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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.
olive oil drop biscuits on a plate next to a bottle of wine.

For every aspirational, time-consuming, detail-laden recipe in a cook's repertoire, she needs ten like this one in her bag of tricks. These 20-minute, one bowl Quickie Olive Oil Drop Biscuits have elevated so many meals in my lifetime. They are a perfect last-minute additional to all the soups and stews of the season. The biscuits also compliment any main-dish salad, and are a great way to stretch a meal when guests pop in (like back in the BC days.) Really, they are perfect wherever a dinner roll or biscuit would fit.

A fun trick is to make the biscuits small, dropped from a dinner spoon instead of a soup spoon, and serve them as an appetizer or snack with a glass of wine, an American version of gougères.

A plateful of quickie olive oil drop biscuits.

What is to love about these golden mounds of goodness?

A plateful of three olive oil biscuits, one with a bite taken out.
Olive Oil Drop Biscuits are a bit crispy on the outside, tender + fluffy on the inside.

Selling point number one-- quickie olive oil drop biscuits are made in lightening speed. As in, begin preheating your oven now, and your biscuits will be mixed and formed before the oven is up to heat. There are only four primary ingredients to gather and measure here. Using olive oil eliminates the step of cutting in butter. Without the need to roll out and cut the dough like a typical biscuit you save that time, and a lot of cleanup by keeping everything contained in one bowl and not spread all over the counter.

Next, you'll fall head-over-heels for them because they are highly customizable. Olive oil drop biscuits without any of the optional add-ins are deliciously simple, and they become even more remarkable with the addition of some cheese, fresh or dried herbs, or better yet, both cheese and herbs. Any cheese that can be crumbled with your fingers or grated works here, and I often use a combination of cheeses just to use up the left-over nubbins.

Lastly, I love this recipe for olive oil droppers because it makes a relatively small batch. Did you know that in 2020, 53% of American households has one or two members? Most of us can't use a dozen biscuits. This fact is something I'm taking note of more and more when developing recipes, and you should see a change in the recipe sizes on these pages.

Serve your quickie olive oil biscuits alongside these recipes:

Any of the variations of Winter White Vegetable Soup: Get recipe here.
Healing Chickpea Orzo Bowl in Ginger Broth: Get recipe here.
Roasted Mushroom, Grain, + Spinach Salad. Get recipe here.
Roasted Peppers, White Beans, Feta + Simple Herb Sauce, made sheet-pan-style instead of grilled. Get recipe here.

all the ingredients needed to make quickie olive oil drop biscuits.
So few ingredients for so much quick and easy goodness!
A plateful of quickie olive oil drop biscuits

Quickie Olive Oil Biscuits

Course: Appetizer, Bread + Rolls, Quick + Easy
Season: All Season
Dietary: Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Baking, Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8 biscuits
These lightning fast, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside drop biscuits are the perfect "little something" to round out a meal. Delicious plain, or with the cheese and herb add-ins. You'll have them mixed up before your oven preheats!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (equal to ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon)

Optional Add-Ins

  • cup crumbly or grated cheese Parmesan, cheddar, gruyere, blue, fontina, gouda, etc.
  • fresh or dried herbs of your choice thyme, chives, rosemary, Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, cumin, etc.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment of a silicone baking mat. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. If you are using any cheese or herbs, stir them into the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the milk and olive oil over the dry ingredients at the same time, and quickly and gently stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated. This will leave a somewhat shaggy dough. Don't overmix.
  • Drop the biscuits by spoonful onto the parchment or mat. Sprinkle the tops with a little more cheese, if you'd like. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown and the tops bounce back up when lightly pressed. Cool on a rack, and serve.

Notes

These speedy drop biscuits are best eaten right out of the oven. If you have any leftover, rewarm them for a few minutes on an oven or toaster for best texture. Leftovers are also good for breakfast, toasted with butter and jam.
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.
Platter Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy on table with wine glasses and bottle of wine.

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy involves roasting quartered parsnips until partly chewy, partly crispy. A brown gravy smothers all good poutines. This one is a rich mushroom gravy redolent with shallots and herbs. Top the poutine off with Beaver Classic cheese curds, a project of Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, or any cheese curd or melting cheese you chose.

This recipe is designed for a very special group of people who started out as neighbors and became dear friends. Ever since we moved to the 101-Mile Kitchen we gather frequently to relax, shoot the breeze, eat and drink. This recipe is a thank you to these amazing souls who have kept my heart from drooping during the last 20 months of living in an upside down world, and to the universe for putting us in each other's paths.

