The fortunes of recipes considered for publication rise and fall when put to the test in The Seattle Times kitchen. It's here that we get immediate feedback from our tasters. For instance, puzzled looks...

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The fortunes of recipes considered for publication rise and fall when put to the test in The Seattle Times kitchen. It’s here that we get immediate feedback from our tasters. For instance, puzzled looks and a scanty pile of scorecards are clear signs a recipe needs lots more work. But when folks taste a special dish, they tend to linger in the kitchen, hoping for second helpings. The stack of scorecards scribbled with enthusiastic responses grows, and the recipe will likely be a contender for our annual top-10 list.

And when readers respond in numbers to a recipe or story, that is our clearest signal of success. Looking back at 2003, no other story struck a chord quite like “Simpler times, remembered,” which ran May 14. Inspired by a chance discovery of two faded Dorothy Neighbors recipe-contest sections from the 1950s, we took a nostalgic look at The Seattle Times recipe file, with dishes dating back to the ’30s. One of the recipes, Mrs. Richie’s Hot Crab Soufflé, won a $500 grand prize in 1954, and our testers still gave it equally high marks today.

Our Cooking School series is aimed at readers who are interested in cooking, but who lack knowledge and confidence in the kitchen (although even experienced cooks need to occasionally brush up on techniques). This past summer, we published a three-part series on canning. Is it a lost art? From your responses, apparently not. Home gardens yielded a bumper crop of tomatoes in August, and jars of tangy Tomato Salsa were a tantalizing payoff.

Tomato Salsa

Did you know that ‘not all pounds are created equal’? On Oct. 8, another Cooking School entree provided readers with a guideline charting the difference in pound measurements between, for instance, powdered and brown sugars. Vegetable Tiella, with its savory layers of spinach, zucchini and potatoes slowly baked under a blanket of marinara sauce, was one of the recipes published that day. (You can find the entire cooking school series at

Cauliflower is an overlooked and misunderstood vegetable. If cooked too long, its flavor dominates other ingredients. But when quickly blanched and sautéed in olive oil with capers, garlic and sweet peppers, it becomes lush and irresistible. Mediterranean Cauliflower was featured March 12, and it was our favorite vegetable preparation this year.

Stir-Fried Pork with Mustard Greens
Greens are experiencing a bit of a renaissance. So Providence Cicero, a lifelong fan, sought out the best ways to cook them down and dress them up. From chard to lacinato kale, the primer featured tips from chefs and greengrocers. Stir-fried Pork with Mustard Greens is a quick-to-fix dish, first published Feb. 26, that’s sure to warm up winter nights.

Sweet potatoes aren’t just for Thanksgiving buffets. They’re too good to be confined to one annual appearance. When the various varieties arrived in October markets, we were enticed by the differences in color, texture and flavor. Simply bake them in their jackets, or serve up Chicken Chili with Sweet Potato Biscuit Topping. The hearty stew is laced with spicy chorizo and jalapeños and topped with cheddary biscuits.

Spicey Carrot Purée with Garlic Yogurt

Move over tapas, and make space on the table for Greek mezethes. The meze table highlights a mix of light, seasonal dishes that are often made ahead. Spicy Carrot Purée with Garlic Yogurt, featured July 20, sounds unusual, but our tasters loved the freshness of the carrots spiced with cumin and caraway seeds. Set off with the tangy, garlicky sauce and crisp toasted pita wedges, the recipe is a wonderful first course or appetizer.

Over-fishing and environmental concerns are changing the seafood industry. On April 9, Judith Blake addressed the “good fish, bad fish” conundrum with the latest information on sustainability. Recommendations for the best choices for seafood buyers were part of the package, and Thai Steamed Halibut, sparkling with cilantro, lime and ginger, fit the bill.

A relatively dry winter didn’t discourage readers from dipping into the mud — Chocolate Mudpie Cookies, that is. But you had a question: Could ¼ cup flour really be a correct measurement? Yep, and the cookies will be a delicious antidote to this year’s rainy season. (The recipe was published Feb. 19.)

Washington leads the nation in growing pears, and 2003 was a record year for the crop. On Oct. 22, we paired the pears with a caramel topping for Pear Upside-Down Cake. It’s a golden treat fit for any year.

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