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Writers ferret out more great recipes

Duo search far and wide, do tests, then make their picks

SHARE Writers ferret out more great recipes

NEW YORK — A follow-up to a successful first collection, "The Best American Recipes 2000" (Houghton Mifflin, $26) is the result of wide-ranging research by writers Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin.

Their best-of-the-year picks were found in cookbooks, magazines, newspapers and the Internet, to name the more formal sources. They also read and tested recipes from press releases, handouts, newsletters and the backs of boxes, they say.

The recipes are as varied as the sources: fancy and plain, traditional or exotic. There are at least 140 dishes featured, plus variations, to take diners from starters through main courses to desserts and drinks, in a wide choice of styles.

They all have a place in the book, the editors say, because to their taste "the barriers between haute and earthy have all but disappeared."

"You wouldn't necessarily serve these radically different dishes in the same meal, but one can be dressed up and the other down so that they definitely belong in the same kitchen and fall into the category of favorite recipes you make over and over again."

A dish of Roasted Potato Crisps tastes brand new and goes with everything, they say. There are Christmas cookies because "we know there are never enough delicious Christmas cookies." There's Green Chile Cheese Puff, a delectable dinner you can make in nothing flat, and a "completely outrageous" Texas Lemon Bombe.

As they assembled the recipes, they took note of "recurring ingredients, techniques and general food manias that preoccupied the nation's cooks throughout the year." Here's how the year looked to them, in their summary of the top 10 trends:

— Comeback of the year: eggs.

— Addiction of the year: fried everything.

— Spice of the year: ginger, ginger, ginger!

— Novelty of the year: smoked Spanish paprika.

— Vegetable of the year: the potato.

— Technique of the year: slow roasting.

— Dessert of the year: anything chocolate.

— Fruit of the year: the quince.

— Drink of the year: beer.

— Gadget of the year: the Japanese mandolin.

BON APPETIT'S TRENDS — The editors of Bon Appetit offer "a delectable review of the past 12 months" in their survey of the year's most appealing trends.

The "best of the year" trends the magazine identifies in the January issue are lively signs of life in 2000. Their signposts include plenty of desserts, cocktail parties and a travel destination:

— Restaurant trend of the year: the bistro.

— Ingredient of the year: the sausage.

— Food trend of the year: meatless main courses.

— Dish of the year: sea bass.

— Cuisine of the year: Cuban sizzle.

— Dessert of the year: molten chocolate cake.

— Entertaining trend: cool cocktail parties.

— Destination of the year: Berlin.

— Best bread: focaccia.

— Best kitchen: eclectic.

Some of the trends, such as the profusion of inventive sausages, are not new, but their growth has registered until they've taken what seems to be permanent hold.

Expanding on the new popularity of sausages, food writer Michael McLaughlin, a regular contributor to the magazine, gives a fresh treatment to the hearty classic combination of sausage and lentils. He uses smoked kielbasa and a tangy mustard and fennel dressing in the following recipe:


1-pound package dried lentils

3 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup malt vinegar or apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons coarse-grained Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound fully cooked smoked kielbasa sausage, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened

1 large fennel bulb with fronds, bulb and fronds chopped and reserved separately

5 green onions, chopped

2 heads frisee lettuce or 1 large head curly endive, separated into leaves

Place lentils, carrots and celery in heavy, large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover. Stir in salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Transfer lentil mixture to bowl.

Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, mustard and sugar in small bowl to blend; set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add kielbasa and saute until brown, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels. Cover to keep warm.

Pour off any fat from skillet and discard. Add remaining 1/2 cup oil to skillet; heat over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic. Add fennel bulb to skillet and saute until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Whisk in vinegar mixture and bring to boil. Pour fennel mixture over lentils. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Line large shallow bowl with frisee leaves. Spoon in lentil salad. Arrange kielbasa slices on top of lentils. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds and serve. Makes 6 first-course or 4 main-course servings.