Besides being funny, smart, and caring, our neighbors all enjoy cooking great food and drinking nice wine. (There might be a splash of bourbon here and there, too.) Sometimes we have a full-on meal, but most often we meet over easy noshes, charcuterie, spreads and dips, and casual dishes. I can't wait to make this poutine for them.

Overhead closeup photo of Parsnip Poutine with Rich Mushroom Gravy.

What is the Best Pairing?

While it makes a terrific main course at its heart poutine is bar food and doesn't need a precious pairing. I'd suggest a Southern Rhone style blend. This time I served the poutine with a very inexpensive ($13) 2017 Château Saint-Estève Cuvée Classique Corbières Rouge-- a nice old world 60% Grenache- 40% Syrah blend. It is lively, with whispers of herbs and deep fruit that compliment the umami and herbal flavors in the gravy.

Quady North GSM from Oregon's Rogue Valley and Reininger Helix SoRho from Washington are some of our favorite American GSM producers.

Of course most ales and beers are also delightful with poutine.

Making the Poutine + Gravy

Image of all the ingredients needed to make the parsnip poutine + rich mushroom gravy: parsnips, dried mushrooms, rosemary, shallot, flour, thyme, garlic, and cheese curds.

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy is another of those one-hour wonders. It takes maybe ten minutes to prep the ingredients, 16 minutes in the oven to get the parsnips on their tender and crunchy way while the mushrooms rehydrate, and another 15 or 20 minutes to make the gravy while the parsnips are finishing off. A foil-lined sheet pan, a large pan, a knife, and a bowl are the only tools used so clean-up is speedy.

Parsnips and shallots grow just about anywhere, so they should fit in to most people's imaginary 101-mile sourcing radius. You can find dried Porcini mushrooms at many groceries and online. My favorite source is Pistol River Mushroom Farm in Southern Oregon. Dried mushrooms seem expensive until you realize that one ounce of dried mushrooms is equal to 8 ounces of fresh. The dark color of the soaking liquid becomes the intensely flavored broth for the gravy-- something a fresh mushroom just can't do.

As an aside, tuck this mushroom gravy recipe away to use in many other ways. I can't wait to ladle it onto a split and fluffed baked potato one cold winter's day.

Parsnip Poutine with Rich Mushroom Gravy on a platter, surrounded by wine bottle and glasses.

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan, Roasting
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
You'd never know there was no meat in this rich silky poutine gravy, and the crunchy, chewy roasted parsnips take it to new but familiar places. A fantastic main or "bar food" course for vegans and omnivores alike.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 lb. parsnips
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, or other dried cooking mushroom
  • 12 oz. shallot, approximately 4 large peeled and sliced ½" thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • tablespoons GF One-for-One flour, rice flour, or all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ lb. cheese curds, or goat cheese

Instructions

For the Parsnips

  • Preheat the oven to 400° convection and line a baking sheet with foil.
  • Trim and peel the parsnips. Quarter them lengthwise, and if they are especially thick, cut them again into eighths. Lay them out on the foil lined baking sheet, and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Toss them with your hands to evenly cover them in the olive oil, and spread them out flat at much as possible. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and black pepper. Bake for 16 minutes, and them flip them over. Reduce the oven heat to 350°. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and drizzle olive oil on any parts that look parched. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves over the parsnips and return to the oven for another 16-20 minutes. Check them often for doneness-- the thick tops will be browned and tender, the thin ends will be well browned and somewhat crispy.

For the Mushroom Shallot Gravy

  • As soon as the parsnips are in the oven, place the dried porcini in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl, and cover with hot tap water to the 3-cup mark. Set aside.
  • Heat enough olive oil over medium-high heat to generously cover the bottom of a sauteuse or large pan. Slide in the sliced shallots and leave without turning until the bottoms are browned. Stir, flipping them over, and again allow them to brown. After the first ten minutes add the minced garlic, thyme, and a 4-finger pinch of salt. Continue the browning process until the shallots are completely tender but not mushy, and have a good amount of browned caramelization throughout.
  • Stir in the flour, and continuously stir until the flour is well incorporated and beginning to stick to the pan. Stir for about three minutes.
  • Gradually ladle in the soaked mushrooms and their dark brown soaking liquid, stirring between ladlefuls, until it it incorporated. You will see the gravy begin to thicken immediately-- stir throughout this process to avoid any lumps.
  • Stirring frequently, bring the gravy to a boil, and add some more salt. There should be about one teaspoon total in the gravy, or to taste. Add a very generous amount of black pepper to season. Allow the gravy to bubble and thicken for about 6 minutes.

