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A bowl of caponata with slices of bread

Oregon-style smoky caponata is my attempt to replicate a most memorable caponata I once had at the historic James Beard awarded Nick's Italian Café in McMinville, Oregon. Nick's caponata (a sort of Sicilian version of ratatouille) is made in a wood-fired oven that imparts a lovely smoky note not typical to caponata. I think of it every year at this time, when tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are at their seasonal peak. This year I decided to make it at home, even without a wood burning oven of my own.

Pan-smoked oysters at King Estate

The idea of how to pull this off, however, came from another Oregon restaurant. We recently ate at King Estate Winery Restaurant, where a fresh oyster dish came in a covered Dutch oven in which hay from their farm encircled the oysters, was lit, and then quickly covered before being whisked tableside. We erupted in happy sighs of awe when the lid was removed, the smoke puffed out, and the gently smoked raw oysters were revealed. The aroma was incredible and the food inside was a stunning surprise.

I thought-- Hey! I mean, hay! I'm an Oregon hay farmer! I've got tons of that stuff. What could I smoke? How about a caponata like Nick's?

Caponata pizza on the grill.

How to Use Oregon-Style Smoky Caponata

Caponata makes a flavorful summer bounty bruschetta. Why not pile it into a bowl, surrounded by the toast for an interactive dish people can build themselves? It's also a great all-in-one pizza topping. Or, use it as a relish on a cheese and charcuterie platter. To change up any leftovers, blitz it into a smooth paste for a dip for flatbread, a sandwich spread, or pizza sauce base.

My most favorite way to use caponata might be in pasta. Caponata with nearly any pasta, with a scoop of pasta water and more olive oil for a silky sauce? Yes! Add a generous spoonful of ricotta, a flurry of pine nuts, and some basil on top and you've got a wonderful weeknight dinner.

Making the Caponata

This little caponata recipe is entirely worth the multiple steps. If you skip the optional hay smoking step you'll still end up with a caponata that will be a little more complex than usual by using the grill.

Caponata is usually made by roasting the eggplant in the oven, then adding it to the other ingredients on the stovetop to complete the cooking. I've found that roasting all the vegetables together in a grill basket (this high-quality stainless steel one is on sale right now) on the grill saves turning on the oven and eliminates a step. When making it in the winter months or if you don't have a grill, this step can be done in the oven with all the cubed vegetables on a baking sheet at one time . The oven method will not have the smoky quality, but will be traditional and delicious.

Cubed vegetables for caponata on the grill.
Just getting started on the grill.

The vegetables are cooked and hay-smoked (directions below) on the grill, then we finish the dish in a large skillet on the stovetop. This is where we lightly and quickly stew the vegetables with capers, olives, a little sugar and vinegar for the typical sweet/sour finish, olive oil, and herbs. This final part takes about 15 minutes.

Serve the caponata at room temperature or lightly chilled. It is even better the day after it's made and the flavors have integrated, making it perfect for do-ahead meals and entertaining.

How to Smoke Foods With Hay

Hay smoking provides a light, gentle smoked quality to any vegetable, potato, chicken or fish dish cooked on the grill. To hay smoke caponata on the hot grill, carefully take a handful of cut hay and arrange it around the grill pan. Acting very quickly, use a long-necked lighter to touch the hay in two or three places and immediately shut the lid of the grill. You'll see a light smoke coming from under the lid and seams of the grill. After three or four minutes, carefully open the grill to make sure the flame is out. Now, a light kiss of hay smoke aroma and flavor has fallen on the vegetables.

Remember to avoid overcooking! Do this step after the food is not quite at the doneness you desire. It will continue to cook in the enclosed hot grill for three of four additional minutes.

Share Your Success!

When you make this recipe, please show it off to our 101-Mile Kitchen community! Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook or Instagram, @101milekitchen. Speaking of that, have you joined the community? If not, we'd love to have you. You can take care of that right here, and when you do I'll send you a free Taste of Oregon appetizers recipe downloadable as a thank you!

Other Grilling Recipes You Might Enjoy

Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine, and Burrata Salad

Grilled Peppers, White Beans, Feta + Herb Sauce

This post contains affiliate links. When you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission at no cost to you. Product affiliation helps me to keep this site ad-free while providing you with the content you enjoy. I only promote items that I use, like, and trust, or would invest in myself.

A bowl of caponata with slices of bread

Oregon-Style Smoky Caponata

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian, Pacific Northwest
Season: Bounty (August - October)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 8
Author: Pam Spettel
A kiss of hay smoke, easily done in a grill, brings this classic Italian summer vegetable dish next level. Use you caponata on bruschetta for an appetizer or light meal, as a pizza topping, or as a relish for a charcuterie plate.
Print Recipe

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, skin on, large diced
  • 1 large red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, seeded, large diced
  • ½ large purple onion, large diced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, ripe, large diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped into large pieces
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or white wine or red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons capers
  • ¼-⅓ cup black oil-cured olives, green Castelvetrano, or Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup mixed fresh oregano and basil, roughly chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat all elements of a gas grill to high heat (400°-450°) or light a charcoal grill for a hot fire. Wash and chop the eggplant, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and garlic. Place the prepared vegetables in a grill basket. (Alternately, you could put the vegetables in a large cast iron skillet, or on multiple sheets of foil with the edges crumpled in to create a sided container.)
  • Put the grill basket onto a plate, and sprinkle the vegetables generously with salt and black pepper (at least one teaspoon of salt to enliven the vegetables is my recommendation.) Drizzle the vegetables with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and stir. (The plate will contain any olive oil drips as you transport the grill basket to the grill and back.)
  • Once the grill is up to heat, place the grill basket onto the grates and close the lid. Check the vegetables every five-seven minutes and stir to help them cook evenly and to keep them from sticking and burning. Adjust your temperature or move your coals as needed to maintain a high but not scorching heat. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften but retain their shape, and the eggplant is turning from opaque creamy white to translucent gray-beige but the centers still have a little of their white showing through. Depending on your grill and its heat, this step will take from 15 to 25 minutes.
  • Do the optional hay smoking technique, described below. Remove the grill basket back to the plate, and bring it indoors to complete the dish. (Or, if you have a burner feature on your grill use it. Lucky you!)
  • On your cooktop, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add the vegetables from the grill basket. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the herbs. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are fork-soft but not mushy, and are coated in the light sauce that has formed. This step will take about 15 minutes.
  • Allow the caponata to cool a bit before stirring in the herbs. Reserve a few pinches of the herbs for garnish, and serve. Store leftovers in a tightly closed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Optional Hay Smoking

  • Turn off the gas grill, or if using a charcoal grill, scoot the coals to one side away from the grill pan. Find a medium-sized handful of clean, dry hay, and arrange it around the outer edges of the grill basket. Work carefully around the hot grill and grill grates to avoid injury. Use a long-necked lighter to lightly touch the hay in two or three places, and quickly cover the grill. You will notice a light smoke coming from under the lid and seams of the grill. When is dissipates to light wisps, remove the grill lid and proceed.
    Only try this in an enclosed grill to avoid setting a grass fire.
Canteloupe, shrimp, and mozzarella pears skweres topped with bail sauce.
Skewers of cantaloupe, shrimp, and fresh mozzarella pearls sit on a puddle of summery basil sauce, with a dollop on top.

