Did you spend time last year in the kitchen? Many readers of the Taste section did, both online and in our print edition.
Of those who looked for culinary inspiration online, we know what you were looking at. Yes, there’s no hiding from metrics. In fact, the most often read online recipes from 2016 reflected a serious interest in flavorful dishes that weren’t too complicated to prepare, from sweet potato chili to chicken paprikash to a party-time layered dip.
To no one’s surprise (least of all ours), our holiday cookie-contest recipes nabbed the top position for best read recipes, with the grand prize winner of Nut Goodie Thumbprint at the peak of reader interest. (Find all the cookie recipes at startribune.com/cookies.)
Leftover ham dishes reached a crowd in the spring. So did a variety of seasonal favorites from our Taste columnists, Robin Asbell, Meredith Deeds and Beth Dooley. And then there were the Swedish pancakes that swept away not only our readers, but those from around the country after the story was picked up by wire services.
Were they the best recipes of 2016? Only one way to find out. Let’s head to the kitchen.
Amount varies by size of pancake.
Note: Most cooks will approve of the amount of sugar in these pancakes, but for those without a sweet tooth, it can be cut in half. This recipe is easily doubled. If there is extra batter, make the remaining pancakes and refrigerate them overnight or freeze them. From “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook” (1968), with directions from Lee Svitak Dean.
• 3 eggs
• 1 1/4 c. milk
• 3/4 c. flour
• 1 tbsp. sugar (see Note)
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• Vegetable oil
Beat eggs thoroughly and whisk in the milk.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. With a whisk or hand mixer, beat dry ingredients into the eggs, mixing until smooth. The batter will be very thin.
Warm a heavy frying pan the size of the pancake you want over medium heat. (A flat griddle can also be used.) Add a drizzle of oil on the bottom of the pan and swirl around so the entire bottom is covered. With a frying pan, you will be making these pancakes one at a time; the batter spreads out considerably. If using a griddle, you will likely be limited to a few pancakes at a time, unless your batter is unexpectedly thicker.
Add batter to the pan to form a single pancake. Flip the pancake once it seems firm enough to turn (it will not bubble up as a regular pancake does). Also take a peek under the edge of the pancake to make sure it has brown spots on it (that’s a sign the pancake is ready to flip). Cook the second side until it has light brown spots, too.
Serve these immediately, or keep them covered in a warm oven until you have enough to serve all. These are often served flat, rolled into cylinders or folded into quarters. They are often topped with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, fresh berries, jam (lingonberry is traditional) or whipped cream.
Mexican Layered Dip With Baked Tortilla Chips
Note: A lighter version of a favorite game day classic. Serve with baked chips. From Meredith Deeds.
• 12 (6-in.) corn tortillas
• 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 tsp., divided
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained, liquid reserved
• 1 avocado, diced
• 1/2 c. store-bought salsa
• 3/4 c. light sour cream
• 1 tbsp. finely chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce (sold in a can)
• 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
• 1/2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
• 2 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
• 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cut each tortilla into 6 wedges. Arrange wedges in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, stirring occasionally and switching pan positions halfway through baking.
In a small skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, cumin and oregano, and cook, stirring, for another minute, or until fragrant. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium bowl and add the beans. Mash with a fork until well combined and slightly creamy. (If you prefer a smooth texture, pulse a few times in a food processor.) If the consistency is too stiff to dip chips into, add a tablespoon or two of the reserved bean liquid.
Spread the mixture onto the bottom of a (1-quart) shallow-edged serving dish.
In a small bowl, combine the diced avocado with the salsa and spread over the bean mixture.
In another small bowl, combine the sour cream with chipotle and spread that over the avocado salsa.Top with the cheese, cilantro and green onions and serve.
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: This recipe for what is essentially Hungary’s national dish is adapted from “The New Classics Cookbook,” by Saveur magazine. Like many Hungarian dishes, this plays out rather soupy — if you prefer a thicker sauce, you could remove the chicken at the end of cooking, stir sour cream into the sauce, taste for seasoning, then return the chicken to the pan to enrobe it in the sauce before serving. Or, as Saveur suggests, use sour cream as a garnish. You’ll want to serve this with something to help mop up the sauce. Think crusty bread, mashed potatoes or egg noodles bathed in a bit of butter and parsley.
• 1/4 c. canola oil
• 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
• Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 1 large yellow onion, diced
• 3 tbsp. Hungarian sweet paprika, plus more for garnish
• 2 c. chicken stock
• 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
• 1 small Anaheim or green pepper, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and chopped
• 1/2 c. sour cream, for serving
Heat oil over medium-high heat in large heavy bottomed pan.
