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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
Keyword: mushroom salad
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy, Roasting
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Pam Spettel
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. 
 
Overhead image of serving dish full or golden pumpkin chicken sausage orecchiette.

Are you ready for a true confession?

I rarely cook from a recipe. The first time I made this Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta there was no script. I tell you this so you understand my process of getting a recipe from my brain to your screen-- one that I know will work for you at home and that you can trust. A recipe that will hopefully make it onto your table.

How an Idea Becomes a Recipe

A new recipe concept starts with thinking and dreaming about the flavors, colors, scents, and textures of ingredients. This work happens when I'm asleep and when I'm awake-- all the time! All that I have learned in over 50 years of cooking and eating informs how a new recipe idea comes together.

Step One

Intuition led the way when I first made this marigold Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta, like with most things I cook. I found it warm and comforting. It was delicious enough to share, and didn't take a fortnight to make, and so on to trial number two.

Step Two

The second run is where I pay keen attention to quantities, timing, and cooking nuances you might want to know that will ensure success. Paper and pen are right next to me noting details as I work it through. At this stage I ask myself some hard questions: Is this really the kind of recipe you might want. Does this recipe create a solution for you? Will it delight you and your family and guests? Is it a thing you might really make at home? How can I instill confidence and cheerlead you through the steps?

Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Orecchiette in a serving dish on table with table runner and napkins.
Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Orecchiette

Step Three

When I agreed with my initial idea that you might really like this recipe, I moved on to a third Pumpkin + Chicken Sausage Pasta trial. Once again I prepare the recipe again from my notes, writing down any new thoughts or learnings that come. This is the step where I photograph the process using natural light and no filters-- no spin or tricks. Then off I go to write up the recipe in standard format for you.

Lastly and most importantly, I invite your feedback. If a recipe step is unclear, if there is something that you loved or that didn't go right, or if you have an idea that you tried that made it even better, I'm all ears! Please email me at pam@101milekitchen.com. I warmly welcome your comments on the post, too. Every time you leave a star rating on the recipe you help others find it through the Google maze. I value that, as well. In short, you are at the center of my work.

Making the Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage Pasta

Please don't let the idea of making sausage intimidate you. It is as fast and easy as adding a few herbs and spices to some purchased ground meat. Try it with ground pork or turkey if you prefer. I just happen to like the lightness of the chicken with this ample portion of pasta. Casings or fancy techniques are not called upon. This particular spice blend was borrowed from a recipe I wrote about years ago.

The sausage recipe is versatile. Roll it into meatballs. Brown it and use it on pizza, salad or in other pastas. Form it into patties to snuggle into a bun or next to your breakfast eggs.

Pumpkin puree is easy to do at home. Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch. Laugh along with me at my very first and awkward Facebook Live tutorial! However, feel free to use canned pumpkin puree if that works best for you. The recipe uses two cans of solid-pack pumpkin puree (just one if you want to cut the recipe in half.) Recipes that aren't scaled to use an entire can of something that will otherwise go to waste are simply annoying.

Wine Pairing with Pumpkin + Chicken Sausage Pasta

When you are looking for a wine-friendly autumn dish, Pumpkin + Homemade Chicken Sausage is it. A light Italian or Rhone red would be lovely, or any number of dry white wines. Award-winning Abacela Albarino 2020 from Oregon's Umpqua Valley is just lovely with the dish. You'll find this light and dry Albarino with no residual sugar and just 13% alcohol, to be a beautifully complimentary weight for this lighter pasta. Fresh fruit and floral aromas and a nice acidity bring the experience into graceful balance.

Other Pumpkin Recipes to Try This Fall

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Pumpkin Black Bean Soup Two Ways

serving dish full or golden pumpkin chicken sausage orecchiette

Pumpkin + Chicken Sausage Pasta

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Keyword: crowd pleaser, gluten-free option, pasta, quick and easy, weeknight recipe, wine pairing
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Pam Spettel
Little orecchiette ears cuddle bits of scratch-made chicken sausage and silky pumpkin sauce. Quick and easy, done in 45 minutes.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Chicken Sausage Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground chicken or ground turkey
  • tsp. dried oregano
  • tsp. fennel seeds
  • tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 to 1½ tsp. red pepper flake
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Pasta and Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 lb. orecchiette or other small pasta use gluten free pasta if you choose
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree (two 15 oz. cans)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 bunch curly or lacinato kale, large ribs removed, chopped into 1" pieces
  • salt + pepper to taste