Summer Basil Sauce has me stunned by its magical simplicity, and I'll be making it at least one a week until basil season ends. Five everyday ingredients and a one-minute whirl in a food processor (this is the one I've used and loved for decades) produces a versatile sauce that will make you want to dance into the summer moonlight.

The recipe for basil sauce began in the mind of David Lebovitz, the famous American-in-Paris cookbook author. The Perfect Scoop is my favorite of his books, loaded with recipes for the very best ice creams, sorbets, and sherbets. But I digress-- we were talking about basil.

You know what I really love about summer basil sauce? It is the fastest, easiest way to improve so many seasonal foods with hardly any work. More time for summer fun and yummier eating? I'm in. If you grow basil in your garden, I feel you giving me a big kiss for sharing this way of putting it to great use.

A jar and bowlful of summery green basil sauce.
This is NOT pesto!

What Makes this Sauce Different Than Pesto?

This spot-of-glory sauce is less specific and more versatile than pesto. Its compatibility with the wide slate of summer ingredients lets other flavors shine through in such a friendly way. It is 100 percent swoon-worthy. I view this as a kitchen essential-- one of those things every cook should know how to make.

It is slightly thinner, silkier, and gets its piquancy from a spot of Dijon mustard rather than Parmesan and pine nuts. There are two differences between my version and David's. I add slightly more Dijon for a subtle complexity bump. The mustard remains undetectable as an ingredient but adds a little certain something. And, because basil is often sold by weight instead of giving you a measurement by the cup I offer it by weight. Approximately one very large farmers market bunch or big Trader Joe's clamshell worth. And, wow, is it ever a bright green! My favorite color.

David Lebovitz calls it Basil Vinaigrette which I think undersells its super powers as an all-around sauce. Yes, it has a tablespoon or two of vinegar as an ingredient, but it serves as much more than a dressing for salads or marinade for meats.

Let Basil Sauce Jazz Up Your Summer

Since discovering this sauce a few weeks ago, I've used it like this:

  • on grilled fish
  • on grilled and thinly sliced steak, much like a chimichurri sauce
  • as a schmear on toast, topped with slices of avocado
  • as a sauce for cantaloupe/shrimp/fresh mozzarella appetizers (yumm-o, and great served with a glass of Viognier. This one from the Virginia is over the moon!)
  • as the sauce to a delicious 10-minute shrimp pasta, recipe available to the 101-Mile Kitchen Community in our next newsletter.
  • on grilled summer vegetables
  • on pan-fried breakfast potatoes
  • as a dip for grilled garlic bread
  • drizzled on sliced ripe tomatoes

I've got it queued up to use in bean salads, stirred into scrambled eggs, drizzled over a caprese salad, as a glaze for grilled chicken thighs, splashed onto any pizza before or after baking (especially a Margarita-style one,) and perhaps a spoonful added to a typical classic vinaigrette for leafy salads.

Share Your Success!

How will you use this amazing green goodness? I invite you to join me in using this to amp up our easy-going summer eating all season long. When you find yourself using this simple basil sauce in ways of your inventing, please share with our 101-Mile Kitchen community! Tell us in the comments, or on Facebook or Instagram, @101milekitchen. Have you joined the community? If not, we'd love to have you. You can take care of that right here.

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission at no cost to you. Product affiliation allows me to keep this site ad-free while providing you with the content you enjoy. I only promote items that I use, like, and trust, or would invest in myself.

plate with the ingredients for basil sauce on it.
Basil, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard, salt, shallot, and olive oil. That's all it takes!
A jar and a bowl of summery green basil sauce.

Summer Basil Sauce

Course: Condiments
Cuisine: American, Pacific Northwest
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1.5 cups
Author: Adapted from David Lebovitz
Long on versatile summery flavor, short on ingredients, this simple sauce will jazz up your summer meals.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces roughly chopped fresh basil leaves and thin stems, woody stems removed, one very large farmer's market bunch worth, or one Trader Joe's clamshell package

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients except the basil to the food processor and whirl for a few seconds. Add the basil, and whirl for 45 seconds to 1 minute, scraping down the sides once or twice, until the vinaigrette is smooth. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a little more water or olive oil to thin it out.
  • Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to a week. The sauce is best served at room temperature.
Cowboy sloppy joes on a platter with beans.

Howdy, cowboys and cowgirls! Chuckwagon Cookie here to share some pretty decent grub for summer fun. Cowboy Sloppy Joes, made with ground beef, smoky seasonings, and a little beer (non-alcoholic is my choice) are a great way to make some summer fun.

Make Cowboy Sloppy Joes when you gather around a crackly campfire, searching for Cassiopeia or the Summer Triangle. Try imagining what it might have been like to have worked the herd that day, or pretend to be making your way west on the Oregon Trail. Or simply take a pot of Cowboy Sloppy Joes with you to campouts, or make them for backyard gatherings. Ravenous kids will love these after jumping out of the pool or lake, when they get home from day camps, or when they come in off of the slip-and-slide.

Cowboy sloppy joes on a platter with beans, next to spurs.

Make no mistake in thinking these are just for kids, however. My dear friends Holly and Chris celebrate the end of the week by having themed Friday night mini-parties. They prove to me all the time that it's not that hard to have some simple grown-up fun.

Take a page from Holly and Chris's playbook and plan a fun summer evening! For a menu of Cowboy Sloppy Joes, Cowboy Beans (click for the video recipe), and coleslaw, your attire might include a red bandana and a cowboy hat. Play a little Hank Williams or John Prine. Follow dinner up with an episode or two of 1883. You are not too old to create this kid of fun for yourself!

cowboy sloppy joes, cowboy beans on a platter.

Making Cowboy Sloppy Joes

You'll notice that this recipe is scaled to feed six. This diverts from my new focus of developing recipes for smaller households, and here is why. I've packaged these up for the freezer in two-serving containers, which is handy in the summer when you've been out playing or just don't want to turn on the range. The sloppy joe mixture warms easily in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Besides, when the grandkids are coming over or you have that backyard cowboy party, you are all set for a slightly larger crowd.

