Our Favorite Recipes of 2015
Mini Crab Melts
We admit it: These are pretty sinful. But the decadent mixture of mayo, cheese, and crabmeat is absolutely worth a couple of extra strolls down the sand. Juicy tomato slices and the crunch of red onion balance the richness; lemon zest and fresh dill lend a bright, citrusy finish. This recipe serves eight, with the idea that your beach house guests can enjoy two mini melts apiece, so take it from us: make double!
- Recipe: Mini Crab Melts
Lobster Mac and Cheese
We’d venture to guess there’s hardly an adult in the world who hasn’t gotten caught sneaking bites of macaroni and cheese off the kids’ plates. That rich, satisfying combination of pasta and creamy sauce just isn’t something we’re meant to outgrow. So we took mac and cheese off the “guilty pleasures” list for good with some very grown-up ideas: nutty Gruyère and sharp white Cheddar, a whisper of saffron, and luxurious lobster tail. A buttery panko topping gets crisp and golden brown under the broiler, and you get to be a kid again in the best possible way.
- Recipe: Lobster Mac and Cheese
Curried Mussel Soup with Lime Slaw
After a long day in the sand and sun, mussels are a true gift to beach house kitchens—they take only about five to 10 minutes to steam. That means this intensely flavored dinner goes on the table in less than a half hour. (Quick tip: Keep mussels on ice in an open bag or bowl in the refrigerator, and drain often to prevent them from drowning in the freshwater.) The lime-dressed cabbage slaw adds crunch and cuts through the creamy coconut milk and curry; a glug of dry white wine gives the broth depth and rounds out the flavors. Serve with knobs of crunchy bread for sopping up the delicious soup.
Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Summer Salad
With the smoky flavors of the grill, the cool, crisp greens, and the vibrant colors of tomatoes, corn, and avocado, this salad is pure happiness in a bowl. A light balsamic vinaigrette carries the flavors of honey and mustard, but doesn’t overpower the vegetables or weigh down the dish. Work this recipe into heavy rotation any time of year—no matter the season, this one is pure summer on a plate.
Crostini with Avocado, Crab, and Flake Salt
When we sat down to think about our 25 Things Every Coastal Cook Should Know feature in the October 2015 issue (our first food issue!), we knew that at the beach, easy entertaining is key. Our three crostini recipes—we also topped the golden, toasted bread with jerk shrimp and pineapple chutney, and smoked salmon, dill, and cucumber—were meant to be fast, easy, tasty, and memorable. This flavor profile, with creamy avocado, big lump crab, and flakes of salt, was one of our favorites. And it’s ready in 20 minutes, which means when the screened porch starts to fill with sunset-watchers, you can uncork the wine, put out the platters, and pat yourself on the back.
Tomato–Red Pepper Gazpacho with Fresh Vegetable Medley
We all agree that this may be a top contender for one of the loveliest dishes we served up in 2015. The even better news? It’s absolutely delicious, to boot. A blender does most of the work for making the soup—a quick poach makes the tomatoes easy to peel, but the vegetables are otherwise raw, which helps their inherent fresh flavors to star. The Fresh Vegetable Medley works in all manner of applications. It’s a mouthwatering topping for the soup, but it also makes a delicious mild salsa, filling for omelets, or relish atop simply pan-seared fish fillets.
South-of-the-Border Crab Boil
Our October issue celebrated all of the best food that the coast has to offer, and we wanted to give special attention to stone crab season, which opens in the middle of that month. The meaty claws are as delicious as they are beautiful, and they are best served with minimal fanfare—spread some newspaper on the table, pour out the hot seafood, sausage, corn, potatoes, and peppers, and encourage everyone to get messy! Don’t forget plenty of lime wedges and lots of napkins.
