Ann Taylor Pittman
Ann Taylor Pittman

Ann Taylor Pittman

For 20 years, Ann Taylor Pittman built a career of creating healthy recipes at Cooking Light magazine, where she most recently served as Executive Editor. She is the recipient of two James Beard Foundation Awards: a feature writing award for “Mississippi Chinese Lady Goes Home to Korea” and a cookbook award for The New Way to Cook Light. She is now a freelancer specializing in recipe development, writing, and video. Ann lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, their 13-year-old twin boys, one big dog, and one little dog.
A symphony of herbs—in the form of za'atar—and little bits of toasted pine nuts add bright flavor and texture to the ground lamb patties that accompany this fresh summer salad.
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This soba salad offers bracing heat that's most welcome on a hot day when the coldest beers are at hand. Tender buckwheat noodles and crispy strands of zucchini "noodles" soak up a pleasantly piquant dressing laced with both gochugaru and gochujang for a double hit of spicy Korean peppers mellowed by a touch of brown sugar. Perfect served chilled or at room temperature, it's an easy make-ahead dish for summer entertaining.
Sweet, mild grilled mahi-mahi harmonizes with an aïoli featuring lemongrass and lime. The creamy aïoli comes together in seconds using an immersion blender, resulting in a silky texture that's less likely to break and adding richness and zest to a classic summer meal.
Fresh plums and cherries add pops of juicy sweetness to this hearty summer salad. Black rice gives the dish a dark, moody hue and an extra textural bite. The salad builds to a delicious crescendo with its finishing touch: crunchy, craggy, blue cheese–infused breadcrumbs, which provide a lovely textural reprieve to the chewy rice and fruit.
This is not the same morning-meal advice you’ve heard all your life; it’s all about tweaking the way you think.
Savory Granola
Rating: Unrated
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If you're looking to start your day on a savory note, here's a great recipe to try. Store-bought granola is often packed with lots of sugar, and while there are sweet notes to this granola, with its maple syrup, orange zest, and cardamom, it leans much more savory with smoked almonds, buttery pine nuts, millet, and tahini. If you enjoy granola with large clusters, the trick is to press the mixture together before baking, and take care when you stir the granola while baking to keep the clusters intact. Try this granola with yogurt or kefir and your favorite fresh fruit.
You can make this gravy ahead of time in a pressure cooker or simmer it on the stovetop; either way, this Madeira-spiked gravy recipe will lighten the load on Thanksgiving Day. A concentrated smoked turkey stock serves as the base of this gravy, which will keep in the refrigerator up to three days and also freezes beautifully. Wondra flour helps ensure a smooth consistency.
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A quick, high-temperature oven roast on a baking sheet yields crispy, golden brown brussels sprouts and almost-charred, smoky broccoli. Tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce studded with tart cranberries, Fresno chiles, and shallots, the vegetables become an easy, elegant side dish.
Tucked in among the tender lettuce leaves, fragrant fennel, sweet-tart Granny Smith apple, and toasty hazelnuts add a refreshing crunch to this fall salad.
You can make this gravy ahead of time in a pressure cooker or simmer it on the stovetop; either way, this Madeira-spiked gravy recipe will lighten the load on Thanksgiving Day. A concentrated smoked turkey stock serves as the base of this gravy, which will keep in the refrigerator up to three days and also freezes beautifully. Wondra flour helps ensure a smooth consistency.
A quick, high-temperature oven roast on a baking sheet yields crispy, golden brown brussels sprouts and almost-charred, smoky broccoli. Tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce studded with tart cranberries, Fresno chiles, and shallots, the vegetables become an easy, elegant side dish.
Tucked in among the tender lettuce leaves, fragrant fennel, sweet-tart Granny Smith apple, and toasty hazelnuts add a refreshing crunch to this fall salad.
On a chilly night when you crave a piping-hot bowl of brothy soup with alluring textures and rich, soulful flavors, tteokguk is your friend.
Turns out, baked pasta is the ideal way to enjoy dip for dinner.