Another Hearty, Quick Ground Beef Recipe

Cheap, Quick + Easy 20-minute Beefy Spinach Burritos

If you enjoy this recipe, please give it a green star rating on the recipe card below. That will help others find it too. If you make the recipe, please show us and tag 101-Mile Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram! (It's a total thrill when I hear you've made my recipes!) And as always, your questions and feedback in the comments is welcome and appreciated.

Cowboy Sloppy Joes on a platter with cowboy beans

Cowboy Sloppy Joes

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Cuisine: American
Season: All Season
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: Fast + Easy, One Pot/One Pan
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Pam Spettel
Tell stories around the campfire while enjoying chuckwagon-style Cowboy Sloppy Joes. This is how summer memories are made.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • lbs. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small red or green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, canned
  • 1 12 oz. can beer, any kind, regular or non-alcoholic or 12 oz. water plus 1 additional tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  • In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef until the pink is gone. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is translucent and soft. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, regularly.
  • Add the cumin, smoked paprika, and brown sugar and stir in. Cook about 1 minute to activate the spices. Add the chipotle in adobo, beer, diced tomatoes and their juices, and apple cider to the mix, scraping the spices from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, and then drop the heat to a gently simmer to reduce and thicken the sauce and allow the flavors to bloom together, about 10 minutes.
  • Serve the sloppy Joe mixture on toasted buns with any condiments you prefer. (We like ours with some thinly sliced onion nothing else.)
Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken in a silky garlic herb sauce bubbles away.

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken is one of those recipes you'll go to again and again. Make it once and you'll love it for its silky sauce, fork-tender chicken, and utter simplicity. Everything comes together in one skillet, yet it is light and so so delicious.

Making the Mediterranean Chicken + Artichokes

First, this may look or sound like a challenging recipe, but it is not. The steps are easy to work through:

  • Brown the chicken in a pan.
  • In the same pan, brown the artichoke halves or pieces, garlic, and shallot or onion.
  • Add the wine or vermouth and chicken stock.
  • Add back the browned chicken and braise at a simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add the olives and part of the oregano and simmer another 5 minutes.
  • Serve over rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, farro, or polenta.
  • Viola!

Next, let's address the elephant in the room. Yes, you are reading this right-- 40 to 60 cloves of garlic. When garlic gets a nice warm braise, it turns soft and savory-sweet. The tender garlic breaks down and adds to the sauce for this dish, so please don't be afraid of it. When I made it this time I counted 64 cloves from my fun-sized bag of pre-peeled Costco garlic, and it was perfectly divine.

Decades ago I took a cooking class in New Orleans, and I'll never forget this encouragement from the instructor. "Treat garlic like a vegetable-- it's just another vegetable. Use it generously." That has forever changed my cooking. Give it a try.

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken skillet.

Preparing Artichokes for Mediterranean Chicken

Frozen or well-drained jarred artichokes work just fine in this recipe, but during spring fresh artichokes are a great way to go. This time I had some palm-sized baby artichokes from the farmers market. Preparation for them is the same as for large artichokes. First, gently peel the darker, thicker leaves away until you reach the pale and tender leaves towards the center. Next, trim about 1/3 of the crown away from the tip, slicing horizontally. Use a vegetable peeler or pairing knife to peel the stem, then slice them in half vertically, top to bottom.

If you are working with large artichokes, you'll likely need to scoop out the prickly part of the inner choke with the tip of a spoon, but the babies don't need this. Finally, you'll plop the trimmed artichoke hearts into a bowl you've filled with cool water and healthy splash of white vinegar. The acidified water will keep the artichokes from darkening while you work through them. When you're ready to use them, remove them from the water and pat them dry.

Yes, this takes some time. I use this time as an exercise in presence, noticing all the different colors an textures of my artistic medium, the amazing artichoke! Notice the rosette that emerges when you cut off the top? And the topographical map that appears when you slice down the center? I settle in to the task, allowing my mind to calm as my hands work. This special time is one of the things I love most about cooking, and working with produce especially.

You will have a rather enormous pile of artichoke leaves when you're done. That's just part of artichokes, just like the pile that's left behind when you husk and de-silk fresh corn. Add this to your compost pile just like you do other vegetable trimmings. When we talk about edible flowers, remember that the artichoke is the flower of this amazing plant.

All that to say, if you opt to go the frozen or jarred artichoke route, no one will blame you, and you'll still have an utterly delicious Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken braise.

Other One-Skillet Meals You'll Love

Weeknight Gingery Broccoli Beef Stir-Fry

Green Goddess Mac + Cheese

Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta

If you enjoy this recipe, please give it a green star rating on the recipe card below. That will help others find it too! If you make the recipe, please show us and tag 101-Mile Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram! (It's a total thrill when I hear you've made my recipes!) And as always, your questions and feedback in the comments is welcome and appreciated.

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Season: All Season
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 2 to 3
Author: Pam Spettel
A quick braise of artichokes, chicken thighs, lots of garlic, and olives makes a lovely weeknight or guest-worthy dinner.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 baby artichokes, OR 12 oz. frozen thawed artichoke hearts, or 1 14 oz. can halved artichoke hearts, drained
  • 40-60 cloves fresh garlic, peeled (Yes, that many! They turn soft and sweet in the braise.)
  • 1 large shallot, minced or 1/2 onion, minced
  • cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup pitted green olives, canned or from the olive bar
  • 1 large handful fresh oregano leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the skillet skin side down and allow to brown, without moving or turning, for about 4 minutes. When the chicken is well-browned and will lift easily from the skillet, flip and repeat on the other side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  • Prepare the artichokes: follow the directions in the above post for trimming the fresh baby artichokes, or if using frozen or canned, gently pat them dry with a paper towel. Place the artichokes in the pan, cut side down, and allow them to take on a bit of color without moving or flipping. When they begin to brown, Add the garlic and shallot, and stir. Allow the garlic to brown in spots and begin to soften, stirring every two minutes for about 6 minutes.
  • Add the vermouth to the pan and scrape up any browned bits clinging to the pan. Add the chicken stock and stir. Bring to a simmer, and tuck the browned chicken thighs into the sauce. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
  • Put a lid on the pan and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes to finish cooking the chicken and marry the flavors together. Remove the lid and add the green olives and about half of the oregano and stir. Allow it to cook another 5 minutes. Check to ensure that the chicken is cooked through, giving it a few more minutes if necessary. When done, the chicken will be fork-tender.
  • This chicken dish is wonderful served on a bed of pasta, rice, farro, or polenta. Garnish with the remaining oregano and serve.
Sweet and spicy salmon bowl with orange and cucumber

Every now and then I come up with a meal that blows even my own mind. Sweet + Spicy Salmon Rice Bowls is one of those times.