Bring it All Together

  • Arrange the roasted parsnips on a large warmed platter in a spiky spoke-like fashion. Ladle the hot gravy in the center. Arrange the cheese curds over the gravy, and top with a bunch of thyme for garnish. Serve while piping hot.
woman in sweater holds whole loaf of Caraway Rye Black Bread.

Even though school busses are rolling again, a blanket has been tossed on top of the summer sheets, and my favorite sweater has been brought out against the morning and evening chill, it is my first annual batch of Caraway Rye Black Bread that makes the welcome of autumn official at our house.

A loaf of caraway rye black bread in its Staub baking pot.

This black bread recipe originates with Dan Lepard's phenomenal 2011 cookbook, Short & Sweet. My adaptations reduce a little sugar, simplify the process, and make it completely dairy-free/vegan. But the texture, flavor profile, and proportions are singularly Dan's.

How to Use the Caraway Rye Black Bread

A table set for a party with soup-filled bowls, ine, and a loaf of caraway rye black bread.

This glorious rye bread is perfect for dunking into a thick bean or vegetable soup like this for Halloween supper. Or try two slices filled with your favorite cheese, thinly sliced apple, and grainy mustard and grilled in a hot skillet or panini maker as an after leaf-raking treat. Or chunked up as a fondue dipper and served with a Grüner Veltliner or Riesling, it wins a lot of points in the stay-at-home romance category.

But here is my personal favorite-- A thick slice toasted, buttered, and with a generous schmear of butter or ghee and orange marmalade alongside a cup of hot coffee sings O Happy Day for breakfast.

About the Bread

A loaf of caraway rye back bread on a cutting board with sliced and a wedge cut from it.

Caraway Rye Black Bread is the lovechild of deli rye and pumpernickel. Deep dark richness comes from molasses, cocoa powder, and ground coffee beans or instant espresso powder. The unmistakable sweet warmth comes from a generous amount of caraway seeds typically found in a lighter rye bread.

The loaf is gorgeous and huge-- HUGE-- at nearly three pounds. Is that more bread than your household came consume at once? There's the solution for that! The dough is easily divided into two smaller loaves baked either in boules as directed or in standard loaf pans. The dough also makes fantastic dinner or sandwich rolls, so you could make one loaf along with a pan of those. Well wrapped, the baked bread freezes beautifully for up to three months.

The Caraway Rye Black Bread recipe creates a silky dough that bakes up into a springy fine crumb. Its soft moisture comes from grated carrot, which I routinely swap for peeled winter squash such as butternut.

I've worked to simplify the steps, none of which are difficult. The hands-on time is fairly short. As your Saturday or Sunday self-care project, there is plenty of time to relax with a book or watch movies while the dough is rising.

I hope this heavenly bread recipe will become your welcome to autumn tradition.

Caraway Rye Black Bread on a cutting board

Caraway Rye Black Bread

Course: Bread + Rolls
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 1 3-pound loaf
If a pumpernickel and a deli-style caraway rye had a baby, it would be this loaf. A fine-crumbed pumpernickel-style loaf flecked with carrot and caraway just right for cool weather soup dipping, panini, cheese plates, fondue dipping and good old sandwiches. This vegan/dairy-free version makes one 3-pound loaf, two typically sized loaves, or great dinner rolls.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups rye or dark rye flour Camas Country Schoolhouse Dark Northern Rye is my favorite.
  • teaspoons instant dry yeast SAF brand is my go-to.
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons instant espresso powder or very finely ground coffee or espresso beans
  • 1 - 1½ Tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (110°-115°) and more as needed
  • ¼ cup molasses, dark or blackstrap
  • 3 Tablespoons olive, avocado, or safflower oil
  • 2 cups carrot or winter squash such as butternut, peeled and grated a fine grate will make the carrot to disappear into the dough- a course grate will make pretty orange flecks in the dough, your choice.