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Cannellini beans add hearty creaminess to these stuffed shells, while mild heat from Calabrian chiles and earthy sweetness from fennel seeds amp up jarred marinara sauce. Cook a few extra pasta shells to have on hand in case some tear during boiling.
Typically cooked low and slow, these boneless short ribs get perfectly tender on the grill. A quick brush with fish sauce adds a layer of umami, while the brown sugar rub provides a shortcut to charred flavor. Thinly sliced and topped with a charred scallion gremolata, they’re right at home on your late-summer plate.
A few smart swaps transform your favorite creamy spring pasta into a vegan-friendly masterpiece. Umami-rich nutrional yeast shoulders the duties of Parmesan, while buttery macadamia nut milk stands in for heavy cream. Check the label closely when shopping to ensure the macadamia nut milk is unsweetened.
With the weather warming up, I’ve found myself dusting off the grill and doing more outdoor cooking. And I’m reminded of the magic that happens when smoke and char make their indelible mark on my food. I simply love unsubtle flavors—which are at the core of this hearty spring recipe that combines the meaty-oily richness of lamb, the pungent kick of garlic, the kiss of fire from the grill, and the peppery bite of radishes and watercress.First things first, the lamb-stuffed pitas—based on the Middle Eastern dish arayes—were a runaway hit with my family. And that’s because of the lamb. It’s seasoned with a good amount of za’atar (my brother-in-law brought me a 2-pound bag of it from Jordan!), parsley, onion, and garlic, so it ends up with a flavor akin to both gyro meat and kofta. Soft pitas are each split into two rounds, spread with the spiced ground lamb mixture, reassembled, and grilled. As they spend time over the coals, the meat juices soak into the bread and then crisp up in the most irresistible way. If you’re not a big fan of lamb, you can use ground beef instead—but choose grass-fed beef so that it has a richer, gamier flavor that will stand up to the seasonings.I serve these pitas with a sauce of tahini, lemon juice, and raw garlic. Even though the sandwiches have plenty of flavor on their own, they get even better when adorned with a creamy sauce. One quick tip: Don’t worry if the tahini seizes up when you first start to stir in the liquid. This happens because tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is carbohydrate-rich. Adding liquid to it is almost akin to adding liquid to flour in that the carbohydrate holds onto the liquid. But when you add a little more liquid, it all thins and smooths out. If you need a little more liquid to get your sauce to the right consistency, just keep adding water a teaspoon at a time.The robust, fatty lamb needs a fresh, zippy counterpoint, so I serve the pitas with a salad featuring my all-time-favorite spring ingredient: radishes. I used three types: watermelon radishes for their gorgeous magenta hue, green daikon for softer color but more pungent bite, and cherry radishes for their crisp, juicy texture. This trio gets tangled in a pile of also-peppery watercress and dressed with the simplest combo of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. That way, the flavors of the main salad ingredients are the star—just given a little bit of bright embellishment.
March is a tricky time of year for me, food-wise. By this point, I’m yearning for tender, mild spring vegetables and ready to say bye-for-now to hearty root veggies and brassicas, but the farmers markets are still pretty sparse. So as I wait for the season to fully turn over, I look for ways to bridge the gap between rib-sticking winter fare (it’s still chilly outside, after all) and lighter, fresher tastes. This easy whole-grain skillet hits that spot for me because it’s filling and satisfying, but the pops of fresh citrus make it bright and sunny, too.I include whole grains in a lot of my weeknight dinners because, sure, they’re nutritious, but more importantly they have such amazing textures and flavors. And there are more options available now than ever, such as sorghum, amaranth, millet, rye berries, teff, and more—way beyond the more-familiar brown rice, wheat berries, and quinoa. In this dish, I’m using freekeh, which is a type of wheat; it’s harvested when it’s young and green and then roasted, which gives it a smoky flavor. I opt for cracked freekeh because it cooks quickly. If you can’t find it, you can substitute bulgur, which is also cracked wheat (just not roasted).Another quick-cooking staple in my kitchen is boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They’re always meaty and juicy and nearly impossible to overcook. I sear them first, then nestle them into the half-cooked freekeh to finish cooking under a layer of lemon slices to cut through their richness.My favorite part of this dish, though, is the relish. It’s garlicky, a little spicy, herby, and full of surprises. First, it includes firm feta cheese that gently warms to the point that it becomes soft and almost gooey—which is the way I always want feta from now on. The relish also gets a brazen hit of citrus from chopped lemon sections, which offer tart, juicy bursts that are way more forward than lemon juice would be. The effect is an unsubtle finishing touch that balances out the nutty grains and meaty chicken.It’s an almost complete meal that my whole family loves, and it’s done from start to finish in just 35 minutes. I’ll serve a simple vegetable on the side—usually blanched broccoli or haricots verts tossed with browned butter—and daydream of sunnier days to come.
