Half-salted steak, the ultimate chocolate chip cookie and more recipes we love

Moving illustration that shows a steak in a pan
Ben Mims says that an unseasoned steak browns faster and keeps smoke to a minimum.
(Caroline Marks / For The Times )

If you’re a regular reader of our Cooking newsletter here at L.A. Times Food, you’ve enjoyed the writing and recipes of cooking columnist Ben Mims and recipe tester Julie Giuffrida. And those of you who have gone beyond the newsletter to our broader food coverage have certainly encountered the unforgettable work of Lucas Kwan Peterson. Not to mention the L.A. Times Food Instagram posts, often made in tandem with Lucas, of our cookie-obsessed audience engagement editor Amy Wong. All four have been vital, creative forces here at our small but mighty L.A. Times Food team.

On Tuesday we got the devastating news that at least 115 of our fellow L.A. Times journalists, all stellar storytellers, received layoff notices. Among them were Ben, Julie, Lucas and Amy. Our coverage won’t be the same without them.

Here at L.A. Times Food, we’re still committed to bringing you excellent recipes and cooking news in this newsletter as well as in the paper’s Weekend section for print subscribers and on the Times website. Cooking, after all, has been part of this paper’s DNA for more than 100 years.

An ad in a 1909 edition of the Los Angeles Times for "The Times Cook Book No. 3" by "skilled chefs and housewives."
An ad in a 1909 edition of the Los Angeles Times for “The Times Cook Book No. 3” by “skilled chefs and housewives.”
(Laurie Ochoa / Los Angeles Times)

Just last week I found an ad for “The Times Cook Book: No. 3” in the pages of the L.A. Times from Jan. 10, 1909. I’ve never seen the book by “skilled chefs and housewives,” but it must have been massive with “198 recipes for Spanish dishes” ... “417 recipes for bread, rolls, biscuits buns and the like” ... “100 recipes for preparing fowl and game” ... “195 ways of cooking vegetables” ... “250 cakes” and many, many more, including “115 recipes for hygienic dishes.” The cost was 25 cents.

To thank Ben and Julie for bringing you cooking ideas each week in this newsletter, I took a look at the most popular recipes they created in their time at the paper. I don’t know how hygienic they are, but they taste fantastic and are worth your time in the kitchen.

Half-Salted Steaks With Kale-Caper Sauce

Half-salted steak with kale-and-caper sauce
Ben Mims’ recipe for umami-packed kale-and-caper sauce adds salinity to half-salted steaks, the quickest way to having steak at home.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

For a hugely popular story Ben Mims wrote called “Stop salting steak before you cook it,” our columnist came up with a recipe for Half-Salted Steaks With Kale-Caper Sauce. Ben wrote: “The timing of this recipe works specifically for boneless strip or rib-eye steaks weighing between 10 and 14 ounces each and cut to a 1-inch thickness, which is what I found most common in grocery stores. If yours are a different weight, adjust the cooking time in the oven accordingly. Also, taking the steaks out of the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before cooking ensures they heat evenly and to the proper temperature in the time given below. If you skip this step, the steaks will take a little longer to cook. This recipe also works perfectly with just one steak and half the ingredients for the sauce, if cooking for yourself.”

Get the recipe.
Serves 2 to 4. Cook time: 30 minutes.

The ultimate chocolate chip cookie.
The ultimate chocolate chip cookie.
(Stephanie S. Shih / For The Times)

After Julie Giuffrida asked readers what qualities they loved most in a chocolate chip cookie, she went in the kitchen and baked cookie batch after cookie batch until she came up with a recipe designed to meet the winning characteristics of our survey. Chewy, with a hint of salt, gooey, crisp-edged and not-too-sweet were most important to readers. As Julie wrote of the cookies, “They are not too sweet, not too thin, and the recipe calls for chocolate chunks, though if you prefer chips, feel free to switch them out. They use basic ingredients that are readily available in a typical grocery store, and once your butter and eggs are at room temperature, you can whip up a batch in less than an hour.”

Get the recipe.
Makes about 80 (2-inch) cookies. 1 hour.

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Oven-Baked Nachos

Illustrated gif of loaded nachos
(Hanna Carter / For The Times)

Around Super Bowl time two years ago, Ben wrote a story on nachos and came up with one of his most popular recipes, his take on baking-sheet nachos “inspired,” he said, “by a technique from Jen Agg, the chef and owner of several restaurants in Toronto.”

“These nachos are like Ortega tacos on steroids, incorporating a chili-like seasoned beef sauce and shredded cheese, with shredded iceberg lettuce showered over the top.

“Store-bought tortilla chips from Vallarta are my go-to, but if you’re going the full supermarket experience, I love Calidad’s yellow corn chips. If you want to make the nachos vegetarian or vegan, substitute the beef with a couple of cans of your favorite beans or 2 pounds of Beyond Beef, then use vegetable stock and vegan cheeses and sour cream. This recipe makes enough for a party, and even though you could halve it to feed yourself and one other person, live a little and make the whole recipe — you’ll be glad you have leftovers the next day, trust me.”

Get the recipe.
Serves 2 to 8. 45 minutes

Masa Harina Cornbread

Ben Mims' recipe for Masa Harina Cornbread.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

In 2022, for a story called “Cornbread with an open mind,” Ben came up with a new kind of cornbread recipe — it uses masa harina instead of cornmeal. “Corn for corn,” Ben reasoned. It became one of the most popular recipes we’ve published in recent years.


Get the recipe.
Serves 8. 45 minutes.

Big Mayo Taste Test

The Big Mayo Taste Test
(Los Angeles Times)

This isn’t a recipe, but I thought I’d leave you with one of Ben’s most popular features — a taste test he did with Lucas in 2020 called “The Big Mayo Taste Test.” It was captured on video by journalists Cody Long and and Yadira Flores and edited by Yadi. Yadi and Cody, who were instrumental this past summer to our L.A. chef’s cooking seriesThe Kitchen,” also received layoff notices and will be hugely missed.

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