Instructions

  • Combine the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Alternatively, do this by hand in a very large mixing bowl.
  • Measure the warm water into a 2-cup measure. Add molasses and oil, and stir to thoroughly combine.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the water mixture gradually to the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the carrots and increase the speed to medium. Knead for about five minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Aim for a dough that is smooth, moist, and tacky, but pulls away from the bow. leaving just a few moist streaks on the bowl. If your dough is too soft, add additional AP or rye flour a tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time, allowing time for the flour to absorb it before adding more.
  • Oil a large lowl. With oiled hands, shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Flip it over a time or two to lightly coat it in oil. Leave it seam side down, covered with a dishcloth, to rest in a warm place for 1 -2 hours until the dough has just doubled in size.
  • After the first rise, gently press down on the dough. On a lightly oiled surface and with oiled hands, fold the edges of the dough into the center and press down. Do this again (twice total) to shape the dough into a tight, smooth ball. If you are baking it on a baking sheet, lightly oil the baking sheet and place the dough seam side down on the baking sheet. If you are baking your loaf in a Dutch oven (5-6 qt. is best) first place the dough on a sheet of parchment tucked into a small skillet or pan about the width of your Dutch oven, and place your Dutch oven into your oven. (This allows the dough to rise while your Dutch oven is preheating.) With either baking method, cover the dough with a dishcloth for its final rise in a warm place for one hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°/ 220C. Brush the top of the loaf with water and scatter another 1 teaspoon of caraway seed on top, if desired. With a very sharp knife and without deflating the dough, cut an "X", a line down the center, a half moon, or wheat-shaped dashes into the top. Or leave it to make its own fough gash as it expands in the oven. If you are baking the loaf in a Dutch oven, use the parchment corners to gently lift the dough into the hot Dutch oven. If you are baking it on a baking sheet, place the sheet in the oven.
  • Bake for 20 minutes at 425°/ 220C. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°/ 180C and bake for another 20-25 minutes. (Reduce the time if you've divided the dough into smaller loaves or rolls.) The loaf will be ready when it has a very well browned bottom crust and sounds hollow (like a drum) when you firmly pat it. Don't be afraid to give it more time in 5-minute increments-- you definitely don't want it underdone.
  • Remove the loaf to a cooling rack. Allow the load to cool to the touch completely before cutting into it. Slicing into a hot loaf of bread turns it into a compressed gooey mess, so be patient for this most excellent reward.

It is an odd little kid who prefers observing adults above hanging out with other kids, but that is how I was issued. With the focus of Jane Goodall and the sofa as my cover, I studied grown-ups and all forms of their behavior; language, cultural and social norms, and how curiously their developed biology drove their actions. Kids I found to be mostly mean, addled, and ridiculous.

Cold Buckwheat noodle salad with peanut sauce on platter

It will not surprise you, then, to know I hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The basic components were good, I thought. But jelly seeping through the bread, the gluey palate-sticking nature of the thing, and the whole sandwich mangled by the smacking of a thermos inside the lunchbox of a girl with a purposeful stride? Thank you, but no.

If Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodles in Peanut Sauce had been popular among suburban moms so long ago, it would have been my absolute lunchbox preference. A tangle of chewy buckwheat noodles and colorful crunchy vegetables draped in a velvet cloak of spicy, gingery peanut sauce is arguably the best use of peanut butter. It would have had me daydreaming about girls in Indonesian -- where peanut sauce originates-- wondering if they liked math any better than me, if their parents fought, and whether they moved a lot or got to live in one house their whole life. I would have wished the Weekly Reader to do a story on them so I could know.

This recipe is for my grandchildren should they want something other than jelly and bread with the peanut butter in their lunchboxes.

Cold Noodle Salad with peanut sauce on a platter

Crunchy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad + Peanut Sauce

Course: Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Chewy soba noodles and crackly-fresh vegetables are draped in a velvety, gingery peanut sauce. Make it in less than 20 minutes for a speedy dinner, but be sure to make extra-- it holds well for tomorrow's lunches or picnics. Easily halved or doubled, this all-ages people pleaser will be a welcome addition to your meal rotation.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Peanut Sauce

  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter, well stirred if natural
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil also called dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. - 1 Tbsp. Sriracha or hot chili garlic sauce to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger and its juice
  • 1-2 grated garlic cloves

Noodle Salad

  • 10 oz. soba (buckwheat) noodles udon, ramen, or rice noodles or even spaghetti are also good choices. Use gluten free noodles if you'd like
  • 6 cups fresh crunchy raw vegetables (see list below to mix and match*) chopped , coarsely grated, or thinly sliced
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • Peanut Sauce (above)
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges for serving