Instructions

Make the Sausage

  • Crumble the ground chicken into a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, mix remaining herbs and spices. Sprinkly the herbs and spices over the ground chicken and drizzle with the olive oil. Rinse your hands in cold water and gently knead the spices into the ground chicken until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Make the Pasta and Sauce

  • Put a large pot of generously salted water on to boil for the pasta. While the water comes to a boil, in a wide pan brown the sausage mixture in olive oil-- enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently, breaking up the sausage into bite-sized bits. This should take 6-8 minutes. Remove cooked sausage and juices to a plate and set aside.
  • In the same wide pan heat another swirl of olive oil. Saute the minced shallot in the olive oil until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, white wine, and salt to taste. Stir together and heat until gently bubbling.
  • When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. This may happen before or after the pumpkin mixture has come together.
  • When the pasta is cooked al dente (it will finish cooking in the sauce, so don't overcook it!) reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta. (Don't forget this step, as it helps make a beautiful silky sauce!) Drain the pasta and return it to its cooking pot.
  • Add the chopped kale and cooked sausage and its juices back into the pan with the pumpkin mixture and stir in one cup of the pasta water. Scrape the sausage/pumpkin mixture into the cooked pasta and stir. Add enough more of the reserved pasta water to create a smooth, silky sauce that evenly coats the pasta. The pasta will continue to absorb the liquid, so be generous. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve in a large serving dish or in individual pasta bowls.

Notes

It is conceivable to garnish this dish with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, however my cheese-loving husband says this is the "cheesiest pasta with no cheese" he's ever eaten! Omitting it makes the dish dairy-free. 
If you'd prefer, you can use store-bought hot Italian chicken sausage, but this is such an easy and delicious sausage recipe I do hope you'll give it a try. 
 
Close up of Turkey Zucchini Meatball Pasta + Roasted Lemon Sauce.

Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta is one of the tastiest recipes you can have in your weeknight toolbox. Pop these juicy meatballs into the oven and they'll be done in twenty minutes-- as long as it takes to get the rest of the dinner together. This fun and exciting weeknight meal is ready in under an hour, but is definitely company-worthy.

Lemon slices roast alongside the meatballs, then are chopped and added to the sauce with briny chopped olives to give this simple dish huge flavor for the amount of effort it takes.

Our household is not yet ready to make the shift to an entirely plant-based diet, but we make incremental steps in that direction. This turkey meatball and roasted lemon pasta is chock full of zucchini. The turkey meatballs hold a lot of zucchini which lightens the meatballs. Reduce and replace the volume of turkey with even more zucchini if that's where your dietary choices are taking you. In the future I'll be experimenting with replacing the turkey with mashed beans for a completely meatless "meatball."

Making the Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta

First, form the meatballs and lay them out on a sheet pan with the sliced lemon which will go into the sauce after it roasts. The meatballs and lemon roast together while a pot of water boils for the pasta and a simple robust mediterranean sauce sautes. Then toss together the pasta and sauce with some of the pasta cooking water. Then top it off with the meatballs, and viola-- dinner is served.

Ingredients needed for Turkey Meatball and Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta.
A few common ingredients are all it takes for this easy weeknight pasta.

What Wine Shall I Serve?

Bowl of Turkey Meatball and Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta and glass of wine.
Turkey meatballs and roasted lemon zucchini pasta is perfect with Anne Amie 2019 Pinot Gris.

The mediterranean flavors in the sauce-- garlic, condensed roasted lemon, and Kalamata olives-- were perfect with the Willamette Valley wine producer Anne Amie 2019 Pinot Gris. 15% of the Pinot Gris barrels in this vintage were fermented in neutral barrels and aged on the lees, giving it a soft, round mouthfeel not often found in a Pinot Gris. This very enjoyable wine is found within our 101-mile sourcing radius!

In general, a dry white wine with some citrus and minerality will be a perfect match. Experiment and have fun finding those that you most enjoy.

