What a year it’s been at L.A. Times Cooking! We (Genevieve and Ben) began working here in February and have loved getting to create and share our recipes with you, our passionate readers and cooks. It’s been a great time, packed with beloved recipes like Genevieve’s best chewy chocolate chunk cookies and Ben’s cheesy Korean corn grilled cheese.
Although we love developing our own recipes, we also flip through cookbooks throughout the year to find inspiration by cooking other people’s dishes. These are our favorites from the 2019 crop of cookbooks — ones we turned to again and again during breaks from recipe testing to get dinner on the table during a busy weeknight or to add to our dinner parties.
Get our weekly Tasting Notes newsletter for reviews, news and more from critics Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.
There’s a wintery bread soup topped with sauteed greens and a poached egg that makes genius use of any leftover heels of bread you have lying around (we always do). Routine roasted vegetables are enlivened with miso dressing that ups the umami and makes eating your greens all the more easy. Next, a barbacoa made for weeknights — you’ll have dinner on the table in less than two hours and the flavor will be just as wonderful as if it had simmered for 12. Finally, intensely flavorful chicken thighs, basted mercilessly with Japanese shoyu tare, that made these our go-to protein to add to rice bowls and sandwiches — or to eat with our fingers.
We hope you’ll enjoy these recipes as much as we did and get inspired for the next year of cooking.
Bread Soup With Chicory and Egg
1 ½ hours. Serves 4.
Puccia, a sandwich bread made from a simple pizza dough, forms the base of this soup. The recipe is in “Alpine Cooking” on page 58, but if you don’t have time to commit to baking bread, you can substitute it with store-bought ciabatta or panini bread and make the croutons from a country-style loaf. If wild chicory proves hard to find, substitute dandelion leaves, escarole or radicchio for the welcome hint of bitterness.
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 7 ounces (200 g) pancetta, diced
- 1 ½ quarts (1.4 L) low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 store-bought ciabatta bun or panini loaf (see note above), cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces, plus 1 cup (50 g) diced country-style bread, left out at room temperature for 2 hours to dry out
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch wild chicory, chopped into ribbons
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
- In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and pancetta and sauté until starting to brown lightly, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the bread, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Ladle the soup into a food processor or blender and process on high speed until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Return the Dutch oven and keep warm over very low heat.
- While the soup simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Add the chicory to the boiling water and blanch until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Lift out of the boiling water, plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking, and drain.
- Place a wide saucepan filled with water over high heat. While the water is heating, line a plate with a layer of paper towels.
- In a medium frying pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chicory and sauté until starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- When the water has started boiling, turn the heat to a simmer. Crack one egg into a small bowl, then gently pour it into the hot water, swirling the water around it with a spatula or wooden spoon to encourage the egg to take a nice shape. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. When the water returns to a simmer, set a timer and poach the eggs for 2 minutes, until the whites have just set. Carefully transfer to the prepared plate.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Gently place one egg in the center of each bowl, then lay some wilted chicory next to it, add some croutons, then sprinkle each bowl with the minced chives and fennel seeds. Add a splash of olive oil to each soup and serve.
Reprinted with permission from “Alpine Cooking” by Meredith Erickson, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Christina Holmes.
40 minutes. Serves 4
Adding miso to a simple pan sauce and using it as a glaze for roasted vegetables is a fast way to make a workhorse weekday dish extra special. This is my go-to clean-out-the-fridge standby. It’s pretty hard to mess up, so feel free to use any vegetables you have lingering in the fridge, from carrots to cabbage, asparagus to Brussels sprouts ... you name it. The only caveat is that quicker-cooking veg — say asparagus or zucchini — should be added after the first 20 minutes of cooking; tender vegetables really don’t need much time to cook through.
- 9 to 10 cups bite-size vegetable pieces (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, radishes, cauliflower, mushrooms, or parsnips)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons miso paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
- 2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and ¾ teaspoon of the salt in a large bowl. Turn out onto a rimmed sheet pan (save the bowl) and roast for 20 minutes. Stir and continue to roast until the vegetables are browned and tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the miso, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and pepper in the reserved bowl.
- Remove the vegetables from the oven and toss in the bowl with the glaze. Sprinkle with the remaining salt, then transfer to a platter and serve warm or at room temperature.