Cut excess fat off chicken, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Fry chicken skin side down until golden. Flip, then fry skin side up until the bottom develops nice color. (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches.) Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add onion to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add paprika and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes.
Return chicken and its juices to pan. Add stock, tomatoes and Anaheim pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered until chicken is fully cooked, about 30 minutes.
Transfer chicken with sauce onto a serving platter. Dollop sour cream over it, and garnish with — you guessed it — more paprika.
Smoky Tri-Bean Sweet Potato Chili
Note: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in multiples in a can. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 c. chopped onions
• 3 c. diced sweet potatoes
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped (see Note)
• 1/2 to 1 tbsp. chili powder, to taste
• 2 tsp. ground cumin, or more to taste
• 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
• 1 1/2 to 2 c. chicken or vegetable stock, as needed
• 1 c. each cooked or canned black, white and navy beans (3 c. total), drained and rinsed
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Chopped cilantro for garnish
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes, garlic, chipotle in adobo, chili powder and cumin, and cook, stirring until the spices smell fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 to 35 minutes, adding more stock if necessary. Stir in the beans and continue cooking until heated through, another 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the cilantro.
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: While some recipes suggest cooking the pasta before adding it to the soup, here the small-shaped pasta adds just enough starch to give the stock body. Be sure to wait until the pasta is nearly cooked before adding the vegetables so they retain a little texture. Add the cooked beans right before serving. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 c. chopped onions
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
• 6 c. chicken or vegetable stock
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 c. small pasta (elbow, stars, orzo)
• 1 large carrot, diced
• 1/2 c. diced zucchini
• 1/2 c. diced green beans
• 1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
• 2 large kale leaves, diced
• 1/2 c. garbanzo or white beans, drained
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Pinch red pepper flakes, to taste
• 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese, or more to taste
Film a large soup pot with the oil, set over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and thyme. Sauté, stirring until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the stock and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta, reduce the heat to a slow boil and stir; cook until the pasta is just beginning to become tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the carrot, zucchini, green beans, pepper and kale and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the beans. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
Remove and discard the bay leaf, and serve garnished with the cheese.
Note: This is a great meal for a crowd — it can be pulled together quickly using pantry and freezer staples. Make sure that your liquid is hot before you add it to the rice, so that it will cook more evenly, and stir the rice very gently with a silicone spatula to keep the grains whole. (The silicone spatulas are heat-resistant at high temperatures.) To prepare basmati rice, rinse it in a bowl of cold water, repeating at least 10 times or until the water remains clear; soak for 20 minutes. To slice the cilantro leaves thinly, stack them a few at a time. From “Flavorwalla,” by Floyd Cardoz.
• 2 (13.5-oz.) cans coconut milk (stir well before using)
• About 6 1/2 c. unsalted chicken stock
• 1/2 c. canola oil
• 2 tsp. cumin seeds
• 2-in. piece cinnamon stick
• 6 whole cloves
• 4 c. finely chopped white onions
• 1/4 c. minced peeled fresh ginger
• 6 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tbsp. coriander seeds, finely ground
• 1 tbsp. black peppercorns, optional
• 2 tsp. turmeric
• 2 bay leaves
• 6 c. white basmati rice, rinsed, soaked and drained (see Note)
• 3 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, excess fat removed, quartered
• Kosher salt
• 1 c. thinly sliced washed and dried cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for garnish (see Note)
Pour coconut milk into large glass measure. Add enough stock to make 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups). Heat stock/coconut milk mixture in medium pot over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and keep at very low simmer.
In 8-quart stew pot with tightfitting lid, heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add cumin, cinnamon and cloves and cook, stirring until the spices are fragrant and little bubbles form around them, about 1 minute. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened but not at all colored, about 3 minutes.
Use a silicone spatula to stir in the ginger, garlic, coriander, peppercorns, turmeric, bay leaves and drained rice, then stir to coat the rice with the oil and spices. Stir in the chicken, tucking it into the rice, and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes.
Stir in the hot stock mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until all liquid is absorbed and chicken is cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. Fold in the cilantro. Cover and let rice rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Fluff rice with fork; remove and discard cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.
Variation: Add a bunch of fresh dill, roughly chopped, along with the cilantro.
Roasted Vegetable and Sage Strudel
Note: This showy strudel gives the meatless diner a burnished and buttery centerpiece dish that can be carved at the table in place of a turkey. Because puff pastry varies in size, you can either make one large roll or two smaller rolls, depending on the brand you use. From Robin Asbell.