Foolproof Key Lime Pie
When it came time to develop our ultimate Key lime pie recipe, we couldn’t help but notice that when tasting time came around, slices kept disappearing. There’s something just completely irresistible about the creamy filling and crumbly crust that gives people sticky fingers! One thing we knew for sure: no frills, no fancy garnishes, no reinventing the wheel was necessary here. We just let the Key limes take center stage, and the forks came running. While it may not last long on the table, we think this one will be in our recipe repertoire for many years to come.
- Recipe: Foolproof Key Lime Pie
Chipotle Black Bean Burgers with Fried Egg and Avocado
The beach and burgers go together like piña coladas and tiny umbrellas, so we were delighted to create a twist on an all-time favorite. Black beans form the base, so it’s great for vegetarians; cumin and smoky chipotle add heft and meatiness, so carnivores will love it just as well. Most bean burgers are bound with breadcrumbs; our test kitchen professionals stirred in crushed tortilla chips for extra flavor and texture. Avocado, mayo, and a fried egg put this one right over the top.
Broiled Oysters with Buttery "Dressing" Topping
There’s no denying the basic, elemental goodness of a raw oyster. But if you must gild the lily (and we must!), this is the way to do it. A mixture of melted butter, fresh breadcrumbs, herbs, and lemon blanket the oysters before being broiled until heated through, crispy, and golden brown.
You can’t really go overboard when extolling the virtues of a good sandwich; the value of delicious fillings between two pieces of bread just isn’t something that can be overestimated. When those fillings are pork tenderloin scented with coriander and allspice, salty ham, creamy Swiss, crisp dill pickles, and a jaunty smear of ballpark mustard, you have a sandwich worthy of a whole nation of passionate people. Any sturdy bread works here, but it’s worth a visit to your local market or grocery store for a Cuban loaf—bakers add a touch of shortening or lard to the dough that gives it a softness and flakiness just right for a quintessential Cubano.
- Recipe: Cuban Sandwich
Cranberry-Orange Tart with Browned Butter Crust
Expect gasps when you deliver this one to the table. Sugared cranberries mounded atop a sweet orange custardy filling make it almost too pretty to cut into—but your guests won’t let you get away with that! Browned butter gives the flaky crust an extra layer of flavor, for a dessert that’s anything but ordinary.
Grilled White Pizza with Clams and Bacon
The brilliant minds in the Coastal Living test kitchen developed this recipe and all of its genius—thin and crispy crust, briny shellfish, two layers of melty cheese—as an ode to a pie they’d tasted on the Rhode Island coast. A bright, citrusy, gremolata-style parsley topping felt like a revelation, until we took a bite and discovered, oh yes. BACON. Now that’s amore.
Caribbean Fish Stew
Caribbean food does not have a reputation for shyness—it’s that rush of sweet and jolt of heat best served on a sea wall, with a sweating, ice-cold beer tucked between your suntanned knees. For channeling that under-the-swaying-palm-trees feeling, this stew hits all the right notes: Aromas of coconut, lime, and red pepper, plus a full pound and a half of the freshest fish you can find, will carry you away to the Caribbean and put a hearty lunch or comforting dinner on the table in 30 minutes.
- Recipe: Caribbean Fish Stew
Veggie Spring Rolls with Cashew-Ginger Dipping Sauce
This may be the best way we’ve found to eat our vegetables. The delicate rice paper wrappers allow a rainbow of pretty produce—Napa cabbage, carrots, red bell pepper, and a king’s ransom of fresh herbs—to shine through. It’s a light and elegant finger food that feels perfectly at home in coastal kitchens, but keep an eye on that dipping sauce. Cashew butter, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, dried crushed red pepper, and soy sauce are a combination of salty + earthy + sweet + spicy + umami that will have friends and family begging for the recipe. (We were dreaming up ways to put it on everything.)
The Best-Ever Crab Cakes
There are few coastal cuisine debates as hotly contested as the crab cake. Breaded or no? Filler or all-crab? Wade into the tide of opinions and you’re likely to get an earful from all sides! Luckily for us, we have yet to meet a crab cake we don’t like, and we’re happy that all of those regional differences just mean more varieties to try! We named this one our best-ever because it’s a cinch to make, holds together in the pan for easy flipping and browning, and comes together with a handful of pantry staples and loads of sweet, sweet seafood. No one can be crabby about that!