After all of the hearty, rich food of winter, I will find myself craving a meal on the other end of the spectrum—something light, fresh, and healthy, with a restorative effect. But it still has to be hefty and substantial enough to work for cold-weather cravings. Because no matter how good it might be in warmer weather, a leafy lettuce bowl just won’t do for a meal. Enter the whole-grain salad.Whole-grain farro gives this seasonal salad a whole lot of satisfying substance. I specify whole-grain farro here because I want to point out the difference between it and pearled farro. The latter might be quicker-cooking, but because it’s pearled, it’s not a whole grain (the bran has been removed). It’s still a tasty and convenient ingredient; it’s not a bad guy! But for more nutrition benefits and better texture, I always opt for the whole-grain option, which is much harder to overcook to that sad blow-out mushiness that you might have unfortunately experienced before.In addition to the grains, shaved brussels sprouts, pungent blue cheese, and toasted walnuts also give the salad heartiness. But I wanted some light and refreshing notes, too, and those came in the form of juicy orange sections, orange juice–plumped golden raisins, and a white balsamic dressing that has a little bit of sweetness. In each bite, you get a little nuttiness, a lot of chewiness, some juicy bits, a pleasant amount of bitterness, and some creamy richness. (As you can see, there’s a lot to hold your interest!)This salad works well if you’re into meal prep because the elements won’t wilt or go mushy on you, even after a few days. With one exception: the walnuts. I like to store them separately so they’ll retain as much crunch as possible. But you can go ahead and pack everything up at the beginning of the week for take-to-work lunches you’ll actually look forward to eating.I could have easily called this dish Slow-Down Salad, too. The textures of the farro and the shaved raw brussels sprouts force me to chew and chew and chew—to decelerate my eating and enjoy every bite with more intention and appreciation. And that’s definitely a big part of its restorative effect as well.
One of my all-time favorite foods to cook for cold, dreary nights is braised meat—slow-simmered until it is meltingly tender and has perfumed the whole house with savory aromas. I usually reserve that kind of cooking for the weekend since it takes hours, but thanks to the Instant Pot, I can eat this way even on a busy weeknight. And that’s a great thing because we all deserve to eat this way whenever we want to (or, in my case, need to).The meat of choice in this recipe is chuck roast. It’s reliably rich and reasonably fatty, a perfect contender for braising. When cut into large chunks, seared, and cooked under pressure, it takes only 30 minutes to reach perfect fork-tender doneness—not hours as it would in the oven or on the stovetop. Once it’s done, I pull it into large shreds and toss the meat and sauce with pasta. Pappardelle is my noodle of choice because the broad noodles soak up the sauce beautifully, but you could also use tagliatelle or fettuccine. The meaty sauce is equally good over a bed of mashed potatoes or polenta if you’re not in a pasta mood—but you might want to thicken it a bit if serving that way.It’s worth noting that a few special touches give the sauce added oomph with barely any added effort. First, along with onion and garlic, some sliced fennel bulb goes into the pot, where, through the magic of pressure cooking, it goes from super crunchy to buttery soft and yielding with a light whiff of anise. And a canned chipotle chile goes in as well, where it disintegrates while adding a hint of smoke and heat.So when nothing but a big plate of meaty pasta will do—and your heart demands tender braised meat, not ground meat (which is also delicious but a totally different experience)—pull out the pressure cooker. In just about an hour, you can be diving into this big bowl of soul-satisfying goodness.