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl that allows room for whisking, whisk peanut butter to loosen it. Add each ingredient one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. (You are making an emulsion, and adding the liquids slowly in batches prevents a sloshy mess from forming. It will actually go faster this way, and will minimize cleanup.)
  • Whisk in warm water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce thickly drips from the whisk. You want the sauce to be thin enough to easily coat the nooks and crannies of the vegetables and noodles, but to retain some body. Depending on the thickness of your peanut butter and the room temperature, you will add between 1 Tablespoon and ¼ cup of water. Taste and make any adjustments of sweetener, lime juice, spicy heat, or perhaps salt. Set the peanut sauce aside.
  • Place a pot of salted water on to boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. When done, rinse in cold water until the noodles are completely cold.
  • While the water is heating and the noodles are cooking, prep your vegetables including the green onions. Aim for small dice, or thin matchstick pieces so that you can fork up a mix of vegetables and noodles in each bite. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl..
  • Coarsely chop the cilantro and peanuts. Keep a few tablespoons of each aside for garnish, and place the rest in the bowl. When the noodles are cooked, rinsed, and drained, add them to the bowl. Give everything a gentle toss.
  • Add about ½ cup of the peanut sauce to the bowl, and give everything a gentle but thorough toss, until all ingredients are evenly coated with peanut sauce. Add more sauce, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the salad is dressed to your liking.
  • Plate the salad individually or transfer it to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle cilantro, peanuts, and sesame seed on top. Serve with a lime wedge.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container. Will keep nicely for a day.

Notes

*Fresh crunchy vegetable options. Use what the garden or farmers market gives you, or what you have in your crisper:
  • cucumber*
  • green and/or purple cabbage
  • red or yellow bell pepper
  • snow or sugar-snap peas
  • carrot
  • radish
  • kohlrabi
  • white turnips
  • green or yellow summer squash* *Best added only if you'll consume the entire recipe right away, as they go soft and watery overnight. I don't mind this, but you might!

Three years ago my beloved and I bought our forever home. We'd come together later in life and it took us a while to figure out where and how to live in a way that meets both of our needs. For ten years we searched to find this place we both love and have made our home.

Our sweet forever home visually melts into the backdrop of a 260+ acre forest that also backs the properties of our two neighbors. We have loved the forest for all it gives. Birdsong, shade, the ever-present rustling of the treetops, the pure fresh earthy scent that's especially noticeable in the early mornings, and the creaks and howls that call from it after dark.

Three dishes of Douglas fir tip sorbet.

Beginning Tuesday, as happens in Oregon, the crop of timber-- the entire forest-- will be harvested. By September what once was a Douglas Fir forest will be three new homesites. We knew this would happen one day. We just liked to think that one day was 20 years from now.

I am heartbroken.

My husband, who has had something grumbly to say about every clear-cut we've ever driven by, has nobly risen to reframe the situation as our "view expansion and sunset enhancement opportunity." His forward lean and courage is beautiful.

I fleetingly think of changing my name to Butterfly and chaining myself to a tree. Instead I just weep.

Douglas Fir tip sorbet

Our dear neighbors with whom we have shared the glories of this forest gathered this weekend to pay homage to the lush, oxygen-scrubbing, interconnected organism we've enjoyed and appreciated. A wake of sorts. Poetry was recited, a tear or two was shed, and we laughed and shared community lore. My hurting heart considered serving Funeral Potatoes but I refrained.

What does one serve on the occasion of a forest being cut down?

We ate from the forest, that's what we did.

Fir tip sorbet in a glass

Douglas Fir Tip Sorbet or Granita

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 12
How does one eat a forest? One little bite of fir tip sorbet at a time! A little resiny and a little limey, this refreshing sorbet or granita makes a wonderful dessert with a hazelnut cookie, or a fantastic palate cleanser between courses. Forage away!
Print Recipe

Equipment

  • Ice Cream Maker/Freezer (optional)

Ingredients

  • cups water, divided
  • cups white sugar
  • ½ lime, zested
  • cups fir tips, packed
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 larger limes)
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)
  • 3 Tbsp. Douglas Fir Brandy, champagne, or vodka*

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan combine 2 cups of water, sugar, zest of ½ lime, packed fir tips. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Put a lid on the pan and remove from heat. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture into an 8-cup measuring cup or mixing bowl.
  • Squeeze the lime and lemon juices. Add the remaining 2½ cups of water and the juices to the strained sugar mixture. Stir in the Douglas Fir brandy, champagne, or vodka. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator 2 hours or overnight.**
  • For sorbet, freeze according to ice cream maker manufacturers instructions. Serve immediately for slushier soft-serve, or harden in the freezer for two hours for scoopable sorbet.

Notes

*If you make the icy granita version, increase the brandy, champagne, or vodka to 4 Tablespoons.
**If you are making icy granita, skip the chilling step and pour the mixture into a large flat plastic container with lid and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least four hours, scraping every hour or so with a fork to break up chunks and create the fluffy "snow-cone" texture. To serve, rake through the frozen mixture again with a fork to create the fluffy icy texture and serve.

Other Ways to Eat a Forest

Douglas Fir Fettucine Alfredo and another beautiful sad story.

Douglas Fir Shortbread and Healing Conifer Tea from The View From Great Island

Douglas Fir Roasted Amarosa Potatoes Hasselback Style

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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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