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Ten Best

Our Favorite Recipes Of 1999

December 29, 1999

The Food Section publishes hundreds of recipes every year. At the end, we look back in hunger and vote on the dishes we'd most like to taste again. From tortilla soup and date squares to kimchi and ukoy, journey back with us to the tastiest moments of the year.

No.1

Staff writer Barbara Hansen visited a cooking class given by Jet Tila last March, and are we glad she did. Tila--short for Tilakamonkul--owns Bangkok Market in Los Angeles and is quite a whiz with food. (He's now an intern in the Times Test Kitchen, creating more recipes to run in our pages.) As Hansen wrote, he's good at demystifying Thai and other Asian ingredients, from kaffir (Thai) lime leaves to galangal, and makes them dance in a variety of dishes.

This soup, based on seasoned Thai-style chicken stock, is fairly simple. It has a slightly oily, reddened look, Hansen wrote, from chile paste with soybean oil. The paste has sugar, tamarind, garlic, shallots and dried shrimp. Tila suggests varying the soup by adding other seafood or vegetables such as bamboo shoots and baby corn. Add ramen or other noodles to make it a main dish.

Tom Yum Soup

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes * Low-Fat

Look for straw mushrooms, Thai chiles and Kaffir leaves at Asian markets.

4 cups Thai Chicken Broth

1/2 cup peeled shrimp

1 (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed

6 to 8 roasted dried Thai chiles

3 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons chile paste in soybean oil

2 to 4 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves

Cilantro sprigs

* Bring Thai Chicken Broth to simmer over medium-high heat in large pot. Add shrimp, mushrooms and chiles and cook until shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and chile paste. Garnish with lime leaves and cilantro.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 76 calories; 1,089 mg sodium; 22 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 0.59 gram fiber.

Thai Chicken Broth

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

Look for galangal and Kaffir leaves at Asian markets.

1 chicken carcass

8 to 10 cups water

3/4 to 1 cup thinly sliced galangal

6 stalks lemon grass, lower thick portion only, pounded

10 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves

* Place chicken carcass in Dutch oven. Add water, galangal and lemon grass. Roll lime leaves and crush lightly by hand, then add to pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes. Strain.

6 cups. Each cup: 20 calories; 580 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0 fiber.

No. 2

Times Test Kitchen Cook Mayi Brady regularly creates recipes for our Quick Fix and Second Helpings columns. When that far-away look in her eye turns to a glimmer, you know she has something good in mind. This spicy, filling soup by Brady was published as a Quick Fix in late July--prime swimsuit season, she noted--when you don't want to eat a lot but do want something satisfying. The way we put it away, bathing suit profiles didn't seem to matter.

Tortilla Soup

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes * Vegetarian

1 tablespoon oil

2 onions, sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 ear corn, husk and silk removed

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce, or more to taste

4 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth

1 avocado

1/4 pound Jack cheese, grated

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup tortilla strips

* Heat oil over medium-high heat, add onions and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add garlic, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, covered, 10 minutes.

* While onions and garlic cook, roast corn in dry skillet over high heat until slightly charred, turning so it does not burn, about 5 minutes. Cut kernels from cob and set aside.

* Add tomato paste and chipotle to onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to boil. Simmer 5 minutes.

* While soup simmers, chop avocado.

* Puree soup in blender. Divide cheese, avocado, cilantro, corn and tortilla strips among four bowls and ladle soup over top.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 300 calories; 1,713 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 29 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 2.36 grams fiber.

No. 3

Talk about a simple recipe. Talk about fabulous taste. Times Food Editor Russ Parsons wrote in June about the easy trick of steaming salmon in the oven, a technique he learned years ago from Paula Wolfert. Spring's wild salmon, which has a "rambunctious" taste, Parsons wrote, is ideal for this recipe. Yet any salmon filet will do; served with the cucumber salad, this dish is a natural for stress-free entertaining.

Oven-Steamed Salmon

Active Work Time: 5 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes * Easy

Parsons likes to serve the salmon whole; there's something about spooning it off the platter that emphasizes just how moist and rich it is. Feel free to experiment with accompaniments, he says. He likes the cucumber salad because of the way its cool green color and crisp texture complement the salmon.

1 (3-pound) salmon filet

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