Chinook salmon, referred to as king salmon because of their size, are in season in the Pacific Northwest. They are expensive because they are in population decline. That is why I now am buying sustainably farmed salmon. Farmed salmon in not only less expensive, it allows dwindling fish populations a chance to recover and keep responsible fishermen and women working.

I don't choose just any old industrialized farmed salmon, but only that which is raised in its natural ocean environment, not in a tank that is environmentally unsound and can contain toxins. I'd love for you to read more about this responsible and humane way of raising fish.

Not only that, but more and more chefs are using sustainably farmed fish. They know this is one way to be sure there will be more in the future. And, well, when it's raised right it tastes just as great as wild.

Salmon bowl with a glass of Oregon Rose.
The salmon bowls are delightful served alongside Brigadoon Wine Company's Pinot Noir Rosé.

Making the Sweet + Spicy Salmon Rice Bowls

This entire process will take 45 minutes, tops. This recipe is layed out for one person and is easily scaled up if you serve more. The dressing will make enough for 4 bowls, but is a tremendous salad dressing and marinate for chicken shrimp, and other fish, so if you have a couple tablespoons of it left it won't be hard to put it to good use.

First, put a pot of jasmine rice on the stove, in your rice maker, or instant pot. If you cook it on the stove like I do, take it off the heat, leave the lid on, and allow it to steam for ten minutes after its simmer for perfect rice.

Next, you'll whip up a flavorful mixture that will serve you in three ways. It becomes the salmon marinade and glaze, and it dresses the finished salmon rice bowl, tying everything together deliciously. Four ingredients, one small bowl, bam! (Be cautious about the heat of your chili sauce-- not all is created equal so be sure to take a wee taste to gauge how much heat you'd like.) Pour a few tablespoonsful in a shallow dish and put your salmon in it to marinate, and reserve the rest.

Then you'll put your salmon on a small baking sheet and stick it in a hot oven for 5 minutes. After five minutes switch the oven to broil, and broil it for 3-4 minutes, or until the glaze is beginning to bubble, thicken, and brown. (I use my toaster oven to cook the salmon. It's more energy efficient, and when the weather is warm it doesn't heat the house up.)

While the salmon is soaking and the rice is cooking, you'll slice up some cute little Persian cucumbers and an orange or two. You'll wash and dry some baby spinach. You'll pluck some leaves of fresh mint and basil from their stems, and slice one or two leaves into thin slivers for garnish.

two sweet and spicy salmon bowls with wine glasses

Putting the Bowls Together is a Snap

As soon as all the components are ready, you'll divvy up the rice among the bowls, and lay the spinach leaves on top. (I like to arrange the spinach to one side of the bowl. It's artsy that way.) You'll then fan out a few orange slices on top of the spinach, then arrange the cucumber slices on the opposite side of the bowl to make room for the salmon to go in the center. Drizzle it all with the marinade/dressing. Tuck the whole mint and basil leaves here and there-- they become part of the green salad. Sprinkle everything with sesame seeds if you have them, black are especially pretty. Fluff the herb slivers over the top. If you have some colorful radishes to thinly slice, they add another visual and flavor component, but aren't essential.

So there you have it, Sweet + Spicy Salmon Rice Bowls! Doesn't that look pretty? Wait until you taste it.

Other Grain Bowls To Try

Roasted Mushroom, Grain + Spinach Salad
Warm Spinach Grain Salad + Pancetta Dressing

If you enjoy this recipe, please give it a green star rating on the recipe card below. That will help others find it too! If you make the recipe, please show me and tag 101-Mile Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram! (It's a total thrill when I hear you've made my recipes!) And as always, your questions and feedback in the comments is welcome and appreciated.

sweet and spicy salmon bowl, ready to eat

Sweet + Spicy Salmon Bowls

Course: Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine: Fusion
Season: All Season
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 1
Author: Pam Spettel
Sweet from honey, spicy from chili sauce, and tangy from lime! Enjoy a fabulously beautiful and fantastic tasting meal in about 45 minutes. (Did someone say healthy? Shhhh!)
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the Rice

  • ¼ cup per person jasmine rice prepared according to package directions

For the Marinade/Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili crisp or sriracha sauce Check your chili crisp for heat and use accordingly

For the Salmon

  • 1 6 oz. per person salmon filet, scaled and checked for bones

For the Salad Toppings

  • 1 large handful per person baby spinach, washed and patted dry
  • ½ large orange, peeled and thinly sliced, per person
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers, sliced, per person
  • 1 sprig each fresh mint and basil, per person
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds, black or white, per person (optional)

Instructions

Cook the Rice

  • Cook the rice according to package directions stovetop, rice cooker, or instant pot style, using 1/4 cup dry rice for every person you are serving. If you use the stovetop method, allow the cooked rice to rest at least 10 minutes with the lid on before serving.

Make the Marinate/Dressing

  • Stir together the honey and soy sauce in a small bowl. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Set aside.

For the Salmon

  • Preheat the oven to 400°. Place 3 tablespoons of the marinade in a small dish with high sides like a baking dish or food storage container. Place the salmon flesh side down in the marinade. Flip after five minutes. Spoon the marinate over the top and set aside for another 5 minutes.
  • Oil or spray a small baking sheet and place the salmon filets skin side up on it. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the broiler on to 400° and move the salmon up under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until the glaze has turned a bit sticky looking and is beginning to brown in places. Remove from the over.

Putting the Bowls Together

  • Divide the rice among the serving bowls. Lay the spinach over the rice. Fan the orange slices out and divide them among the bowls. Divide the cucumber slices among the bowls. Lay the cooked salmon in the center of each bowl. Tuck whole mint and basil leaves among the spinach, orange, and cucumber. Thinly slice one or two leaves to sprinkle on top. Drizzle 1½-2 tablespoons dressing over everything. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional) and serve!

Notes

The marinade/dressing recipe makes enough for 4 rice bowls. If you have leftovers, it's perfect as a salad dressing or marinate for fish, shrimp, or chicken.
A plate of spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette

Every now and then I cook for just myself, something like this warm spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette, warm barley, toasted hazelnuts, an egg, with beautiful golden crowns of Delicata squash. It takes me back to my single days when I first learned to eat alone. For 47 years of my life there was family at my dinner table, and suddenly eating alone was such a hard thing. I had finally learned to enjoy it by the time this one particularly extraordinary guy came along.

Meet Scott

What can I tell you about my this man, who became my husband? First, Scott is a never-ending source of puns that always make me laugh. He is really sweet with his mother, daughters, sons, grandchildren, my whole family, friends, grocery checkers, wait staff, dogs and cats, well, everyone. He always takes the generous view of (nearly) all people.

spinach salad with pancetta dressing on a table.

Going places with him is always a fun adventure.