Bowl full of Turkey Zucchini Meatball Pasta + Roasted Lemon Sauce

Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: dairy-free option, gluten-free option, vegan option, weeknight recipe
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Pam Spettel
Tucking a little zucchini into the meatballs lightens this hearty, comforting pasta dish that is loaded with delicious bright flavor. Less than an hour from start to finish makes it easy enough for a weeknight, but it's fancy enough for company.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 1 cup panko or purchased bread crumbs both are available in gluten-free options
  • ¾ cup milk, dairy or plant
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ cups grated zucchini squeezed of moisture in a clean kitchen towel
  • 1 pound ground turkey 94% lean will be juicier than 99% lean
  • 1 ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese reserve ¼ cup for serving. For dairy-free, replace this with 1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast.
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder, optional
  • 1 large or two smaller lemons, sliced 1/2›" thin

For the Pasta and Roasted Lemon Sauce

  • ¾ pound spaghetti or bucatini or gluten free pasta
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cups zucchini, diced in about 1/4" pieces
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives or other black olives, roughly chopped
  • roasted lemon slices, above, chopped into small pieces the lemon slices will roast at the same time at the meatballs, so they are included in the above ingredient list
  • Chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil for garnish

Instructions

Make the Meatballs

  • Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it with oil spray. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • In a large mixing bowl stir together the panko and milk and let rest for 5 minutes while the crumbs absorb the milk. Add the squeezed grated zucchini, turkey, 1 cup parmesan, garlic salt, and onion powder, if using. Mix everything together with you hands until thoroughly combined.
  • Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to form the meatballs, rinsing your hands in cold water to smooth the balls and place them on the sheet pan. (This makes 12-14 meatballs, depending on the size of your scoop.) Place lemon slices around the meatballs on the foil-lined sheet. Bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and the lemon slices have softened. Some of them may have browned edges.
  • When the lemon slices are cool enough to handle, stack them up on a cutting board and cut them into quarters. Set aside for the sauce.

Make the Pasta and Roasted Lemon Zucchini Sauce

  • While the meatballs are in the oven, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve one cup of pasta water.
  • While the water is boiling, place enough olive oil to amply cover the bottom of your largest skillet over medium-high heat. It may seem like a lot, but the oil will become your pasta sauce so be generous. When the oil is hot add the zucchini, shaking the pan to settle the zucchini in to the pan. Leave it to brown without stirring for 2 - 3 minutes. Stir the zucchini around and shake the pan again, and add the shallot, garlic, salt, and red pepper flake on top. Adjust the temperature if needed to allow the browning to continue without burning, stirring every 2 minutes or so until all the vegetables are lightly caramelized and cooked through, about 8 minutes total.
  • With the heat still on the skillet, add the Kalamata olives and reserved roasted lemon to the zucchini mixture. Use tongs to lift the al dente pasta into the skillet with the sauce. Add ½ cup of the pasta water and use tongs to mix the sauce and pasta together. As the water absorbs you may want to add the rest of the water, tossing the pasta and sauce together as it becomes silky and coats the pasta.
  • Serve the pasta and sauce on plates or bowls, and nestle in the meatballs on top. Garnish with the remaining parmesan and parsley or basil. Drizzle with additional olive oil if desired.

Notes

For a dairy-free version, omit the parmesan from the meatball mixture and add 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast. You may also sprinkle some nutritional yeast as a garnish to the finished dish. 
For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free bread crumbs or panko, and GF pasta.
For a vegan option, omit meatballs and just roast the sliced lemon alone.
Double the meatball portion of the recipe-- The meatballs freeze well and can be added to any pasta and sauce, or make great meatball sandwiches. 

Other Cool-Weather Pasta Recipes and Zucchini Recipes

Zingy Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Cake

Humble Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

sweet corn buttermilk cake with bowl of blueberry compote

The first cake on 101-Mile Kitchen is like a country summer day on a plate. It is rustic in nature-- meaning it has textural interest and isn't overly sweet or elaborate. It is unfussy. It is flourless, therefore can be served to our gluten-sensitive beloveds. And most of all it uses fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.

A slice of Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake with blueberry compote and whipped cream on a plate.
Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake in a puddle of blueberry compote, with a tuft of lightly whipped cream atop.

A decade ago I played with and wrote about the magical flavor triad of sweet corn, blueberries, and buttermilk. I had two inspirations at the time. First by Claudia Fleming's sweet corn ice cream recipe from her famous out-of-print book, The Last Course, from her time as the innovative pastry chef at Grammercy Tavern in the 1990's. Tim Mazurak of the delicious blog Lottie + Doof created a blueberry galette in a cornmeal crust and served it with the same sweet corn ice cream. Swoon.

My addition of buttermilk to the corn and blueberries brought bucolic thoughts of summer full circle. I promptly forgot about this happy flavor song until now.

The Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake

The Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake is made with Floriani Red Flint stone-ground cornmeal from a local company, Camas Country Mill. This fantastic cornmeal and other flours, grains, and beans can be purchased at the charming Camas Country Schoolhouse Bakery and Store outside of Junction City, Oregon. Whatever brand you use, a stone-ground version is what gives this cake its particular toothsome texture.

close-up of the sweet corn buttermilk cake with a slice removed.
Flourless, moist, and tender Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake, studded with kernels of corn, and a little cornmeal crunch

This simple cake has ingredients from the farm. Before you scoff at the idea of sweet corn in your dessert, remember that peak-season fresh sweet corn is much sweeter than zucchini, an ingredient that commonly makes its way into cakes and sweet breads.

As an aside, this flourless cake will be gluten free if your cornmeal is certified that way. The generous dose of buttermilk makes it moist, tender, and subliminally tangy.

The recipe makes enough batter for one 8" round or 8" square cake. The former will result in a taller cake, the latter a shorter cake that will bake more quickly. It also makes two perfectly tall 6" round cakes. As a household of two, six-inchers are my frequent choice. One for now, the other to be tightly wrapped and popped into the freezer for impromptu company or when the dessert mood strikes.

Be sure and view this short video tutorial for how to tip a cake out of its pan without it falling apart. If you're not familiar with the technique you may find it helpful.

sweet corn buttermilk cakes in their pans.
Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cakes, ready to be tipped out of their pans.

About homemade cakes in general: Please take the time to bring butter, eggs, and milk or buttermilk to room temperature. This is critical to achieving a good emulsion. If you've ever made a cake batter that turned curdly part way through, it is because cold ingredients just cannot emulsify. Your butter may get nice and fluffy, but plop a cold egg into it and it will seize back up into tiny bits rather than become one with the egg. The same goes for the milk or buttermilk you may add. Temperature matters!

The Blueberry Compote

A bowl of blueberry sauce being spooned.
Blueberry Compote

One fanciful learning I've had this summer is to use berry-flavored vinegar in place of lemon juice in berry desserts. Berries often need a little acid to brighten them up and to balance their sweetness. The typical remedy is lemon juice. In several trials I've found that replacing lemon juice with berry vinegar gives the same lift while amplifying the berry flavor. Either works just fine in this recipe. Use what you have.

This Blueberry Compote recipe makes a lot. It can easily be halved, but it is so wonderful on pancakes, waffles, and vanilla (or sweet corn) ice cream. Don't cut yourself short.

The ingredients for the sweet corn buttermilk cake on a platter.
Things you'll need for the cake
sweet corn buttermilk cake with bowl of blueberry compote

Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake + Blueberry Compote

Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Dessert
Keyword: rustic cake, summer dessert
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Gluten-Free
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 10
Author: Pam Spettel
The magical trio-- sweet corn, blueberries, and buttermilk-- come together in this summery dessert. Rustic yet special, it makes a great summer gathering dessert and an indulgent breakfast the next morning.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake

  • cups stone-ground cornmeal (not corn flour) I use Floriani Red Flint Cornmeal from Camas Country Mill
  • 1 cup almond flour, finely ground
  • tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 cube), room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. blackstrap or dark molasses
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla
  • 1-2 cups sweet corn kernels, cut from cob
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Blueberry Compote

  • 4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp. water, separated
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice or berry vinegar

Instructions

Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter two 6" round cake pans or one 8" round cakepan, and generously dust the pans with cornmeal.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the stone ground cornmeal, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • Using a stand or handheld mixer, beat butter to smooth it out. Gradually add the sugar, ¼ cup at a time, and continue beating until the mixture as paled in color and is light and fluffy. Add the molasses and beat until thoroughly incorporated into the butter mixture. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each one. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the buttermilk a little at a time to avoid it splashing out, and to keep the mixture emulsified. If the mixture breaks/curdles during this step, stop adding ingredients and turn your mixer to high speed for a minute or two. If the ingredients are room temperature, that should bring it back together. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step.
  • Gently add the dry ingredients, again scraping down the sides of your mixing bowl several times during this step, until the cake batter is well combined.
  • If you are using two 6" pans, evenly divide the batter between them, or if you are using the 8" pan fill it with all the batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the center is set and a knife point or bamboo stick cake tester comes out almost clean. The center will feel puffy and springy when lightly tapped.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 15-20 minutes before removing the cake from the pans, and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.
  • Serve individual slices on a puddle of Blueberry Compote and a top with a tuft of lightly whipped cream, or if using the cake all at once, place the cake on a serving plate atop a puddle of Blueberry Sauce, top with a billow of lightly whipped cream, and pass a bowl of Blueberry Compote to your guests to serve themselves more.