Excerpted from “Umami Bomb: 75 Vegetarian Recipes That Explode With Flavor” by Raquel Pelzel (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Kate Sears.
Barbacoa de Borrego
1 hour, 40 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.
Barbacoa de Borrego is eaten during a lot of festivities in Oaxaca. It is always served family-style at parties, so you can eat as much as you can handle. My fondest memory of eating barbacoa was during a get-together with friends in an agave field recently. We cooked a whole lamb in a pit underground, had live music, everybody showed up, and there was free-flowing mezcal for everyone. It was one of those most beautiful, most perfect days of my life, because what else do you need other than friends, family, tender seasoned meat, and good mezcal?
- 7 guajillo chiles (35 g), stems removed, seeded
- 9 cloves garlic (27 g), peeled
- 1 cup (75 g) chopped white onion
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 sliver of a cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 whole cloves
- 4 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3 pounds (1.4 kg) bone-in lamb shoulder roast, cut into pieces by your butcher
- 10 avocado leaves
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bring 3 ½ cups (840 ml) water to a boil in a medium pot. Turn off the heat and add the guajillo chiles. Let soak for 20 minutes or until the chiles are softened. Reserve ¼ cup (60 ml) of the soaking liquid.
- In a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, toast the following ingredients for 5 to 7 minutes until evenly toasted: cumin, oregano, cinnamon, thyme, cloves, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. While the spices are toasting, lightly char the garlic cloves and onion.
- In a molcajete or food processor, grind the garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, thyme, cloves, and black peppercorns as best you can.
- In a blender, combine the softened chiles and reserved soaking water, the bay leaves, salt, and spices.
- In a 5-quart (4.7 L) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, place the lamb and slather in the spiced chile mixture from the blender. Add avocado leaves. Mix well, cover, and cook in the oven for an hour. The lamb should be fall-apart tender, and the sauce should be the texture of a pan sauce.
- If the lamb still isn’t tender, cover and cook for another 20 minutes or as long as it takes for the lamb to be falling off the bone.
Reprinted with permission from “Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico” by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral. Photography © 2019 by Quentin Bacon.
Grilled Ginger Chicken With Shoyu Tare
30 minutes. Serves 2 to 4.
This is a nice chicken dish I make using shoyu tare (soy sauce-based seasoning). The skin here comes out super crispy and the meat is very tender — a beautiful contrast. I like to make a large batch of shoyu tare and use it for dipping sauces and for seasoning noodle soups and braised dishes. Serve the chicken as a topping for your grain bowl or as a part of your bento box. To get ginger juice, grate 3 inches ginger on a Microplane into a bowl, then press on the fibers with a spoon to extract and pour off the juice.
- 4 boneless skin-on chicken thighs
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ginger juice (see note above)
- 1 tablespoon untoasted or toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup (60 ml) shoyu tare (see recipe below)
- Position the top rack of your oven about 7 inches (17 cm) from the broiler and preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Make ½-inch (12 mm) slits on the meaty side of each chicken thigh, about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Sprinkle the salt over the meat and rub it all over with the ginger juice and oil. Spread the thighs on the baking sheet, skin side down.
- Broil the thighs until they start to brown lightly, about 3 minutes, then start basting with the shoyu tare. Let the chicken brown some more and then baste again, repeating a few more times at 2-minute intervals. Allow 8 to 9 minutes cooking time on the meat side before you flip the chicken.
- Turn the chicken over so it is skin side up. Baste again with shoyu tare and broil until the skin is browned and crispy and the chicken is cooked and no longer pink inside, about 2 minutes. Do not flip, or the skin will lose its crispness. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 3 to 5 minutes, then slice it crosswise 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and serve.
Makes about 2 cups.
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 ml) mirin (hon mirin, not mirin-type)
- 3 tablespoons cane sugar
- 2 cups (480 ml) soy sauce or usukuchi shoyu (light-colored soy sauce)
Combine the mirin and sugar in a small saucepan, place over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar completely. Lower the heat, add the soy sauce, and heat until it starts to simmer, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Store in a nonreactive container in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 3 months.
From “Japanese Home Cooking” by Sonoko Sakai © 2019 Sonoko Sakai. Photographs © 2019 by Rick Poon. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Boulder, Colo.