We, the editorial staff, are getting pretty good at predicting which pieces of web content you're going to like. Even before we post them on Facebook, we know that rankings and numbered lists are usually a hit; Lynne's taste-tests of canned tomatoes and chicken broths are evidence of this. We know you're going to like recipes that involve alcohol (see: Guadalajara Punch) and things to eat after you've consumed that alcohol (see: the Sussman brothers' collection).
Then again, some things are unexpected. When we dusted off an old interview about Nikolay Vavilov and Stalin-era farming practices, we underestimated your hunger for history. In retrospect, it has all the dramatic elements of a thriller: the KGB, hiding from Nazis, self-sacrifice, seed-saving. But I didn't see it coming. Proud of you for giving it a chance.
Here are some top-10 lists:
1. How to season a cast iron pan
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER - "After an initial scrub to remove rust, never again use steel wool. Never use soap nor put them in the dishwasher."
2. Fried Egg Sandwich
MAX and ELI SUSSMAN - "The kind of food that will make you close your eyes and exhale a hot cheesy jumble that sounds something like 'Oh my gah so freakin' good.'"
3. These are the best-tasting broths at the store
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER - "Which chicken broth should I use? I lined up nationally available brands found in most supermarkets and went to work with the can opener."
EMMA CHRISTENSEN - "The crispy shell crunches as you pull it open, releasing a puff of savory steam. Then you hit the middle: soft, eggy, and indecently cheesy."
5. The 6 best brands of canned tomatoes
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER - "The goal of this canned tomato tasting is to save you from that sort of disappointment."
6. Guadalajara Punch
LUCINDA HUTSON - "Throughout Jalisco, this refreshing drink is served in large, wide-mouthed clay bowls, called cazuelas."
7. Basic Green Soup
ANNA THOMAS - "This chard and spinach soup gets complex flavor from slowly cooked onions and lemon juice, while a sprinkle of rice gives it body and a velvety texture."
8. How seed collector Nikolay Vavilov died of starvation
GARY PAUL NABHAN - During the Siege of St. Petersburg in 1941, the staff locked themselves in the basement of a stodgy, old building with 370,000 seeds.
9. Oven-Roasted Sausages with Riesling, Apples and Pears
JOANNA WEIR - "A mixture of orange juice and wine is infused with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and anise seed, then poured over sautéed apples, pears, and sweet Italian sausage."
10. 3 tips for the home cook from Thomas Keller
"We always think of salt and pepper together. Pepper actually adds flavor or changes flavor. Salt enhances flavor."
But the percentage of our traffic that comes from Facebook is still modest, which is why the list above overlaps only slightly with the overall most popular content on the site. More of you come directly to our home page or have bookmarked your favorite recipes. Still more find our archived content via Google searches. Which is why many of our top recipes and interviews of 2013 were first published before 2013. The margherita pizza and creme fraiche, for example, have been our Nos. 1 and 2 for several years running. (They're both delicious.) ((But not together.)) (((Actually, probably also together.)))
1. Classic Pizza Margherita
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER - "Because of the extra-thin crust and spare toppings, these pizzas actually reheat remarkably well, so cooking ahead by several hours is an option."
2. Homemade Creme Fraiche
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER - "France's favorite form of cream for cooking. With more body and complex flavors than fresh sweet cream, creme fraiche is a thick, rich custard."
3. Basic Green Soup
ANNA THOMAS - "Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, if desired."
4. Homemade Nutella
CHRISTIE MATHESON - "I've been known to eat it with a spoon, as anyone else who's honest will admit to doing."
5. Best Ever Barbecued Ribs
BON APPETIT - "This go-to recipe embraces our "oven-cheat" method -- a technique that'll get you ultra-tender meat without spending 12 hours manning a smoker."
6. Greek-Style Green Beans
CRESCENT DRAGONWAGON - "The traditional Greek recipes use as much as 3/4 cup of olive oil -- too much for me. The few tablespoons here allow the green beans to caramelize."
7. Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
CHARLES PHAN - "The trick is to add a little bit of each [garnish] as you eat your way through the bowl, not to dump them in all at once."
8. Chocolate Heaven with Chocolate Buttercream
CHERYL DAY - "The Scharffen Berger chocolate we use at the bakery puts a new spin on a nostalgic cake, and a hint of strong coffee adds another flavor dimension."