Blueberry Compote

  • Place blueberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the berries have turned from dusky blue to deep purple, and some of them have started to pop open.
  • Combine the cornstarch and 2Tbsp. water in a small bowl. While constantly stirring, quickly and thoroughly stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries. Return to a boil for one minute.
  • Stir in the lemon juice or berry vinegar. Allow to cool.
  • Store in the refrigerator until using. You can easily cut this recipe in half, but you'll love having extra sauce for pancakes, waffles, and ice cream!
two glasses of wine and a plate of shrimp melon salad

Scorching record-breaking heat is promised across much of the U.S. this week, and you need cooling solutions, right? You're going to need this-- the best simple yet fancy cooling salad I can think of-- light, fresh and hydrating, and ever so tasty. When you eat it, try to imagine someone nearby fanning you with a palm leaf. Can you feel it?

This refreshing salad was made to serve with an equally refreshing chilled rosed. I love the 2020 Quady North Rogue Valley/Southern Oregon GSM Rosed for it's South-of-France typicity we don't often find in an Oregon rosed.

Quady North Rose bottle upside down in glass

About the Wine

Made with 48% Grenache, 42% Syrah, 9% Mourvedre, and 1% Counoise, it is quite dry and full of the mineral qualities I associate with a Provençal rosed. Its lower alcohol also makes it perfect for summer. You may notice a little orange peel aroma on the nose, and soft fruit and rain water filling out the mid-palate.

Quady North is organically farmed and LIVE certified for its sustainable winegrowing practices. Quady focuses on "small lot Loire-ish and Rogue Rhone releases". There we go talking about France again!

a glass of rose and a plate of shrimp melon salad
Screwtop equals picnic friendly!

He would not remember me, but years ago I met Quady North's fearless leader, Herb Quady, at a wine symposium. I knew I'd like him when he told of how people choose their favorite wines. He said something like, "It is the one you had that night under the stars with friends, someone was playing your favorite song on a guitar, and maybe you were falling a little in love." And, well, their labels are fantastic-- The tattoos I'll never have.

One last thing about Quady wines. At least for now, if you order two bottles shipping is free, and if you purchase a case you receive a 10% discount on this already quite affordable wine. Value added! (This is not a sponsored promotion.)

Platter of sweet and spicy shrimp and melon salad

The Sweet + Spicy Shrimp Melon Salad

Even boiling water for pasta or standing at the grill sounds a bit exhausting in heat like this. Sweet + Spicy Shrimp Melon Salad is a no-cook endeavor if you buy your shrimp already cooked, and please do! After a few chops of a knife and a few shakes of a jar you'll be made in the shade.

For a vegan option, sizzle bite-sized cubes of pressed tofu in hot oil until they brown, allow them to cool, and treat them the same as you would the shrimp.

Ingredients for the sweet and spicy shrimp and melon salad.
Avocado-- a last minute addition-- and olive oil are other ingredients you'll need
platter of sweet and spicy shrimp melon salad

Sweet + Spicy Shrimp and Melon Salad

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad
Keyword: light, picnic, refreshing, summer
Season: Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2 main course or 4 as a side
Author: Pam Spettel
Perfect for the hottest days of summer, this simple yet fancy cooling salad is light, fresh and hydrating. . . and ever so tasty. No-cook and made in minutes, you'll be sitting in the shade in no time.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Salad

  • 6-8 per person cooked chilled shrimp, preferably shelled and tail-on
  • ¾ average cantaloupe, chilled and diced
  • 1 long cucumber, chilled and diced
  • ½ cup purple onion, scallion, or sweet onion
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 2 cups cilantro, basil, mint, and chives, chopped and lightly packed in any combination or alone
  • ¼ - ½ cup Sweet + Spicy Dressing, below

Sweet + Spicy Dressing

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Instructions

  • Gently toss all ingredients except avocado in a large bowl. Top the salad with the cubed avocado tucked here and there. (This keeps the avocado from being squished!) Serve.

