This list, which comes from readers and staff, spans great Western ingredients and reflects the fresh, easygoing way we cook today
Margo True and Elaine Johnson
December 3, 2013
Peden & Munk
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Peden & Munk
Baja Fried-Fish Tacos
We’ve cooked many fish tacos at Sunset, but this one is unsurpassed—a fresh, crunchy, creamy version of a Western classic. It may be one of our earliest fusion-food hits, too: The light, crisp, tempura-style batter makes it intriguingly different from other Mexican tacos, and some food historians think that Japanese fishermen, who arrived in Baja in the 1920s, played a role in its invention.
Maybe it's the pop-in-the-mouth size, maybe it's the combination of sharp cheese and briny artichokes—whatever the reason, these party bites are truly irresistible and happen to be one of our favorite artichoke recipes.
Here's our favorite excuse to buy Oregon-grown hazelnuts, which taste so much sweeter and fresher than imports. Toast them deeply in a pan with butter that sizzles and browns to create a version of mashed potatoes that's heads and shoulders above others.
Over the years, we’ve discovered how versatile guacamole can be. It works with sake and soy, and with Indian spices, too. Still, when the margarita is beading up the glass and the chips are fresh and warm, a classic Mexican guacamole beats them all—and this one is the best we’ve had.
This recipe is pure genius—a mere three ingredients, transformed by heat into a sublime dinner-on-a-stick. Plus, it takes just half an hour to make, from start to finish. All you need is a green salad on the side.
Grilled Corn Poblano Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette
This is our standby Sunset salad in the summer, when corn is sweet and juicy and peppers pile up in our gardens and markets. It’s easy—just throw the vegetables on the grill and make the salad while the chicken or steak is on the fire.
While it was born in Europe, the West adopted this baby almost a century ago. In the early 1900s, Victor Manca, owner of the restaurant Manca's, put a dainty version of big German pancakes on his menu—hence Dutch (as in Deutsch) Babies. After the restaurant closed in the 1950s, the Baby lived on in various versions in Sunset's pages, but the most popular is the one that took the pancake back to its German roots as a buttery breakfast zeppelin.
In the over-the-top category, our tie for best cookie went to these sandwich ones. Everything about them is decadent, from the chocolaty cookies and ganache filling to the "oh-I-couldn't-possibly-eat-a-whole-one" size. (Go ahead. We certainly did.)
Complex and fragrant, this classic Malaysian-style noodle soup has fans around the world—us included. Our version is surprisingly simple to make, and basically cooks in just one pot. At the last minute, it’s topped with fresh mint and cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and a spoonful of spicy sambal chili paste.
When we food editors first began compiling a list of all-time favorite Sunset dishes, this lamb recipe immediately leapt to mind. The meat is braised long and slow in a heady mixture of coffee, red wine, and caramelized vegetables until it falls apart into succulent hunks.
We’re always looking for new ways to make quinoa, the tiny, fluffy, nutritious, and ever more popular grain-like seed, and this Spanish-flavored stew remains a favorite. Readers like it too: One online fan remarked, “This recipe caught my eye because I happened to have all the ingredients in the house. It was quick and easy to make after work, and it tasted divine! All those quirky ingredients in one pot...cumin, coriander, quinoa, chickpeas, and orange zest?? But everything came together like a symphony.”
Roasted Cauliflower and Shallots with Chard and Dukkah
A big roasting pan of vegetables seasoned with dukkah, a toasted spice and nut topping, this simple concept has inspired loyal reader comments. "A keeper! The flavor of the veggies with the dukkah is amazing and tastes even better the next day," says one reader. "I was not expecting this to be as delicious as it was. This could be eaten as a meal on its own. Everyone loved it," says another.
Choosing between favorite chocolate desserts is almost like choosing among children. This one has a big fan base among our staff for its dark chocolate cookie crust and layer of homemade Nutella-type spread that's beneath the creamy mousse filling.