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Tteokguk (pronounced sort of like DUK-gook) is a soup of chewy-soft rice cakes cooked in steaming translucent broth. And, just like American New Year's foods, it's a good-luck dish that carries symbolic significance. The white color of the rice cakes signifies purity, so the soup represents a way to start the year off fresh. And traditionally, when you enjoy your New Year's bowl of rice cake soup, your age increases by one year. Though the soup can be made with chicken, pork, pheasant, or seafood, these days it's typically made with beef.
I have always been a big fan of meringue, whether it’s a creamy Italian meringue atop a pie or a cake, a crunchy meringue cookie, or—perhaps the most stunning showstopper dessert ever—a pavlova. Gently baked until crisp on the outside and fluffy-moist on the inside, a pavlova offers lovely textures, not to mention that sweet, marshmallow-like flavor. I often think of it for spring or summer occasions, opting to top it with berries and cream. But pavlova also lends itself beautifully to fall fruit and warm spices, making it a fantastic (and surprising) addition to the holiday table.In this recipe, I add ground cardamom to the egg whites for deep fragrance and warm, sweet notes. I love this spice—as opposed to more traditional fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice—because it’s brighter and more aromatic. It simply makes this pavlova feel more special. Grapes, pears, and pomegranate arils are the fall fruit trifecta for the topping, each offering its own shade of muted burgundy that feels just right for this time of year.If you’ve never made a pavlova, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is. It doesn’t require any special culinary skill, but it does require time—about 4 1/2 hours in the oven, minimum. You can get a little bit of a head start if you need: Bake the pavlova earlier in the day, and hold it at room temperature for a few hours in an airtight environment (wrap it in plastic wrap or, if you have a container large enough, in an airtight container). Make the whipped cream topping earlier in the day, too, and hold it in the fridge. And roast the fruit a few hours ahead and keep it at room temperature. Then assemble your gorgeous creation just before serving.One quick tip as you’re working with the egg whites. This was something I learned from a former colleague at Cooking Light, Deb Wise (aka the Dessert Goddess). She was beating egg whites one day in the test kitchen, and I commented that they were amazingly voluminous. She revealed why: You must be patient and take your time when beating the egg whites. Start at medium speed, work your way up to medium-high, and finally end at high. If you go in right away at high speed, your egg whites will not reach their full volume potential. So if you’re like me, tamp down your desire to speed things up—it won’t serve you well in the long run.
With cooler weather comes the season of slow cooking—long-simmered stews and braises that sing with richness and depth. That’s certainly great for the weekends, but sometimes you want that same comfort on a weeknight, when time is tight but cravings are just as strong. Well, thank goodness for the Instant Pot, which allows you to braise meat to fork-tender butteriness in far less time than the oven or stovetop.Here, beef short ribs cook to fall-apart perfection in barely an hour, thanks to this handy appliance. A regular stovetop pressure cooker works, too (I have one of each), and the time under pressure will be the same. Instead of a more traditional flavor profile of, say, wine, stock, tomato, and herbs, I decided to try red cooking—a classic Chinese method that uses wine, soy sauce, and aromatic spices in the braising liquid—instead. I was delighted with the results.Key to the flavor here are star anise pods and a cinnamon stick, which imbue sweet notes to the cooking liquid and the meat (ground spices just won’t do). Also key is a good splash of wine for richness. Ideally, you’d use real Shaoxing wine, but it can be hard to find. (You can look for it at Asian markets, but avoid Shaoxing cooking wine, which is typically salted, and pretty much just as wretched as any other wine labeled “cooking wine.”) If you can’t lay hands on a bottle of (unsalted!) Shaoxing wine, dry sherry is a great substitute.The cooking liquid is so delicious that I didn’t want any to go to waste. I skimmed off the fat (trust me, it would be too greasy on the palate if you didn’t do this) and reduced it slightly, then steamed some bok choy over it to make a more complete meal. Plated with a little rice, the ribs and bok choy—along with that luscious cooking liquid—made for a meal the kids immediately asked me to put in regular rotation. And since it takes less time thanks to the Instant Pot, that’s a request I can easily (and happily!) accommodate.
