Here are our food editor’s top 10 recipes of 2019

These are the dishes we keep coming back to.
Crispy Parmesan Waffles, with a side of egg
Crispy Parmesan Waffles, with a side of egg [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Dec. 31, 2019

The true test of how much I like a recipe is how many times I return to it. So when I set out to compile my 10 favorite recipes published in this column throughout 2019, I thought back to the dishes I’ve made most this year.

Near the top has got to be Crispy Parmesan Waffles, inspired by a recipe in Chrissy Teigen’s second cookbook, and far and away my new favorite way to make waffles. There’s the Almond Date Mix, a snack I’ve made for many gatherings at our house; if I don’t grab a handful when I first set it out, it’s usually gone before I can get back to it. Marinated Zucchini With Fresh Herbs is the dish I’ve made most for myself, a wonderfully simple dish packed with flavor that is good as a side item, a bigger meal or a solo weeknight dinner.

Here are the recipes I’m still making and thinking about at the end of the year. And here’s to more culinary goodness in 2020.

Crispy Parmesan Waffles

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling


1 ¼ cups buttermilk

3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for brushing the waffle iron

1 large egg

1 ½ cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to warm, or as low as it will go.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter and egg until incorporated. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk until just incorporated, then whisk in the Parmesan.

Heat a standard waffle iron. Brush with some melted butter and make the waffles, using ½ cup batter per waffle. Cook according to the waffle iron’s directions or until the top and bottom are crisp and deep brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the waffle from the iron and set aside.

Drizzle with syrup and sprinkle with a little more Parmesan and pepper. Leftover waffles and syrup can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 3 days.

Source: Adapted from Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen

Click here for the recipe.

Almond Date Mix

Almond date mix
Almond date mix [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]

1 cup raw almonds

8 pitted Medjool dates, cut or torn into chunky pieces

4 wide strips orange peel

2 sprigs rosemary

Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

Olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine almonds, dates torn into chunky pieces, orange peel, rosemary, crushed red pepper flakes and a large pinch of kosher salt in a small heatproof skillet. Add enough olive oil to very generously coat the nuts and dates. Give it all a stir.

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Transfer skillet to the oven and roast until nuts are deep golden brown in the center, dates are chewy and starting to caramelize and the orange zest has curled and started to crisp around the edges, about 20 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit

Click here for the recipe.

Roasted Buttery Squash

Roasted acorn squash
Roasted acorn squash [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]

2 acorn squash, or 1 small butternut squash

4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Fresh thyme leaves, about a handful

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the squash, then dry with a towel. Cut squash in half lengthwise, then slice into ½-inch-thick half-moons. Don’t remove the seeds; they’ll get nice and crispy in the oven.

Place the half-moons on a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with a large pinch of salt. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip squash and roast for another 15. At this point, check for doneness. Squash should be tender when pierced with a fork and nicely browned on all sides. If not, keep cooking.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add butter, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric. Microwave in 30-second increments until butter has melted. Stir well.

Remove squash from oven to a serving platter and drizzle butter mixture over top. Scatter fresh thyme leaves over top. Serve.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Click here for the recipe.

Marinated Zucchini With Fresh Herbs

Marinated zucchini
Marinated zucchini [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]

3 medium yellow squash or zucchini, cut in half lengthwise

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for serving

¼ cup blanched hazelnuts or almonds

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling

1 small bunch mint, divided

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

¾ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

½ lemon

½ cup ricotta cheese

Flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss squash and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt in a colander; set over a bowl. Let sit 10 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels.

Toss hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon oil on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, shaking occasionally, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool; crush into large pieces with a measuring cup or glass.

Smack 3 mint sprigs against your cutting board a few times to release their flavor; mix in a large bowl with garlic, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons oil; set dressing aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high until shimmering. Arrange squash cut side down in skillet, breaking into smaller pieces if needed in order to fit in a single layer, and cook, moving around in pan to ensure even browning, until golden brown on cut side, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and continue to cook until very tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly.

Cut squash into 2-inch pieces and toss in reserved dressing to coat; season with kosher salt and black pepper. Let sit at room temperature, tossing occasionally, 15 minutes. Pluck out mint sprigs; discard.

Meanwhile, zest lemon half into a small bowl and mix in ricotta and remaining 1 tablespoon oil; season with kosher salt.