We once hiked what seemed like 400-foot high sand dunes to visit the Oregon coastline. The wind was howling, it was raining, and my hikers were filled with sand. It had not been my favorite afternoon, and we still had to climb back over the dunes to get to our car. I was over it. He pulled out his phone, pretended to dial, and held the phone to his ear.

Man on beach with cell phone

"Hello?" he said with a serous façade. "My wife is ready to have the helicopter pick her up and return her to the chateau. Twenty minutes? Great, thank you." Scott always knows how to make me laugh, and how to gently move my legs-- and my attitude-- in the right direction.

Still Learning About Him, Still in Awe

I could go on about how smart and good looking he is, too. But here's what you really need to know. At this moment one of Scott's most dearly beloveds is in long-term hospital care. She lives far away, and when he couldn't be at her side in the first days of her medical situation he was nearly beside himself. He has now spent a few weeks at her bedside helping her heal, with more time away from home to come. He has full-heartedly embraced the task of caregiving in the most beautiful way, with strength, humor, devotion, and hope.

So, this won't be the last time I make spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette for one. I'll be doing more dining alone off and on for a time, while this amazing person I call my husband is away doing God's work of loving so well.

A plate of spinach salad and glass of wine on a table in front of a window.
My table-for-one view.

About this Spinach Salad Recipe + Pancetta Dressing

This pretty shoulder-season main-dish salad uses hearty curly spinach, the last of the winter Delicata squash in my vegetable basket, and some warm cooked barley, naturally gluten-free buckwheat groats, or farro. Warm salads are so satisfying during the spring and autumn season changes. This one is every bit as yummy to eat as it is lovely to look at.

Portland's James Beard award winning Joshua McFadden's book, Six Seasons; A New Way with Vegetables provides the inspiration for the pancetta vinaigrette. I divert from his recipe in a few places-- I use the olive oil and rendered pancetta to lightly wilt hearty spinach right in the pan. Sherry vinegar is my choice for this dish instead of red wine vinegar that Chef McFadden uses, and I add it just as the spinach is finished wilting in the pan. And, since I'm cooking for one, I reduce the overall ingredient quantities.

All the ingredients necessary to make spinach salad and pancetta vinaigrette

Other Shoulder-Season Main-Dish Salads You May Enjoy

Roasted Mushroom, Grain + Spinach Salad: Get the recipe here.
Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad + Peanut Sauce: Get the recipe here.

If you like this recipe, please give it a rating by clicking on the green stars on the recipe card below. That will help others find it in their searches, too. If you like this post, please subscribe to receive my newsletter for more recipes, cooking tips, and cooking class information. When you sign up, you'll receive a free downloadable Taste of Oregon tartines recipe booklet.

A plate of spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette

Warm Spinach Salad + Pancetta Vinaigrette

Course: Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Servings: 1
A delicious salad using the last of winter's produce and the first of spring's. Toasty nuts, warm grains, and an egg make it very special, Increase quantities as needed.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup hulled barley, buckwheat groats, or farro *see notes for cooking times.
  • ½ small Delicata squash, sliced into ½" rings, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 handfuls curly leaf spinach. washed and shaken dry (see special instructions if using baby spinach)
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts (place nuts on a small baking sheet in a 350° degree oven 6-8 minutes until fragrant)
  • 1 boiled egg, cooked to your liking and peeled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 357°. Put the barley, buckwheat groats, or farro* in a small saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to a lightly bubbling simmer. Leave the pan uncovered, and cook the grains until plump and tender, stirring occasionally. This will take between 15-60 minutes depending on your grain of choice. Drain, and set aside.
  • Place the sliced Delicata squash rings on a small baking sheet, drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place into the hot oven for 20-25 minutes until fork-tender and beginning to brown in some places, flipping halfway through.
  • About 5 minutes before the grains are finished cooking, warm one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the pancetta and garlic. Move the pancetta and garlic around in the skillet with a wooden spool or spatula until it is rendered, crispy, and slightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach. Toss the spinach in the warm pancetta garlic oil until it is just beginning to wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Add the warm cooked grain and sherry vinegar to the spinach, and toss until well coated in the vinaigrette.
  • Place the spinach and grains on a serving plate. Arrange the Delicata slices on top, sprinkle with hazelnuts, and place the egg on top. Serve.

Notes

Grain cooking times:
Barley:
   Pearled-- 20-30 minutes
   Hulled- 45-60 minutes
Buckwheat groats- 15-25 minutes
Farro:
   20-50 minutes depending on if grains are pearled or hulled   
 
two plates of egg foo young with chopsticks.

I had forgotten how much I adored egg foo young. The recipe, "Eggs, Edamame, Bean Sprouts" in Nigel Slater's 2020 book, Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter opened my aroma memory floodgates. I was taken back to very special meals in Chinese restaurants as a child.

That sent me searching the phenomenal "Omnivore's Cookbook," with its hundreds of classic and modern Chinese dishes by Maggie Zhu. Her traditional egg foo young versions include the brown sauce I remember. Approachable recipes and interesting family history fill her beautiful blog.

This recipe is a mash-up of tradition and change. Omnivore's Kitchen for tradition. Greenfeast for the addition of edamame. My own addition of making the brown sauce mushroomy.

Making Egg Foo Young at Home

Maggie Zhu's trick for getting the omelette, as she calls it, thick and puffy is to use a fair amount of vegetable oil in the pan. Her recipes say to use between 2 and 8 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Less oil will give you a flatter, less puffy, less traditionally Chinese omelette, she says, and she is right. I found that 6 Tablespoons in my 8" skillet is perfect for that tall, puffy egg foo young that I remember having in Chinese restaurants. The extra oil helps the Chinese omelette become well-browned, with the slightest crusty crispness that is more traditional.

two plates of egg foo young with brown sauce on plates, with chopsticks.

If mushrooms aren't your thing like they are mine, omit them. Instead of the water, substitute dark vegetable or chicken stock. Here's my recipe for a rich brown roasted vegetable stock.

The edamame is optional, or peas or finely chopped broccoli can be a substitute. Egg foo Young doesn't require animal protein, so leave that out if you'd like. Once you get the hang of it, you'll see that egg foo young is more of a method than a prescription. It can be filled with any number of things, just like a French-style omelette.