Acorn Squash Saltimbocca
Rating: Unrated
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In this shoulder season, as we trade the tomatoes, eggplants, and peaches of summer for heartier fall produce, there’s one thing I get most excited about: winter squash. Sure, you can find some varieties year-round (like butternut, acorn, and spaghetti), but they are at their best—at their peak of sweetness and with the most deliciously buttery flesh—in the cooler months. Acorn squash is a favorite of mine because when it’s fresh from harvest, its skin is quite tender and delicious. I just love biting in and meeting only the tiniest bit of resistance.And that’s why I’ve showcased this lovely squash in a preparation typically used for meat. It deserves center-of-the-plate status, after all. I’ve given it the saltimbocca treatment here, lining wedges of the squash with fresh sage leaves, wrapping them in prosciutto, and roasting to crisp up the pork and caramelize the edges of the squash. You end up with a gorgeous autumnal palette—deep orange flesh, hunter green skin, and soft green sage—and flavors that play off each other beautifully. Sage’s earthy pungency cuts the sweetness of the squash, while prosciutto adds salty notes that bring everything into balance.But wait, that’s not all. There’s a nutty butter sauce that’s draped over the finished squash. Butter cooks in a skillet until browned and fragrant, with those toasty, caramel-like notes reminiscent of hazelnuts. A splash of dry sherry, with its raisin-y depth, intensifies the nutty effect, and a touch of citrus and honey lifts the flavors so they resonate on multiple levels, not just one.The recipe is built to use just one average-size squash, perfect for four people. But you can easily double the recipe to serve a larger crowd. It makes such a statement at the table, you might just want to plan on that.
Lemon meringue pie has always been my favorite dessert. (Fun fact: Lemon Pie was my CB handle when I was a kid. If you don't know what that means, it's likely because you're much younger than me, and this clue still won't help you: Breaker 1-9, this is Lemon Pie. I've got a Smokey on my tail.)I like lemon pie so much that I want even more of the bright, sunny lemon flavor to come through, so there's less sugar and more lemon juice in this filling than you'll find in most recipes. It's assertively—but not aggressively—lemony, and is balanced by the fluffy meringue topping, which has the perfect sweetness and density to complement the tarter-than-usual filling.This topping is the type of meringue I love, the type that makes my mouth water and sets my heart aflutter. It is Italian meringue. It's thicker, creamier, and heavier on the palate than the type of airy, ephemeral meringues you might see on diner-style pies—you know, the type that deflates almost immediately on the tongue. Italian meringue, by contrast, has weight and body to it that's reminiscent of homemade marshmallows, and it's incredibly stable, which is why it's often used as a cake frosting, too. You don't have to bake it—because in making it, you beat molten hot sugar syrup into the whites (easier than it sounds), which heats them to a safe temperature. I like to add a little vanilla extract to my Italian meringue, which somehow makes it seem even creamier. And oh, the crust! In place of traditional pie pastry (which would still be delicious here), I go with a pat-in shortbread crust that somehow both holds together and is wonderfully crumbly in that shortbread kind of way. But what makes it truly special is that there are little bits of salty, crunchy Marcona almonds in it.The topping, the filling, and the crust all work together in beautiful harmony, and I wanted to engineer the recipe so that you can enjoy that deliciousness faster than usual. The crust, which is made in a food processor and requires no rolling, comes together lickety-split. The filling, which I chill in an ice bath before it goes into the crust, sets in lightning speed. And the meringue, which does not need to bake, is ready to enjoy as soon as it's whipped up—because when you want lemon pie, you want it now.