Spread lemon ricotta over platter. Top with squash and their juices. Squeeze reserved lemon over. Pull leaves from remaining mint sprigs (you want about ¼ cup). Scatter mint and hazelnuts over squash. Drizzle generously with oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit

Click here for the recipe.

Olive Oil Cake With Fruit

Olive oil cake with nectarines.
Olive oil cake with nectarines. [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]

4 ripe nectarines (or apples or pears)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon allspice

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cup olive oil, divided, plus more for pan and drizzling

Powdered sugar, for serving

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Whipped cream, for serving

If using nectarines: Pit and roughly chop 2 nectarines. Puree in a blender or food processor with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice until smooth. Set mixture aside.

If using apples or pears: Peel and roughly chop 2 apples or pears. Add to a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the apples or pears have started to soften. They should be fork tender, but not mushy. When ready, remove from the heat, let cool for a couple of minutes, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch round cake pan with oil.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.

Whisk granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually add ½ cup oil. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, whisking until evenly incorporated. (Batter will be thick.) Fold in fruit puree and pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until cake is golden and pulls away from sides of pan, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely. (Cake can be made up to 2 days in advance. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature.)

To serve, dust cake with powdered sugar. Slice remaining 2 pieces of fruit and toss with flaky salt and remaining ¼ cup oil. Serve cake with a drizzle of oil, whipped cream, if you desire, and fruit.

Source: Adapted from Real Simple

Click here for the recipe.

Grapefruit, Avocado and Pistachio Salad

Grapefruit, avocado and pistachio salad. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.
Grapefruit, avocado and pistachio salad. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.

For the salad:

1 medium grapefruit

1 medium avocado

2 ounces goat cheese

½ cup pistachios, shelled



Handful fresh mint, roughly chopped or torn

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

¼ cup olive oil

Make the salad: Cut off both ends of the grapefruit, so you have two flat ends. Stand the grapefruit up on one of the flat ends, then, starting at the top end, run a sharp knife between the pink grapefruit flesh and the peel to remove the peel. Work in sections until grapefruit is peeled.

Then, roughly chop grapefruit into bite-sized chunks. Transfer chunks to a medium bowl, along with any accumulated juices.

Cut avocado in half, remove the pit, then score one half of the avocado with a sharp knife, first vertically down the length of the avocado half, then horizontally, creating cubes. Over the bowl with the grapefruit, squeeze the avocado flesh a bit to loosen cubes off the peel and into the bowl. Repeat with remaining avocado half.

Stir grapefruit and avocado together, then transfer to serving plates or keep in the bowl. Crumble goat cheese on top, then roughly chop pistachios and scatter on top as well. Season salad with salt and pepper.

Make the dressing: Combine ingredients in a bowl with a lid or a mason jar with a lid. Cover with lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Add as much to salad as you'd like. Garnish with fresh mint and serve.

Serves 2.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Click here for the recipe.

Short Rib Bucatini

Short Rib Bucatini. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.
Short Rib Bucatini. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor.

Olive oil

2 to 4 whole beef short ribs



4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

1 ½ cups chicken stock or broth

8 to 16 ounces bucatini pasta, or spaghetti

½ cup ricotta cheese

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Handful fresh basil, chopped, for serving

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high to high heat. Sprinkle short ribs with salt and pepper. Brown short ribs in oil, about 1 ½ or 2 minutes per side.

Lower the heat and add garlic. Stir to cook for a minute or two, then add tomatoes and stir to combine. Add about ½ cup chicken stock or broth and bring mixture to a low boil.

Lower to a simmer, cover pot and cook for at least 1 ½ and up to 4 hours. Make sure the ribs are nice and submerged in the sauce.

If you're using stew meat, everything stays the same except you'll only need to cook the meat for about an hour.

About halfway through the cooking process, add 1 cup chicken broth or stock and stir.

After 1 ½ hours, remove lid from short rib pot and continue cooking. Begin preparing the rest of the meal.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Remove short ribs from pot and remove meat from bone. (You'll know the short ribs are ready when they are tender and falling off the bone.) Add meat to skillet and cook for about 1 minute, just to get a nice sear on the pieces of meat.

Leave short rib pot on the heat so the remaining tomato mixture continues to cook and thicken up. Scoop about ½ cup of the sauce and add to skillet with short ribs. Add ½ cup reserved pasta water and ricotta cheese. Stir gently to incorporate ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

Add two servings cooked pasta to the skillet, gently tossing to coat the pasta with the sauce mixture. Add more tomato sauce and pasta water as you see fit. If you like it really saucy, add a lot. If you don't, you can stop here.