The resulting egg foo young is amazingly easy, restaurant take-out fast, and powerfully delicious. I hope you like it.

a plate of egg foo young with chopsticks

Egg Foo Young

Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Cuisine: Chinese
Season: All Season
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy
30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 6" egg patties
A Chinese take-out favorite made in a flash at home. Fill your egg foo young with any number of fillings to suit your mood or what you have on hand.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Easy Brown Sauce

  • ½ ounce dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms Pistol River Mushroom Farm is a good source.
  • cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon ketchup
  • Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon rice flour or cornstarch

Eggs

  • 6 large eggs
  • cup bell pepper, any color, finely chopped
  • cup bean sprouts
  • cup edamame, peas, or finely chopped broccoli, optional
  • 3 green onions, two finely chopped and one thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp, chicken, or ham, finely chopped, optional
  • salt and black or white pepper to taste
  • 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil*

Instructions

Cook the Sauce

  • In a small saucepan, use your fingers to break the dried mushrooms into small, irregular pieces and cover them with 1¼ cups hot water. Set aside for 15 minutes. Whisk all the remaining sauce ingredients into the saucepan with the mushrooms and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the sauce simmers and thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Keep warm.

Cook the Egg Pancakes

  • In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until well combined. Add the bell pepper, bean sprouts, chopped green onions, and shrimp, chicken or ham, if using. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil* in a small skillet over medium to medium high heat. Scoop about ½ cup of the egg mixture into the skillet. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture. This should make about four 6" patties.
  • Serve with steamed short-grained rice, spooning the mushroom sauce over the top. Garnish with sliced green onion.

Notes

This recipe is adapted from Maggie Zhu at Omnivore's Kitchen. I thank her for her delicious blog and the step-by-step guidance in learning to cook Chinese dishes. 
*Maggie's recipe for egg foo young says to use between 2 and 8 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Less oil will give you a flatter, less puffy traditional omelette, she says, and she is right. I found that 6 Tablespoons in my 8" kitchen is perfect for that tall, puffy egg that I remember having in Chinese restaurants. 
jar of roasted vegetable stock

One of the graces of home cooking is that there are no paying customers demanding a dish to be exactly the same visit after visit. Each time you make roasted vegetable stock you use any variety of vegetables, bones, meats, herbs, and spices you happen to have. Each time the stock will have a subtly unique flavor. This may not work well in a restaurant, but is terrific at home.

This post is dedicated to my 1970's junior high school home economics teacher, Mrs. Waetje, who taught that reducing waste is a tenet of home economics-- a wise use of family finances. It is a great feeling to rummage through the fridge for vegetables that may otherwise go to waste and turn them into liquid gold. Thank you, Mrs. Waetje, and if you are still out there, I was paying attention despite my wiggles and perpetual chatter.

Wake up Your Cooking with Aromatic and Delectable Stock

Your roasted vegetable stock will add layers and layers of flavor to the soups and stews you make-- that's a given. Use your liquid gold to make risotto, to cook rice and grains like barley, farro, and buckwheat groats. Use it as a medium in which to simmer your dried beans, and as a base for meaty braises. A ladleful added to just about any ragu or stew will deepen its flavor. And one of my favorite things is to cradle a hot mug of broth first thing in the morning as a gentle winter wake up tonic.

The Difference Between Unroasted and Roasted Vegetable Stock

Roasting the vegetables before the simmer produces a deep, richly flavored stock perfect for supporting heartier cool-weather ingredients and recipes. Save the light golden unroasted vegetable stocks for spring and summer cooking. To make a typical light golden broth, simply do not roast the vegetables first, and omit the mushrooms. Follow the remaining directions as they are written.

overhead picture of a jar of roasted vegetable stock.

The Difference Between Stock and Broth

There seems to be a different answer to this question for every person who asks it. Some say that to be called stock it needs to be made with bones, or that broth is something you sip and stock is something you cook with. Another pundit suggests broth is lighter and more flavorful, while stock is thicker. That is questionable, in my opinion, as light broths can be rather wan and flavorless, and thicker stocks can be full of complex flavor.

So, potayto, potahto. Make some, enjoy it, and call it whatever you want. To me, spring and summer cooking seems to lend itself to light broths, autumn and winter to rich, brown stocks. The cooking community seems to agree that the terms are interchangeable. Whatever rolls out of my mouth is the term I'll use!

Vegetable Stock Do's and Don'ts

The very thrifty among us (like Mrs. Waetje, I'm sure) keep a zip-bag in the freezer and stuff clean, vegetable scraps into it. When it's full it is time to make stock.

Classic mirepoix-- onion, carrot, and celery are standard issue in stock making. (You will note the absence of celery in the mis en place photo below. I didn't have any, and it is not noticeably missed in the resulting stock.) See the notes section of the recipe for a more comprehensive list of vegetables and optional ingredients that can contribute to great stock.

Most vegetables make a good stock, with a few exceptions; Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and artichokes can be overpowering or add off-putting flavor notes, so avoid them for this purpose. Beets, especially red ones, will likely make your stock an odd and unappealing color, so think twice about throwing those into the pot. Potatoes are fine, but I don't use them to keep the stock a little more clear than cloudy, a personal preference.

Mushrooms are lovely in a roasted vegetable stock. Dried mushrooms, even better! Just one ounce of dried mushrooms (don't roast them-- just add them to the pot with the water) intensify the rich flavor and add a deeper color to the stock. They are not required, but do add something nice and grounding.

Limp, wilted, scuffed, and past-their-prime vegetables are all fair game. Just be sure to peel or cut off any parts that have blackened or have signs of mold to keep your broth clean and fresh tasting.

Use Your Roasted Vegetable Stock in These Recipes

To cook the grain in Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad. Get the Recipe.
In place of the water in Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. Get the recipe.

Last Words

If you like this recipe, please give it rating by clicking into the green stars, and if you have questions about the recipe or other culinary dilemmas, please email me at pam@101milekitchen.com. Your success is important to me. Thank you to each and every one of you who subscribes to 101-Mile Kitchen newsletters. You are appreciated more than you'll ever know!

pot of roasted vegetable stock

Roasted Vegetable Stock

Course: Soup + Stew
Season: Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Roasting
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 2 quarts
Deep, richly flavored roasted vegetable stock provides perfect support to hearty cool-weather ingredients and recipes.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pounds mixed vegetables See notes.
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for adjusting at the end
  • 1 teaspoon whole black or mixed peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley, flat leaf or curly, stems trimmed
  • assorted fresh herbs of your choice, about one bunch total, OR dried herbs of your choice, up to 2 teaspoons
  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms, any variety, optional
  • 1-2 bay leaf
  • other optional ingredients of your choice. See notes.
  • quarts water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°, or 325° convection. Line a 13" x 18" baking sheet with foil.
  • Wash the vegetables and trim away any spoiled parts. Cut the vegetables into evenly sized chunks and place them on the foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and a good drizzle of olive oil, up to 3 Tablespoonsful. Mix gently together with your hands. Place the sheet into the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, or until the onions and other vegetables are beginning to take on some roasted color and are quite fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  • Place the roasted vegetables and any browned stuck-on parts and oil that remain into an 8 quart stockpot. Add the salt, peppercorns, fresh or dried herbs, dried mushrooms, if using, bay leaves, and water. Bring the pot to a rapid boil, and immediately reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover, and cooking for 1-2 hours, stirring often. Remove the lid for the last half of cooking.
  • Taste the stock and adjust seasoning by adding more salt if necessary. Allow the stock to cook slightly until safe to handle.
  • Strain the stock first through a colander to remove the larger bits, then strain again through a very fine mesh strainer to remove the tiny bits that make it cloudy. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to three months.