• 2 large onions, chopped
• 3 large parsnips, peeled and cubed (4 c.)
• 2 large carrots, cubed (2 c.)
• 1 1/2 c. cubed sweet potato
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage, plus more whole for garnish
• 1 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 c. chopped parsley
• 1/2 c. pecan halves or 1 1/2 c. (4 oz.) Cheddar cheese, shredded
• 2 (about 1-lb.) pkg. puff pastry, thawed
• 1 large egg, or 1 tbsp. agave syrup with 1 tbsp. nondairy milk
• Kale, slivered and tossed with olive oil and salt, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine onions, parsnips, carrots and sweet potato in a large roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Add the sage, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Cover the pan tightly with foil, then roast for 25 minutes. Uncover and stir, then cover again and roast for 20 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate overnight, or proceed.
When the vegetables are cooled, add the parsley and either the pecans or cheese.
Line a sheet pan (preferably one with no rim) with parchment paper. Return the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly dust counter with flour. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry and use a rolling pin to lightly roll, flattening the fold marks. Place the longer side closest to you, parallel to the edge of the counter. If using the larger Dufour puff pastry, place all the vegetable filling in the middle of the pastry, and fold the long sides up to encase the filling, overlapping slightly and pinching a few times to seal. If using the smaller Pepperidge Farm pastry, make 2 strudels on 2 sheets of pastry. Place seam-side-down on the baking sheet.
Chill the roll while you cut the decorations. Whisk the egg with a teaspoon of water and get a pastry brush. If you are going vegan, whisk the agave and nondairy milk and use that instead.
Place a sheet of pastry on the floured counter and use a sharp paring knife to cut 8 simple oval leaf shapes about 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch across. Use the tip of the knife to incise the veins of the leaf in each one.
Take the pastry roll out of the refrigerator and brush with egg. Place the leaves on top of the roll, as if they are draped across it. (Space them so you can slice the strudel between the leaves for 8 servings.) Brush with more egg. You can re-wrap and freeze the remaining puff pastry for another use.
If you have 1 large strudel, bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. With 2 smaller strudels, bake them for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is deep golden brown and puffed. (If you underbake, the pastry will deflate and become soggy.)
Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a large platter. Garnish with sage or slivered kale that has been tossed with a little olive oil and salt.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Hazelnut Romesco Sauce
Note: While the traditional version of this classic Spanish sauce uses almonds, hazelnuts give this variation a flavorful twist. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 (1- to 1 1/2 lb.) pork tenderloin, trimmed
• 2 tsp. smoked paprika
• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 c. Hazelnut Romesco Sauce (see recipe)
Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, combine smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Rub oil on pork, then pat with spice mixture to coat. Set aside at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Grill pork until browned on all sides and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of meat reads 145 to 150 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with the Romesco sauce on the side.
Hazelnut Romesco Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Note: The recipe for the sauce makes more than you’ll need to serve with the tenderloin. Save the rest for other uses. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1/2 c. hazelnuts, more for garnish
• 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
• 1 garlic clove, peeled
• 1/3 c. dried breadcrumbs
• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar, more as needed
• 1 tsp. smoked paprika
• 1/2 tsp. salt
Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.
In a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse hazelnuts until coarsely ground. Add pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, olive oil, tomato paste, vinegar, paprika and salt.
Soft Polenta With Roasted Smoky Chickpeas, Grape Tomatoes, Chard and Creamy Basil Sauce
Note: From “Great Bowls of Food,” by Robin Asbell.
• 1 1/2 c. medium-grind cornmeal
• 1 tsp. salt, divided
• 3 c. water
• 1 c. milk
• 1 tbsp. butter
• 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 1/2 c. cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
• 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
• 1 c. fresh basil
• 1 garlic clove
• 2 oz. chèvre (goat cheese)
• 1/2 c. plain yogurt (not Greek)
• 1 large bunch chard, washed, stemmed and dried
• 1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the cornmeal and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then gradually whisk in the water and milk. Over medium heat, whisk while it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to keep it just bubbling, and scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir every 5 minutes for about 20 to 30 minutes. When it reaches the desired thickness, stir in butter and Parmesan. Keep warm.
In large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add drained chickpeas and shake in the pan, rolling them around until they start to pop and crackle. Cook for about 5 minutes until slightly browned. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then transfer to a bowl.
In a food processor, mince the basil and garlic. Add the chèvre and yogurt and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and process until smooth.
In large sauté pan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and sauté chard until wilted and dark green. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Prepare 4 bowls, with layer of polenta on bottom, topped with chard and chickpeas, and then grape tomatoes. Drizzle 3 tablespoons basil sauce per bowl.
