This wide-ranging collection, with recipes from talented but little-known cooks as well as from culinary stars, gives context to the year in food. What's hot. What's not. Following, the ten brightest lights of this year's table.
1. Comeback of the Year: Cheese
Real cheese-with all its full-fat flavor-has become a course in itself.
2. Vegetable of the Year: Pumpkin
The meaty pumpkin, like a number of its fellow squashes, is showing up as a dignified and noble vegetable in risottos, gratins, flans, breads and pastas.
3. Fruit of the Year: Pomegranate
Cut one open crosswise and squeeze each half like an orange until the seed sacs release their addictive, tart-sweet red juice. Or in the few months when they are not in season, try bottled pomegranate molasses—the cooked-down essence of the fruit.
4. Herbs of the Year: Citrus Herbs
Meet the citrus family: kaffir limes leaves, lemon verbena and lemongrass. All three impart a clean, rejuvenating zip to entrees and desserts.
5. Spice of the Year: Cumin
Cumin adds a haunting, earthy flavor to the most mundane of foods. A major component of curry powder, cumin could be called the aromatherapy of this year's cuisine.
6. Condiment of the Year: Salt
First there was "salt." Now it's kosher salt, sea salt (fine and coarse), extravagantly priced fleur de sel and plain old iodized salt, mined from deep within the earth. Nothing can change the taste of food faster than salt. Try different salts to find the one that suits your taste.
7. Secret Ingredient of the Year: Coconut Milk
No doubt because of the proliferation of Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian restaurants across the country, America has discovered coconut milk. Buy plain, unsweetened coconut milk, not sweetened cream of coconut, which is used primarily for Island drinks.
8. Cooking Technique of the Year: Brining
Cooks fed up with dull, super-lean meat and poultry have turned to brining as a flavor and tenderizing aid.
9. Dessert of the Year: Panna Cotta
As we've moved on from crème brulee, panna cotta has become entrenched on dessert menus all over the country.
10. Gadget of the Year: Microplane Citrus Zester
It began life as a carpenter's rasp, intended for filing. Since then the Microplane has become the darling of cooks and revolutionized the once-onerous tasks of zesting and grating.
The Best American Recipes 1999
The Year's Top Picks from Books,
Magazines, Newspapers and the Internet
Series Editors: Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin
Houghton Mifflin Company, October 1999
Hardcover, $26.00, 228 pages
8 full-color photographs
Reprinted by permission.
This page created December 1999
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