Notes

Vegetable selection:
Classic mirepoix-- onion, carrot, and celery are standard issue. Most vegetables make a good stock. Do use the leaves, peels, skins, and stalks of leeks, garlic, peppers, parsnips, turnips, squashes, fennel, kohlrabi, tomatoes. Corn and corn cobs and celery root, are good additions, too. 
Think twice about using Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and artichokes which can add overpowering off-putting flavor notes. Potatoes are fine, but omitting them will keep the stock from becoming too cloudy.
Mushrooms are lovely in a roasted vegetable stock. Dried mushrooms are even better! Just one ounce of dried mushrooms (don't roast them-- just add them to the pot with the water) intensify the rich flavor and deep color to the stock. They are not required, but do add something nice.
Optional additions:
Rinds (not the juicy flesh) of citrus, especially lemon and orange.
Nubs of fresh ginger and/or turmeric.
Dried chilis of any variety. I find a couple small arbols add a very subtle warmth. The larger dried chilis will make a marked flavor difference and would be fantastic as a tortilla soup base, for example. 
Varied fresh herbs. Nearly all herb will make a nice flavor contribution, but do be careful with some of the more overpowering herbs such as rosemary and oregano. A little can go a long way.
Dried herbs are much more condensed in flavor than fresh, so a little goes a long way here, too. But do use them!
Juniper berries are wonderful in a stock. Add up to 1 teaspoonful, gently crushed to release even more of their wintry flavor. 
Platter of Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad.

Feasts, cookie platters, cocktail parties, and office holiday goodies, oh my! As fun as it is, it doesn't take long to feel the overwhelm of holiday system overload, just when the mood of the day calls for merry and bright. As a remedy to seasonal splurges, include a salad of roasted mushrooms, warm grains, and baby spinach into your menu this week.

Making the Roasted Mushroom, Grain and Spinach Salad

plate of spinach and mushroom salad with a bite on the fork.

This quick little main-course salad starts with four easy-to-come by ingredients and a light but flavorful lemon vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made even better by using Meyer lemons, just coming into peak season.

Here I go on about celery again. Celery adds an essential textural crunch to this dish, and a bit of delicious freshness that you will welcome to your winter plate. I view this as this as a subtle necessity.

In the extraordinary Pacific Northwest food playground we have easy access to an array of cultivated and wild mushrooms. One trial of this recipe I used a shiitake-only approach. Another trial used a melange of chestnut, oyster, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms. I loved it both ways. If you can only access white buttons or brown criminis, please use them! Your dish will be as delicious as ever.

You have a lot of running room when it comes to the grain you use in your roasted mushroom salad. I used Purple Valley Barley, an organic product from my local Lonesome Whistle Farm. Lonesome Whistle also carries wheat berries, emmer (a farro) and oat groats that would be perfect. If you are new to this type of thing and eat gluten, I suggest starting with pearled barley, or just jump right in and try one of the above grains. If you eat gluten-free, give buckwheat groats or brown rice a try.

What Wine Should I Serve with Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad?

2013 Artisanal Wine Cellars Oregon Pinot Noir Dukes Family Vineyards, Eola-Amity Hills.

I started off suggesting a mushroom, warm grain, and spinach salad as a detoxifying healthy choice, so maybe through the holidays consider a tonic of pomegranate juice and sparkling water? Or not! I highly suggest the Artisanal Wine Cellars 2015 Dukes Family Vineyard Pinot Noir. Tom and Patty Feller, and their daughter, Mia, are a family operation dedicated to handcrafted expressive wines. The grapes in this bottle were grown by Pat and Jackie Dukes of Dukes Family Vineyard. We view the Artisanal's Pinot Noirs to be beautiful wines at incredible values.

Other Holiday Self-Care Recipe Ideas

Humble Pasta with Beans + Mushrooms: Get the Recipe
Healing Chickpea + Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth: Get the Recipe
Deconstructed Borscht Bowl: Get the Recipe

Roasted Mushroom, Grain, and Spinach Salad

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy, Roasting
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Roasted mushrooms, warm chewy grain, and fresh spinach dressed in the best ever lemon vinaigrette. This fantastic fast and easy layered salad is hearty enough for satisfying cool weather meals, light enough to counterbalance seasonal feasts and spurges.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • lb. mushrooms of your choice, singularly or in combination crimini, shiitake, chestnut, chanterelle, hedgehog, button, etc.
  • 5 stalks celery, and leaves if your head has them
  • 1 cup whole grain of your choice, prepared according to package directions and kept warm* barley; emmer, spelt, or einkorn farro; wheat berries; oat or buckwheat groats; brown, black, purple, red, or wild rice, etc.
  • 8-10 oz. fresh baby spinach
  • lemon vinaigrette, recipe below
  • zest of 2 lemons, in strips

Best Ever Lemon Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup lemon juice, Meyer lemon preferred, zested first about 2 large lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • tsp. maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400° convection. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with oil or non-stick spray.
  • Begin cooking your chosen grain according to package directions. (For example, quick-cooking par cooked farro from Trader Joes takes 10 minutes to cook; unhulled barley takes up to 40 minutes.) Once it is cooked, keep it warm while the other steps come together.
  • Prepare the Best Ever Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe below.
  • Wipe mushrooms clean and trim them if necessary. If you are using shiitakes, remove the stems. Leave the small ones whole, cut the medium-sized ones in half, and the largest ones into quarters for similarly sized pieces that will roast at the same rate. Place them in a heap on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon about ¼ of the lemon vinaigrette over the mushrooms. Use your hands to toss the mushrooms in the vinaigrette, coating each piece lightly and evenly. Spread the mushroom pieces out on the pan, and place in the oven. Roast for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and stir. Spread them out again and roast them for another 10 minutes or so until they are deeply colored and their juices have almost evaporated. Don't leave them much longer than this or they will lose their tenderness.
  • While the mushrooms are roasting, thinly slice the celery and set aside. When the grains are cooked and drained, stir in ¼ of the vinaigrette and continue to keep gently warm. Place the spinach on the platter or individual plates.
  • When the mushrooms are done roasting, add the sliced celery and give it a good toss. Spoon the dressed grains in the center of the plate, and top with the mushroom/celery mixture. Drizzle a little more of the vinaigrette over the layered salad.** Garnish with strips of lemon zest, which are not only eye-catching, but add a delicious flavor note. Serve while warm.