Sweet + Spicy Dressing

  • Place all ingredients in a screwtop jar. Shake until the honey and salt are dissolved. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for use on other summer fruit-based salads.

Notes

This honey lime vinaigrette-style dressing does not use the proportions typical to a classic French vinaigrette. 
hazelnut cookies on chair in field

I have a strong difference of opinion with myself. Brightly colored vibrant foods are my first choices. The more colors in the market basket or on a plate the better. The oranges and greens, reds and purples, and occasional black foods make me salivate just to look at.

hazelnut meringue cookies on a baking sheet

Yet when it comes to desserts, I'm drawn to the modest beiges, creamy whites, and browns of all shades. My affinity is for rustic, crumbly sweets that out-perform their appearances. There is a place for sprinkles and colorful frosting and fancy flourishes, but for day-to-day desserts the homier the better.

Hazelnut Meringue Cookies

Oregonians are rightfully proud of our home-grown hazelnuts, with 99% of U. S. hazelnuts grown right here in the Willamette Valley. This fast and simple four-ingredient recipe (five if you use the optional almond extract) features them like the heroes they are.

Nutty meringue cookies have been around for decades. The difference here is that I've developed this recipe to feature as much hazelnut flavor and texture as the egg white meringue will hold. Don't let this quiet beige cookie fool you-- they pack in a lot of hazelnut along with their very pleasant crispy and chewy texture.

measuring cup filled with hazelnuts

Hazelnut Meringue Cookies are terrific served with summer fruit platters, any kind of fruit, chocolate, or caramel ice creams or sorbets, (like my Strawberry Sorbet and DF Ice Cream duo!) They are also delicious as a coffee or tea break treat.

The recipe contains no gluten, no grain, and no additional fat besides that which is natural to the nuts.

If you like this and other 101-Mile Kitchen posts, please share on Facebook and Instagram!

ingredients for hazelnut meringue cookies
hazelnut meringue cookies on a plate

Chewy Hazelnut Meringue Cookies

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French, Pacific Northwest
Keyword: GF, DF, and grain free, versatile cookie
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 30 cookies
Author: Pam Spettel
Five handy ingredients come together fast and easy for these delicious chewy cookies. Perfect with coffee or tea, and especially nice alongside a dish of your favorite ice cream for a simple dessert.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment or non-stick baking mats.
  • Finely chop hazelnuts in a food processor or by hand, if using whole. Set aside.
  • In an upright mixer or using a hand mixer, begin whipping egg whites on medium speed. As they begin to get bubbly and foamy, add in the extracts and salt. Increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until eggs white turn solid white. Begin adding sugar in, one Tablespoon at a time in fairly quick succession, until all the sugar is added.
  • Continue whipping egg whites until they are very stiff and hold stiff peaks, and the sugar is completely dissolved into them. (Rub a little of the mixture between your fingers to feel if the sugar is dissolved.
  • Using a spatula, gently but thoroughly fold the hazelnuts into the egg whites in three batches. The mixture will become a little stiff at the end-- that's OK.
  • Using a one Tablespoon scoop or spoon, drop the batter into the baking sheets. With lightly damp fingers, gently pat the tops of the cookies down. (They will not spread as they bake.) Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden around the edges and on the bottom. Cool on baking sheets.
  • These will keep in a sealed container for several days, and freeze well.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
This recipe works well with chopped walnuts and almond, too!
If you like your cookie a bit chewier, add 1/4 cup less nuts to the whipped egg whites. 

Do you have a show-stopping dish in your cooking bag of tricks?

You'll know the recipe. People lean forward over their plates to inhale its aroma and turn their focus to their fork or spoon. A hush falls over the table. An eater's brow becomes furrowed in concentrated curiosity, quiet little sighs or hums bubble up as a delicate soundtrack to the moment. Time becomes momentarily suspended.

All of a sudden, that focused calm breaks into cheery chatter and conviviality brighter than before. Life goes on with this one subtle experience tucked into it. And this is when you know.

That's my signature recipe.

And this is why you cook.

curried slalmon cakes, coconut rice, and mango chutney on plates

Today's signature recipe joins one I shared years ago-- Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cakes. Both are no-fail winners.

Credit for this recipe goes to our friend Larry Deck. He once served it as a late-night New Year's Eve dinner and I was transfixed. The brightness of the homemade chutney and light curry notes in the salmon cakes was a sunny counterpoint to that dark winter night.

It highly likely that I let out a long, deep hhhmmmmmmmm that night.