Broccoli and Potatoes With Sauce Gribiche
Note: The dish comes together quickly and will keep up to two days in the refrigerator. Adapted from “Super Natural Every Day,” by Heidi Swanson.
• 1 1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 2-in. chunks
• Generous pinch salt
• 1 lb. broccoli, florets separated and stems cut into 2-in. pieces
• 4 eggs, hard-cooked and peeled
• 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 tbsp. vinegar (any variety)
• 1 tbsp. coarse mustard
• 2 shallots, finely chopped
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put the potatoes with the salt into a large pot with enough water to cover by about 4 inches. Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are not quite fork-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and continue cooking an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the potatoes are fork-tender and the broccoli is bright green. Drain and refresh under cold water. Place in large bowl.
Remove the egg yolk from 1 hard-cooked egg, set the white aside, and put the single yolk into a separate, medium bowl. Mash it with a whisk then very slowly add the oil in a steady stream, beating constantly. When the mixture looks smooth, whisk in the vinegar, mustard and shallots. Coarsely chop the egg white and the remaining whole cooked eggs and add to the bowl with the broccoli and potatoes.
Gently toss in enough of the dressing to lightly coat the potatoes, broccoli and eggs, reserving any leftover dressing for another use. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Note: Adapted from “The Farmette Cookbook,” by Imen McDonnell.
• 8 (1/2-in. thick) slices crusty bread
• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp. flour
• 1/4 c. whole milk
• 1 1/2 tbsp. ale
• 1 c. grated white Cheddar
• Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
• 1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
• 1 egg, beaten
• 8 slices ham (see Note)
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Toast the bread until lightly golden on both sides; set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add flour and stir briskly for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy. Return to the heat, bring back to a boil, then stir in the ale, cheese, lemon zest and juice, and mustard. Stir in the egg, whisking, for a minute or two.
Lay a slice of ham on each bread slice, then top with a spoonful of the cheese mixture. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until melted and golden. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Note: This is from a British author, so the term “popover” isn’t what we usually expect as a description. These are more like potato pancakes; they look messy but taste great. If you don’t have a nonstick pan, melt a bit of butter to cook the “popovers” in. From “Everyday Super Food,” by Jamie Oliver.
• 1 heaping tbsp. flour (self-rising preferred)
• 1 egg
• 2 heaping tbsp. cottage cheese
• 1 slice smoked ham
• 1 ripe plum tomato
• 2 cremini mushrooms
• Sea salt and black pepper
• 1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
• Hot chile sauce
• 2 tbsp. plain yogurt
• 2 handfuls of arugula
• 1/2 lemon
Place flour in a bowl and beat well with the egg and cottage cheese. Finely chop the ham, tomato and mushrooms, and stir through the mixture with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
Put a large nonstick frying pan on medium-low heat. Once hot, put heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan to give you 6 “popovers.” Let them get nicely golden for a few minutes, then flip over and gently flatten with a spatula to 1/2 inch thick.
Once they are golden on both sides, remove them from the pan for a moment, then turn the heat off.
Sprinkle Parmesan onto the pan to melt. Place the “popovers” on top, wait for the Parmesan to sizzle and go golden from the residual heat of the pan, then use your spatula to gently push the cheese toward each popover. Once the crispy “popovers” can be easily pried away from the pan with your spatula, put them on a plate.
Swirl some chile sauce through the yogurt, toss the arugula in a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve both on the side of the “popovers.”
Creamy Pumpkin Soup With Amaretti
Note: Amaretti are light and crispy Italian almond macaroons. They are widely available in the cookie aisle of most supermarkets. In this soup, the amaretti add a slight sweetness, which enhances the pumpkin flavor beautifully, without overpowering it or making the soup too sweet. From Meredith Deeds.
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 large onion, thinly sliced
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 (15 oz.) can puréed pumpkin
• 4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 8 amaretti cookies, crumbled, plus more for garnish
• 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
• 1/2 c. heavy cream
• 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they start to brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin, broth, salt, nutmeg and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
Add the amaretti cookies and Parmesan cheese to the soup and cook for a minute or two to allow the cookies to soften. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Purée the soup in a blender until smooth. You may need to work in 2 or 3 batches. (To avoid splattering when pureeing hot liquids in a blender: Never fill the blender jar more than halfway. Remove the lid insert or leave the lid ajar. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel.)
Pour soup back into the saucepan and add the cream and vinegar. Continue to cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until hot.
Divide into soups bowls and garnish with any remaining amaretti and cheese.