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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Since discovering this sauce a few weeks ago, I've used it like this:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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.
First, this may look or sound like a challenging recipe, but it is not. The steps are easy to work through:
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use the rich mushroom gravy component of this recipe over a baked potato for another easy and wonderful winter dinner!