his friends in the afternoon for meryenda, a simple meal eaten after the hottest part of the Filipino day. Occasionally, he wrote, he misses those foods, like pancit (rice stick noodles) or ukoy (squash and bean sprout fritters). This was one of our favorites.

Squash and Bean Sprout Fritters With Large Tiger Shrimp

(Ukoy)

Active Work and Preparation Time: 55 minutes

Dried shrimp can be found at Asian markets.

SQUASH

1 1/2 pounds kabocha squash, unpeeled

3 carrots

1/2 cup baby dried shrimp

1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 pound bean sprouts

1/2 bunch green onions, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

* Wash and quarter squash and remove seeds. Coarsely grate squash and carrots in food processor or with hand grater. Transfer to large bowl and add baby dried shrimp, shrimp, bean sprouts, green onions, salt and pepper.

SAUCE

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1/2 cup vinegar

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon pepper

* Combine soy sauce, vinegar, onion, garlic and pepper and mix well.

BATTER

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 1/2 cups water

Oil for frying

* Combine flour, salt, eggs, cayenne and water and mix thoroughly.

* Add batter to Squash and mix well. Form into palm-size 2-inch-thick fritters.

* Heat 1/4 inch oil in skillet over medium heat. Fry fritters until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

* Spoon Sauce over fritters.

About 15 palm-size fritters. Each fritter: 143 calories; 1,031 mg sodium; 63 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.44 gram fiber.


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