For more than a century, Sunset editors have been charting the next big things in food. Here are our most iconic recipes, revisited and reinvented
– February 11, 2013
Photo by Annabelle Breakey
1 of12Photo by Annabelle Breakey
Great dishes are often born of memory and whatever ingredients happen to be on hand. Such was the case with cioppino, the emblematic fish stew of San Francisco. During the mid-1800s, the city's immigrant Italian fishermen used what was left of the day's catch to cook a thick purée of fish and vegetables, much as they had in their home port of Genoa. They called it ciuppin, dialect for "little soup." Over time, Sicilians replaced the Genoese on the fishing boats, and in their cooking pots cioppino, as it came to be called, acquired peppers and tomatoes, and the fish was left in chunks. Today cioppino is a sumptuous, garlicky, tomatey stew brimming with several different kinds of available fish, shellfish, wine herbs, and olive oil—transcending its origins as a poor man's dish.
Classic Cioppino: This tomato-based seafood stew takes its inspiration from the communal feasts Italian fishermen created on San Francisco docks
In 1920, Sunset’s first cooking column, “Home-in-the-West Recipes,” debuted and included a recipe for fried artichoke hearts. That’s still the classic way to eat them in Castroville, on the central California coast, where 75 percent of America’s artichokes grow.
Back in 1946, when authentic Italian food was still exotic in this country, Sunset ran its first recipe for pesto, the traditional Genoese sauce of basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
Classic Basil Pesto: Catering to modern tastes, we've reduced the amount of olive oil while keeping the flavors true
In 1936, the Sunset All-Western Cook Book ran 28 avocado recipes, but no guacamole. It debuted in our pages in 1942 (spelled "Huacamole"). Besides avocados, tomato, and garlic, the recipe called for a little mayo and salad oil, and a touch of sugar. By 1970, we we'd moved beyond the expected uses, proclaiming in one story, “It’s a dip, a sauce, a dressing, a spread. It’s guacamole.” Still, in 2012, most of California’s 460 million pounds of harvested avocados became, yes, guacamole.
Indian Guacamole: Bring out the pappadums to scoop up this South Asian version of guac
Photo by Karen Steffens
5 of12Photo by Karen Steffens
"A church fair almost anywhere in the Southwest is apt to be accompanied by an enchilada supper, served always by pretty dark-eyed señoritas," wrote Sunset in January 1922, introducing the magazine's first recipe for enchiladas.
Mexican Enchilada Sauce: Sure, you can buy canned sauce, but cooking your own from dried chiles is easy and it has fantastic flavor
Photo by Dan Goldberg
6 of12Photo by Dan Goldberg
On an elemental level, the fish taco can be reduced to a very simple equation: Fish + tortilla = fish taco. From this perspective, there is little question that people have been eating fish tacos in the coastal areas of Mexico—and in Southern California, for that matter—for an awfully long time.
Baja Fried-Fish Tacos: These fast and fresh SoCal classics are served with a crisp cabbage-cilantro slaw and an an addictive chipotle tartar sauce
A 1935 Sunset story extolled the “many tempting possibilities” of red and green “sweet” chiles. Today chiles infuse our cooking styles from Southwest to Southeast Asian, and our markets sell chiles by name, with a wide range of heat levels and uses. Flavorful, square-shouldered poblano chiles are top of our list, especially for making chiles rellenos.
As Mexican food became part of mainstream Western dining, creative cooks began incorporating elements of popular dishes like tacos into salads. Sunset reported on this development in 1954 with Mexican tostadas—"open-face sandwiches that serve as salads." By the 1970s, taco salad had grabbed the West's imagination, and during that decade we published nearly a dozen versions. This one is from 2001.
Tijuana, Mexico, July 4, 1924, Caesar's Place. As the restaurant fills with holiday diners, Italian-born chef and restaurant owner Caesar Cardini runs short on ingredients for the day's salad. He improvises with what's on hand: romaine leaves, parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, a raw egg, Worcestershire sauce, and croutons (anchovies came later). The salad is a hit with the Hollywood set who frequent Cardini's restaurant, and they take their reverence for Caesar back home. Served plain or topped with everything from grilled chicken to fried ginger, the salad becomes a hallmark of California cuisine.
Historians point an uncertain finger to California for the first public appearance of Chinese chicken salad. Chef Lee of the New Moon Restaurant, which opened in Los Angeles in 1950, claims to have brought the recipe from Hong Kong. And in San Francisco in the early 1960s, Cecilia Chiang served Chinese chicken salad at the Mandarin. Sunset's first recipe for it, published in 1970, came from Ming's of Palo Alto. Former owner Dan Lee reported that the restaurant started serving the top-selling dish sometime between 1958 and 1970. "We based it on a Chinese dish called finger-shredded chicken," he recalled. Not matter its specific origin, it's gone on to become an American classic.
Best-Ever Chicken Salad: Asparagus, oranges, and avocado team up with the traditional dressing, cabbage, and yes, chicken
Late one night in 1937, a hungry Bob Cobb, manager of Hollywood's Brown Derby, wandered into the restaurant's kitchen. Scrounging from the refrigerator, he created what would become the Derby's signature salad—or so the story goes. Theater promoter Sid Grauman, who was with him that night, liked the greens topped with chopped chicken, roquefort cheese, and bacon and soon began requesting it. The Cobb was added to the menu and became a huge hit with customers. The original restaurant (a conspicuous Bunyan-size domed hat) is now closed, but the salad lives on at restaurants across the country.
Cobb Salad: When you're looking to make a meal of salad, look no further
Photo by Lisa Romerein
12 of12Photo by Lisa Romerein
Goat cheese salad
At Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, the signature goat cheese salad, served since 1980, is all about good ingredients. The dish comes from a time when America was eating mostly iceberg lettuce, and a plate of tender just-picked lettuces and herbs, local fresh goat cheese, and top-quality olive oil and vinegar was a revelation. It still is today.