Make the Best Ever Lemon Vinaigrette

  • Combine all ingredients on a pint-sized jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until the salt and maple syrup are dissolved. Shake before each use.

Notes

*I've made this recipe using organic locally-grown barley, with buckwheat groats, and with a package of "10-Minute Farro" sometimes found at Trader Joes. Follow the package directions for any grain you use for both serving size and cooking times. 
**You will have a little of the vinaigrette left over. Don't be sad about this-- use it on your next kale or lettuce salad, on top of baked or broiled fish, or to dress a pan of roasted vegetables. 
When Meyer lemons are in season, be sure to use them. The typical Eureka or Lisbon lemons are wonderful, too, but Meyers offer a step up in flavor.
I recently found that the water that remains when cooking whole-grain barley is delicious as a sipper. Cook the barley "pasta-style" floating freely in a pot of water, and reserve the water. It's as tasty as any stock, and can be used as a soup base or warming cup. 
This recipe is easily halved and easily doubled. If you double it, use two sheet pans to roast the larger amount of mushrooms. 
 

I am always surprised at how many people don't enjoy winter vegetables and the glorious things you can make with them, like this simple deconstructed Borscht Bowl. Here is my theory why.

Overhead image of a bowlful of deconstructed borscht on table.
Deconstructed Borscht Bowl

Not all that long ago, people ate whatever the seasons offered. Storage vegetables sustained us into the cold winter. Parsnips, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, cabbages, and beets were familiar and welcome.

Then the frozen food explosion of the early 1950s came. Supermarkets full of freezer cases exploded into cities and suburbs. We now have over three generations of people who have had the luxury of eating sweet peas in January as though it is natural. Consequently, we have lost our taste for hearty winter vegetables.

Frozen food technology is great, really. But to allow it to shake us lose from the joys of seasonal eating? To let go of a whole swath of foods designed to provide what we need in cold weather? What a shame. Let's fix that with some borscht-y goodness.

Rustic, Warming, Healing, and Delicious

Deconstructed Borscht Bowl in a bowl on the table.

Our deconstructed Borscht Bowl is inspired by Eastern European borscht made of beet, potato, cabbage, sour cream and dill. Here, we just arrange the components a little differently. It is the perfect thing to eat on a dark winter's evening, a chunk of caraway rye black bread and perhaps some browned sausages alongside.

I love the short-day season at the dinner table. Nearly every night we light candles and dim the overhead lights. The glow of candlelight on the face of my beloved dinner companion casts him in his one-and-only kind of charm. Dinner topics move from what happened outdoors today to what it happening in our souls today. These dinners help our roots sink deeper.

In the same way, one of my favorite things is to wrap my hands around a warm bowl of wintery food. Try filling your bowl with a fluffy, crusty baked potato. Ladle over rosy beets and broth. Pile on store-bought or homemade sauerkraut, full of beneficial immunity-boosting bacteria. Dollop on horseradish-laced sour cream. Embrace eating with the season.

Making the Deconstructed Borscht Bowl

Image of the ingredients you'll need: stock, sauerkraut, beets, horseradish, olive oil, fresh dill, sour cream, and potatoes.
Ingredients you will need.

The crackly-skinned, fluff-filled baked potato in the bottom of the bowl adds heft and makes a good excuse to warm your space with the oven. Best of all, it mops up the delicious bright pink broth.

The beets and their broth are made quickly on the stovetop or in a pressure-cooker while the potatoes are baking.

The cabbage in this bowl comes in the form of sauerkraut-- either homemade or store-bought. Fermented foods are so good for us! Pile it on and toast to your health!

Finally, we stir some horseradish, freshly grated or prepared, into some sour cream along with a lot of fresh dill to dollop over the Borscht Bowl, and give it a snowy dusting of dill over the top. Yes, please.

Other Wintery Ways to Dress a Baked Potato:

Use the rich mushroom gravy component of this recipe over a baked potato for another easy and wonderful winter dinner!

Deconstructed Borscht Bowl

Course: Main Dish, Soup + Stew
Season: Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Deconstructed Borscht Bowl is inspired by Eastern European borscht made of beet, potato, cabbage, sour cream and dill. Here, we just arrange the winter vegetable components into a bowl for a hearty warming winter meal.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 Russett potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable, beef, or chicken stock homemade, purchased, or made from bouillon
  • 1 ½ pounds beets, cooked and peeled
  • 2 cups sauerkraut, homemade or purchased
  • 8 ounces sour cream or cashew sour cream (recipe below) for dairy-free/vegan option
  • 2-3 teaspoons horseradish, freshly grated or prepared
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, packed
  • salt + pepper to taste

Cashew Sour Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashew pieces (no need for the more expensive whole nuts here) Where available, Trader Joe's is a good source for most nuts, including cashews.
  • ½ cup water
  • Tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, or a mix of both
  • ½ tsp. salt

Instructions

Deconstructed Borscht Bowl

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with coarse salt, and with a sharp knife, cut a 2"-3" slit in the top of each potato. Roast until a knife inserted into the center offers no resistance and they give in to a little squeeze. Depending on your oven, this may take 40 minutes to an hour.
  • Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cut the beets into chunks and pulse them 12-15 times in a food processor to a fine irregular mince. Stir the minced beets into the simmering stock. Taste for salt and add more to the broth if needed, along with some freshly cracked black pepper. Squeeze most of the brine from the sauerkraut and gently warm it in a microwave oven or small saucepan. Stir together the sour cream or cashew sour cream, horseradish to taste, and most of the dill, reserving some dill for garnish.
  • Place each potato into its own wide bowl, and crack it open along its slit by pinching the potato together and toward the center like a Chinese fortune teller (cootie catcher.) Ladle the hot beets and broth over each potato. Place a big dollop of herbed sour cream on the potato. Pile on the sauerkraut, and garnish with the remaining dill. Serve piping hot.

Cashew Sour Cream

  • Cover cashews in boiling water and soak at least one hour up to overnight, and drain, OR (my favorite method) place the cashews and cover with water in an electric pressure cooker and cook on high for 8 minutes. Allow to cool, and drain.
  • Place the drained cashews the lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar, and salt in a blender. Blend on high until it is completely smooth, scraping down the sides often. Taste for sourness, and add more lemon juice/apple cider vinegar to taste. Store in the refrigerator. Cashew sour cream will thicken as it chills. It will keep in your fridge about one week, and it can also be frozen. Stir well between uses. Makes about 14 ounces.

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Welcome!

Photo of 101-Mile Kitchen blog owner.

You’re in the right place!  I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.

Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.

Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.

Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.

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