Our Favorite Recipes of 2014
By Katie Finley
Pepper-Pepper Cheese Dip
We couldn’t stop going back for more of this creamy dip—a topping of bacon and pepper jelly is an unexpected twist on an old party favorite. It’s delicious both bubbling-hot and at room temperature, so it’s perfect to serve guests for a beachy brunch or screened-porch dinner.
- Recipe: Pepper-Pepper Cheese Dip
Grilled Swordfish with Chopped Greek Salad and Lemony Orzo
If you have qualms about cooking seafood, swordfish is the perfect place to start—the thick steaks won’t flake apart as easily as more delicate fillets. Topped with bright veggies and salty feta, and served on a bed of citrusy pasta, it’s a Mediterranean miracle that this complexly flavored but foolproof dinner goes from stovetop to table in just 35 minutes.
Raspberry Rhubarb Spritzers
A spin on the classic mimosa, this version combines fresh berries and a sweet surprise—rhubarb—for an effervescent sipper that’s brilliant for brunch or any happy hour. (It’s equally delicious with sparkling wine or sparkling water, the perfect bubbly for drinkers and nondrinkers alike!)
- Recipe: Raspberry Rhubarb Spritzers
Mini Beef Wellingtons
It’s scientific fact that everything tastes better in miniature. These petite pockets manage to pack in big flavor—the earthy beef and mushrooms Wellingtons are famous for, plus fragrant rosemary and a decadent swirl of creamy herb cheese, all wrapped in buttery, golden puff pastry. And because they’re small, you can have more than one! Or two … or three …
- Recipe: Mini Beef Wellingtons
Nut-crusted Key Lime Ice Cream Cupcakes
We made summer all that much sweeter with these zesty treats. Almonds give the classic graham cracker crust extra depth and crunch, and a full half cup of tangy lime juice means there’s a taste of Key West in every bite.
Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
Sometimes the simplest, homiest recipes are the best. This one hits all the right notes—crispy potatoes, sweet bell pepper, smoky pancetta, and creamy cheese, all baked until golden and bubbling. Best of all: You can make it ahead, so it’s ready when you are. What’s not to love?
- Recipe: Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
Turbot in Ginger-Garlic Broth
Don’t let the simplicity of this recipe fool you: We haven’t stopped talking about the aromatic broth all year. The layers of flavors—garlic, ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, chili sauce—infuse it with a richness that balances the light, flaky fish. You can substitute your favorite tender fillets, and it comes together super fast, making it just as great for a warm weeknight meal as it is elegant for company.
Recipe: Turbot in Ginger-Garlic Broth
These adorable shortbread cookies with the cheeky name can be formed into any shape you like, but they’re most fun in this fishy form. Bonus: not one, but two kinds of chocolate chips. Fintastic!
- Recipe: Fish-and-Chips Cookies
Crab Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Traditional macaroni and cheese is as straightforward as the name suggests: pasta plus sauce. That’s what makes it such an ideal blank canvas for artful additions. We love the sophisticated balance of sweet, mild peas and crabmeat with the assertive flavors of Brie and Gruyère. Bake until crisp and golden—the cheese will melt, and so will you.
- Recipe: Crab Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Steak Diane with Crispy Garlic Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Steak Diane has that sort of irresistible retro comfort feel, but this is not your average TV dinner. Thick New York strip steaks are seared over high heat in a cast iron skillet for a savory, peppery crust, and then topped with a velvety Dijon cream sauce. Meanwhile, the vegetables roast together on a baking sheet in the oven until tender and garlicky—no babysitting required. It’s festive and fancy enough for a holiday dinner, and it’s ready in 35 minutes.
Fresh Orange, Rosemary, and Sage Sparkling Wine Cocktail
We were feeling bubbly this year; sparkling cocktails topped our list twice. This one is a burst of freshness—fresh orange juice and fresh herbs—mixed with a splash of fruity Champagne and a hint of juniper from the gin. Every beach house bar needs a signature cocktail, and this citrusy, herbal marvel is just right for twilight by the shore.
Anchovy Cheese Wafers
Wait, come back! It’s time to forget everything you think you know about anchovies. These buttery crackers are crumbly bites of sharp cheese and briny olives, with the lingering brackish, nutty flavor of anchovies rounding out the flavor in the background. Serve them with wine or as an hors d’ouevre and you’re sure to get some looks of surprise—plus lots of raves.