Invented in the ’40s by Oakland’s Vic Bergeron for his Trader Vic’s restaurants, the original mai tai featured only aged rum, lime juice, and orange liqueur, with a guest appearance by orgeat syrup. This version is true to its roots, with a blend of three kinds of rum for interest.
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Francie's Fruit Salad
Every cook needs a good fruit salad recipe that's easy to make but a big step above ordinary. Here's ours. It's light, refreshing, and has happy colors.
Posole, the festive Mexican stew, is typically a long-simmered affair involving pork shoulder. This lively version delivers the deep flavor without requiring the time. “We have made it 4 times in 4 months,” one appreciative reader told us. “This one is in the permanent rotation.”
Pork Shoulder Roast with Figs, Garlic, and Pinot Noir
This elegant, holiday-worthy roast not only tastes incredible, but costs much less than pricier cuts like crown roast or prime rib. The secret to cooking pork shoulder? Tie up the meat to hold it together, brown it, and then braise it slowly until very tender. We agree with one fan online, who commented, “It looks like you have slaved for hours, but is so easy and inexpensive!”
Reader Kathy Kane, of Menlo Park, California, gave us this recipe in 2009, and we have made umpteen bowls of it since. It brings together everything that’s best about summer: Sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, rich avocados, and spicy basil, with a bit of crisp red onion to give it punch.
Grilled Pastrami, Swiss, and Sweet Onion Marmalade on Rye
The standout from a grilled-cheese recipe contest we ran several years ago, this sandwich takes a little effort, but is so worth it. Every element—the beefy, tangy pastrami, the rich cheese, the caraway in the bread, and the tart-sweet marmalade—come together to make a taste sensation.
"I'm a novice in the kitchen and made this recipe with no trouble. It's easy enough for a beginner but beautiful enough for a special occasion. And it's delicious—a light and relatively healthy dessert," reported one reader. We couldn't have said it better.
Blue cheese with beef stew? Yes and yes! It’s an unusual combination that makes this recipe memorable—the cheese melts into and enhances the rich beefiness of the stew. We especially love it with mild, buttery gorgonzola.
Curried Red Kidney Beans and Cauliflower (Rajma Masala)
"This has become comfort food in our house," says Sunset production manager Margaret Sloan. "I love it because it's easy to make and has protein without having to have meat. But but mostly I love it because it's warm and spicy without being hot."
Each June, 20,000 to 25,000 people come to our Menlo Park, California campus for Celebration Weekend, a festival of food, wine, and all things related to the good life in the West. In 2007 we developed this blushed version of a classic margarita to serve at the event and it's been a favorite ever since.
For a fancy holiday roast, Western-style, we can think of no better recipe than this one. It’s very easy and yields knockout results—tender beef with a crunchy crust and a garlicky, herbaceous interior. (If you are sensitive to garlic, sauté it before spreading inside the beef—or omit altogether.)
A humble-seeming dish with only seven ingredients, this recipe nonetheless inspires rave reviews—and it's easy enough that you could have multiple pans going to feed a crowd. "I essentially catered a backyard dinner party for my mother, starring this chicken dish," reports our managing editor Alan Phinney; "she declared it the best meal she had ever had."
These large, perfect cakes are packed with sweet morsels of crab, and contain no bread whatsoever—just pure seafood. We also love them because they’re easy to shape and make ahead, so that you can brown them at the last minute.
If you're more of a soup person than a curry person when it comes to squash, this recipe has a lot of fans. "It is hearty and warm but not unhealthy, it's exotic but not overwhelming, spicy and sweet and absolutely perfect," says one reader.
With more online raves than any other recipe on Sunset.com, this homey, comforting casserole summons up the past in the best possible way. Everything about it is familiar and easy: tortillas layered with ground turkey, enchilada sauce, and seasonings, plus lots of cheese. We love it with ground beef, too.