LIZ GUTMAN and JEN KING - "Remember those little mints by the door at that restaurant you like? No, not that restaurant -- the nice-but-not-NICE-nice one."
10. Curing Your Own Bacon
KAREN SOLOMON - "In this recipe, I offer three ways to smoke the bacon. If you go the liquid smoke route, use only the real stuff: fake liquid smoke has an unappealing chemical taste."
1. What EVOO means, and who in the olive oil industry abides
TOM MUELLER - "The bar for extra virgin olive oil qualities is fairly low. The law essentially says that it has to remind you in odor or in taste of fresh olives."
2. How to make homemade mustard
NOELLE CARTER - "The easiest way to do it is soak the seeds first and then grind. You can grind them in a food processor and it's so much easier."
3. One reporter's lesson from working at Walmart
TRACIE MCMILLAN - "I spent a shift one day throwing out about 200 pounds of asparagus that had molded and rotted in the cooler and hadn't been rotated out."
4. How to make homemade tofu
ANDREA NGUYEN - "Why make tofu yourself? Because you want to experience it at its peak -- freshly made, creamy, and subtly sweet. It's as precious as homemade bread."
5. Nigella Lawson refuses to be airbrushed into a 'plastic creation'
"There's only so long I can hold my tummy in without breathing. I wouldn't want to have to pretend to be something I'm not just for my own anxiety levels."
6. The 7 flavor categories of beer: What they are, how to pair them
GREG ENGERT - His profiling system separates beer into seven categories -- crisp, hop, malt, roast, smoke, fruit and spice, and tart and funky.
7. Quark: It's easy to make this two-ingredient cheese at home
NOELLE CARTER - "It doesn't get any simpler than that. Even I could do it and I'm so intimidated by the whole thought of making cheese."
8. 10 ways to flavor whipped cream
ALICE MEDRICH - "It loses its marvelous neutral character and becomes a flavor component in its own right, and sometimes that is exactly what you want."
9. 3 tips for the home cook from Thomas Keller
"Season your food by holding your hand up rather high, having the salt between your fingers and letting it fall. As it falls through the air, it's dispersed evenly over the piece of meat."
10. The 6 best brands of canned tomatoes
LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER - "The canned tomato we're looking for is rich with layer upon layer of come-hither tastes, and has a delicious teetering between sweet and acid."
The idea of inviting authors onto the program is twofold: [a] They're experts in their narrow niches of the food community and you get to hear from the very best, and [b] We take the thousands of cookbooks and volumes of food research published each year and whittle it down to a set of manageable recommendations. You fill out your kitchen shelves, you buy holiday gifts, and we hope you like them as much as we do. But the list below is not to be confused with the 2013 staff book picks. The list below is from you, voting with your purchases on Amazon.
1. Eating on the Wild Side
JO ROBINSON - [interview] "The Golden Delicious apple is a 100-year-old heirloom, but it is so low in phytonutrients and high in sugar that it can increase your triglycerides."
YOTAM OTTOLENGHI - Recipe from the book: Grape Leaf Herb and Yogurt Pie
3. Cooking Slow
ANDREW SCHLOSS - Recipe from the book: Carrots Slow-Baked on Coffee Beans
4. Real Snacks
LARA FERRONI - Recipes from the book: Corn Chip Strips, Crunchy Cheese Puffs
5. The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
GRIFFITH DAY and CHERYL DAY - Recipe from the book: Bourbon Pecan Pie
6. All About Roasting
MOLLY STEVENS - [interview] "The salt is hygroscopic, meaning it hugs water. It is going to hug the juices that are already in that chicken and make it stay juicier as you roast it."
7. Saving the Season
KEVIN WEST - [interview] "Everyone worries that they're going to kill their friends and family with botulism." Recipe: Peach Jam
8. The Art of Fermentation
SANDOR ELLIX KATZ - Excerpt from the book: Making Kombucha. "Kombucha is usually just sugar-sweetened tea, fermented by a specific community of bacteria and yeasts."
9. One Good Dish
DAVID TANIS - Recipe from the book: Scorched Sweet Peppers and Onions
10. Indian Cooking Unfolded
RAGHAVAN IYER - "First of all, curry powder ain't Indian food." Iyer's Key 3 recipes: Smoky Yellow Split Peas, Sweet-Scented Pilaf and Indian Slaw.
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