I’m a huge potato fan, a lover of spuds in all forms. When I was a kid (and a very picky eater, to my parents’ dismay), I would order potatoes whenever we went out to eat. Whether we were dining at a homey family restaurant in the small Mississippi town where we lived or they had driven five hours so that my brother and I could experience an authentic Chinese restaurant in New Orleans—I’d usually find mashed potatoes or French fries somewhere on the kids’ menu and make a meal of it. I’d always eat some of what my mom and dad ordered, and I’d always like it. But in a move of stubbornness or independence (or both), I always wanted a bowl or plate of potatoes in front of me.Now that I’m an adult with a much more expanded palate, I still have a profound fondness for the humble tuber. If I can find a way to work potatoes into a recipe or a meal, I will. When summer rolls around and I do a lot less roasting, stewing, and braising in favor of more outdoor cooking, I have to get a little more creative to get my fill of potatoes. Turns out, small waxy potatoes are fantastic on kebabs. They do need to be pre-cooked, but they take the licks of the flames like a champ—getting crispy, charred skins and somehow absorbing the smoky flavors within their creamy interior.Almost nothing pairs better with potatoes than steak, so here I thread strips of skirt steak onto skewers with baby Dutch yellow potatoes. The intense beefiness of skirt steak is most welcome, and this cut is surprisingly well-suited to kebabs. Slices of robust Spanish chorizo crisp up on the grill and offer bursts of intense flavor as you eat the kebabs. Coating everything with smoked paprika amplifies the effect of the grilling, and interspersing buttery Castelvetrano olives onto each skewer is, I must say, one of the best culinary decisions I’ve made. (In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever make kebabs without them again.)To finish things off, there’s a romesco-ish mayonnaise to dunk the kebabs into. I figured that since French fries are fantastic with mayo, grilled potatoes might also be great with a mayo-based sauce. Turns out I was right. Whenever I make these kebabs for my family, I am rewarded with literal exclamations of "thank you." And that might just be even better than the food.
Korean Japchae
Rating: Unrated
1
When I was little, I thought I could pass for white. If you know me, you know this is hilarious—because I look just like my mom, who is 100% Korean. (My dad, by the way, is a very warm, funny white guy.) Growing up in small towns in Mississippi in the 1970s, I just wanted to believe I was like most of my other friends: decidedly all-American. I would commit lies of omission all the time, neglecting to share that I had an Asian mom who often perfumed our house with the funky smells of kimchi, dried anchovies, and simmering seaweed soups. Instead, I boasted of her chicken-fried steak and gravy.But that all changed in middle school, when, at a sleepover I hosted, I gained the confidence to share my mom’s japchae with my friends. This dish—a classic Korean recipe featuring slippery glass noodles tossed with meat and vegetables—was my absolute favorite growing up (still is!). I always loved the chewy texture of the noodles, the interplay of nutty sesame oil and savory soy sauce, the hint of sweetness, and the garlicky wilted spinach. My mom had made a large batch, and there were leftovers in the fridge. They weren’t intended for my sleepover friends, because of course I didn’t want to serve them Korean food. But then I did. In the middle of the night, between movies and fueled by a mean case of the munchies, I gathered up the courage to introduce my friends to japchae.“Eww, that looks like worms,” one friend said upon the unveiling. Deep breath, Ann, you know this is damn good food. After some gentle coaxing, once the intoxicating aromas of sesame and garlic registered with the hungry girls, one of them took a bite, and then another. They loved it! Even cold straight from the fridge! We took turns pinching a clump of noodles between our fingers, leaning our heads way back for dramatic effect, and then dropping the deliciousness in. We gobbled up every single bit.That was a turning point for me. Little by little, I began to embrace the Korean side of my identity, mostly through food—because food, for so many of us, is an immediate gateway to our culture. I often cook Korean dishes for my family so that my children, now in their early teens, can feel some connection to their Korean roots. And you know what? Japchae is their favorite. When we eat it, I tell them how my mom used to make it for me when I was a kid. I tell them about how, when I went to Korea and made japchae in a cooking class, the instructor told me that it’s important to honor each element with its own seasoning and cooking method, to fully bring out its best and to preserve its color. I tell them that the dish was once considered royal cuisine but has now become more commonplace. In this way, food serves as a means for us to connect to our deeper heritage, helping us understand the depths of who we are. And for me, I know more now than ever who I am—not fully white, not fully Asian, but something beautifully in between.