Divide pasta between two serving dishes, then top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil.

Serves 2 to 4.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Click here for the recipe.

Creamy Green Smoothie

1 red apple

Piece of fresh ginger

1 ½ cups kale

1 lemon

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons peanut butter

½ cup cold water

Flax and chia seeds, optional

Roughly chop apple and add to a blender or smoothiemaker.

Peel and grate ginger, then add a pinch to blender.

Remove kale leaves from the hard ribs, then roughly chop. Add to blender.

Cut lemon in half, then squeeze one half into blender.

Add yogurt, peanut butter and water. Blend on high for a couple of minutes until very smooth. Pour into a serving glass, then top with flax or chia seeds if you'd like.

This smoothie is really freezer-friendly. You can add all the ingredients except the yogurt and water to a zip-top bag, then freeze.

When ready to make, empty contents into a blender. Add yogurt and water, blend as usual and serve.

Makes 1 large smoothie.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Click here for the recipe.

Tomato-Poached Fish

Tomato-poached fish. [MICHELLE STARK   |   Times]
Tomato-poached fish. [MICHELLE STARK | Times] [ Times (2019) ]

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 small shallot, thinly sliced into rings

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound small, sweet tomatoes, halved

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

1 ¼ pounds fluke, halibut or cod, cut into 4 equal pieces

1 cup cilantro, tender leaves and stems

½ cup mint, tender leaves and stems

Limes, halved, for serving

Tortillas, toast or rice, for serving (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet (use one with a lid) over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook, swirling the skillet constantly until they are starting to toast and turn light golden brown, 2 minutes or so. Add red pepper flakes and swirl to toast for a few seconds. Remove from heat and transfer all but 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture to a small bowl.

Add tomatoes to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the tomatoes burst and start to become saucy and jammy, 5 to 8 minutes. Add fish sauce (if using) and 1 ½ cups water, swirling to release any of the bits stuck on the bottom of the skillet.

Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened but still nice and brothy, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and gently lay the pieces in the brothy tomatoes. Cover the skillet and cook until the fish is opaque and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes (slightly longer for a thicker piece of fish, like halibut).

To serve, transfer fish and brothy tomatoes to a large shallow bowl (or divide among four bowls). Drizzle with reserved bowl of chile oil, more olive oil and the crispy shallots and garlic. Top with cilantro and mint and serve with limes for squeezing over the top. Serve with tortillas, toast or rice, if you like.

Source: Alison Roman

Click here for the recipe.

Cauliflower and Cannellini Beans With Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs

Cauliflower and Cannellini Beans with Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food and Lifestyle Editor.
Cauliflower and Cannellini Beans with Pumpernickel Bread Crumbs. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food and Lifestyle Editor.

1 head cauliflower

Olive oil



3 to 4 slices pumpernickel bread

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can cannellini beans

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or broth)

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Half of 1 lemon

¼ cup shelled pistachios, for serving

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Chop cauliflower into florets, then toss on a baking sheet with a couple of drizzles of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast for about 20 minutes, until cauliflower is slightly browned and pretty soft. It doesn't need to be cooked all the way through, but most of the way.

Remove cauliflower from oven and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Place pumpernickel bread slices on baking sheet, lower oven to 350 degrees and cook for about 10 minutes until well toasted but not burned.

Remove from oven, let cool for a few moments, then place in a food processor. Turn on food processor and let it go until bread has been reduced to crumbs. A couple of larger chunks are okay, but you want mostly crumbs.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil and the garlic. Cook for a minute or so, then add cannellini beans and season well with salt and pepper. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes, then stir and mash some of the beans lightly with your spoon.

Add stock and reserved cauliflower and let cook for another 10 minutes.

While that's cooking, add bread crumbs to a nonstick skillet with butter and season with salt, pepper and caraway seeds. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until bread crumbs are coated with butter and seasonings and become fragrant. Turn off heat, but keep warm.

Add Parmesan to skillet with beans and cauliflower. Mixture should not be dry, but kind of creamy from the stock. If pan is dry, add more stock or even water.

Stir to melt cheese slightly, then squeeze lemon over mixture and stir once. Divide mixture among serving plates and top with pistachios, parsley and more Parmesan cheese. And, of course, your bread crumbs.

Serves 2 to 4, depending on hunger level.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Click here for the recipe.