Bánh Mì Rice Salad
It’s hard to improve on the bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich with a little French flair, but we think this salad does the job. Whole grains and a complexly flavored dressing made from fish sauce and a little sugar stand in for the baguette and mayo, making this a recipe beach bodies can feel good about. Serve the warm pork alongside cool cucumber, spicy jalapeño, and bright pickled vegetables, and then pack up leftovers in small containers (the flavors only deepen as they sit) for a cold picnic lunch on the sand the following day.
- Recipe: Bánh Mì Rice Salad
Contributing Seafood Editor Barton Seaver makes it his business to know—and taste—all the bounty of our seas. This dish makes use of his time on coasts both at home in Maine and farther afield, in this case from Spanish shorelines. Rossejat (pronounced rose-ay-YACHT), a sort of pasta-based spin on paella (what a good idea), gives toasted spaghetti noodles time to slowly take on the broth, which Seaver flavors with bay leaves, white wine, and—naturally—Maine lobsters. A garlicky aïoli adds creaminess and a background bite from the sherry vinegar, all brightened up with tart lemons and fresh chives.
Ginger-Pumpkin Trifle with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
Never have we discovered a dessert so simultaneously impressive and easy. Layers of pumpkin mousse, vanilla mascarpone cream, and coffee-spiked gingerbread cookies go into the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving, freeing you up for more pressing matters. Like a glass of wine in the sea breeze, perhaps?
Citrusy Seafood Salad
If there were a formula for the perfect beach house meal, this might be it: seafood, citrus, herbs, honey. This recipe was designed to work equally well with whatever fresh seafood is available at your market, making it sustainability-friendly, foolproof, and, of course, delicious. Oh, and bonus? Ready in 15 minutes.
Grilled Clams with White Wine–Garlic Butter
As the clams start grilling and their little juices start flowing, you remove them with tongs and pour the clam juice into foamy garlic butter. Is there any better formula for happiness than that?
Hazelnut, Rosemary, and Plum Linzer Cookies
Rosemary in a cookie? Yes. The piney herb amplifies the flavor of the plum preserves and provides an evergreen aroma that speaks unmistakably of the holidays. Hazelnut meal gives the cookies a nutty flavor and buttery, crumbly texture; a dusting of powdered sugar balances the savory notes. We love them paired with the effervescence of our Rosy Apple Sparkler—a perfect toast to your superior baking skills.
Warm Kale Salad with Mussels and Bacon
The beauty of the beach is the sense of balance you find in being at the place where land meets water. And so it is with salads: into every bowl of kale, a little bacon must fall! This version is drizzled with hot dressing and served warm, so that the hearty greens just wilt and provide bright contrast to the meaty mussels, crispy bacon, and oniony chives. And that’s all there is to it! Simple and delicious … what could be better than that?
Avocado Gazpacho with Sourdough Croutons
Kermit wasn’t totally right: Sometimes it is easy being green. Here we balanced rich, creamy avocado with crisp, light cucumber for a cool gazpacho that’s a surprise in every spoonful. A little bite from just a hint of raw garlic and the tang of lime juice and Greek yogurt wake up the smooth soup, which comes together fast with just a whirl of the blender. After that it’s into the refrigerator to cool, at which point you’ll just have to try not to snack on all those buttery Sourdough Croutons!
Roast Vegetable Tuna Salad
It might have been a surprise to see our contributing seafood editor singing the praises of canned tuna, but he has good reason to recommend it: It can be simple and sustainable, and the environmentally friendly varieties he suggests (Henry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood, Wild Planet, and Pole & Line) are delicious. For this salad he takes inspiration from the French Niçoise, with roasted vegetables, a mustard vinaigrette, and peppery watercress.