- Recipe: Anchovy Cheese Wafers
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Pickle Juice Slaw
For sheer ease, this sandwich could easily have topped our list. Toss together your favorite BBQ sauce and tender shredded chicken, top with a boldly flavored slaw and crunchy pickle slices, and sandwich it all on pillowy brioche buns. Pack up some lemonade and potato chips (or the Carrot-Farro Salad on the next slide), and you have the perfect picnic meal. No muss, no fuss—just trust us. This one is going into regular rotation.
If you find yourself stuck in a pasta salad rut, this recipe is for you. Sometimes you just need a little inspiration from a Top Chef! Brooke Williamson shared this bright idea: Cook the farro in carrot juice for sweet, deep flavor. Whole grains, avocado, garlic, lemons, and radishes make this a California-style side dish with delicious flavors and textures you can enjoy and feel good about.
- Recipe: Carrot-Farro Salad
Prosciutto-and Provolone-stuffed Arancini
Here’s a dish that needs no introduction: tiny balls of luscious risotto, studded with smoky cheese and salty prosciutto, and fried until crisp and golden brown. Bet you can’t eat just one!
Double-Berry French Toast Casserole
With fresh berries, sugar, and (if you’re feeling naughty!) black raspberry liqueur mixed into a cream cheese filling between vanilla- and cinnamon-scented custardy French bread, this is a little like getting to have cheesecake for breakfast. What could be better than that?
If your mama always told you to eat your vegetables, this is definitely the way to do it. Thick cauliflower steaks get sprinkled with lemon-pepper seasoning, grilled until charred and tender, and then topped with bright capers for a simple side dish that’s anything but ordinary.
- Recipe: Grilled Cauliflower
Chicken Enchiladas with Spicy Jack Cheese Sauce
Enchiladas are a perennial crowd-pleaser, and they can be filled and topped in endless variations. We like this smoky, peppery version, which relies on the heat from jalapeños and poblanos, the warmth of ground cumin, and the tang of lime juice to bring a little something extra to the table.
Clams with Beer, Bacon, and Fennel
You’ll want to have plenty of crusty bread on hand to sop up this rich broth. It’s a feast of flavors—butter, dark beer, fennel, and the infusion of the sea from the clams. And of course there’s bacon, which helps to put this impressive dish right over the top.
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
3 bacon slices, diced
1½ cups sliced fennel bulb (about 1 large bulb)
8 tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup beer
3½ pounds littleneck clams or Manila clams, scrubbed
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 French baguette, halved and toasted
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 3 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Add fennel and 4 tablespoons butter; sauté 2 minutes.
2. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter, beer, and clams. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 10 minutes or until clams open. (Discard any that do not.) Sprinkle with parsley; serve with toasted baguette. Makes 8 servings.
Recipe courtesy of Brian Malarkey
Very Fudgy Brownies
A combination of bittersweet chocolate and semisweet chocolate make these brownies very fudgy, indeed. A snowfall of powdered sugar makes them a heartfelt gift for your sweetheart—or save them just for you!
- Recipe: Very Fudgy Brownies
Grilled Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Miso Drizzle and Sesame Jasmine Rice
Because the rice cooks while you prepare the steak and asparagus, this quick and simple dinner is ready in just a half hour. The flavors are intense but light, so it won’t weigh you down. And it utilizes lots of pantry staples, which makes it ideal for whipping up after a day on the beach.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
It’s hard to improve on the old-fashioned delight of mashed potatoes, but at taste testing (when it’s customary to take polite bites), we all went back for seconds of this creamy dish. Butter and sour cream make it perfectly decadent, and cookbook author Jennifer Trainer Thompson recommends experimenting with artisanal salt for a taste of the sea.
- Recipe: Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey
These poppable bites surprise in more ways than one: The unexpected pairing of chiles and honey creates a spicy-sweet counterpoint to the crispy panko and smooth goat cheese. It’s an appetizer worth celebrating!
- Recipe: Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey
Grilled Chocolate-Raspberry Dessert Sandwiches
Guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again, these ooey gooey delights are filled with rich, melty chocolate and sweet raspberry preserves. Sprinkle with sea salt for a little grown-up edge, or just put your elbows on the table, enjoy, and be prepared to lick your fingers!
Beer-battered Fish Tacos with Chipotle Crema
True confession—we would eat fish tacos just about any way they come. Grilled, fried, blackened, dolloped with guacamole, or dripping with hot sauce. But this year we found a new love: a happy marriage of lightly beer-battered fillets, coolly crisp cabbage, and a smoky-hot sour cream sauce with a touch of paprika and lime. Now that is living. Coastal living.