This recipe was also a super-fun contest winner for me. See more about that here. (And thank you again, King Estate, for the lovely experience!)

Wine Pairing: Growers + Makers

Curried Salmon Cakes, Mango Chutney, and Coconut Rice is a heavenly match with any of King Estate's Pinot Gris'. I am especially fond of their Domaine Pinot Gris with its pear, tangerine and Meyer lemon peel aromas and flavors, clean minerality, and silky texture. My husband and I featured the Domaine Pinot Gris at our wedding day brunch.

Just like today's recipe trio, this wine is full of happy memories.

The salmon cakes, chutney, and rice make an all-season dish, but I most often make it in late spring when the market is flush with fresh ripe mangoes and Copper River salmon are making their first run. The gingery coconut rice got added over the years and creates a truly perfect flavor and texture triad.

Good to note is that the mango chutney is fantastic with roasted pork and on a cheese platter, and the chartreuse-colored rice will make its way into your rotation apart from the salmon cake and chutney elements.

Any type of salmon you can access is just right for this dish. You're really in luck if your fish market sells salmon trimmings by the bag at a discount, which are perfect since a filet gets chopped anyway. With all of the flavorful ingredients added, the subtleties among salmon varieties can be lost. Go with what you've got.

There is nothing technically challenging about producing this meal. I suggest, however, that you plan it on a long afternoon devoted to zenning out in your kitchen, or when you have a pal available to help with the chopping. All three meal components need quite a bit of chopping!

What is your show-stopping signature dish? If you yet don't yet have one, what would you like it to be?

curried salmon cakes, mango chutney, and coconut rice on a plate

Curried Salmon Cakes + Mango Chutney + Coconut Rice

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish
Cuisine: Fusion, Indian, Pacific Northwest
Keyword: all seasons, dairy-free option, entertaining, GF option, make-ahead, wine pairing
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 1
Author: Pam Spettel
An all-season Pacific Northwest/Southern Indian fusion full of tropical flavors. The ingredient list looks long, but this is an easy make-ahead dish that wows family and guests alike. Make your cakes small for a great appetizer version! This recipe pairs perfectly with Oregon Pinot Gris and other dry white wines.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Mango Chutney

  • 2 cups fresh mango, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • ¼ cup fresh gingerroot, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup rice or coconut vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes or Piment d' Espelette

Curried Salmon Cakes

  • lbs. skinless salmon filet, cut into 1/2“" pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. minced Italian parsley
  • ½ cup cilantro, stems and leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • ½ cup tart apple, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne or Piment d' Espelette
  • tsp. Madras curry powder
  • 1 cup panko or gluten-free panko crumbs, divided (½ cup for the salmon mixture, the rest to coat the uncooked cakes)
  • ½ - 1 tsp. salt to taste
  • ¼ cup canola or olive oil, for cooking

Coconut Rice

  • cups Basmati rice
  • 1 13.5 oz. can light coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp. fresh gingerroot, peeled and minced (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp. fresh turmeric, peeled and minced (optional) OR Find this at an Indian or Asian grocer, and at places like Whole Foods in your area.
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric (the dried spice) If fresh turmeric isn't available where you live.
  • 1 small serrano chili, seeded and minced (optional)

Instructions

Start with the Mango Chutney

  • Bring all ingredients to a boil in a non-aluminum saucepan over medium heat. The aroma will be vinegary-pungent at first, then will turn sweet and gingery. Turn the heat down and simmer until the liquid condenses and becomes thick and syrupy, stirring frequently, approximately 30-40 minutes.
  • The chutney thickens as it cools, and keeps in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Makes 2½ cups.

Now the Curried Salmon Cakes

  • Gently combine all ingredients EXCEPT ½ cup of the panko. Allow mixture to rest five minutes. (While you're waiting, now is a good time to start the rice!)
  • Place the remaining ½ cup panko onto a plate or shallow dish. Scoop up ½ cup of the salmon mixture and form into 3" cakes. Carefully coat each cake in panko crumbs. Allow the cakes to rest another five minutes. (The resting steps help the panko absorb to hold the cakes together/stick to the cakes and make them much easier to handle.)
  • Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat until just starting to shimmer. Place salmon cakes, a few at a time to avoid crowding, in the skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip cakes and cook without moving until the second side is golden brown, about another 3 minutes. (You should have eight cakes, or enough to serve four people.)

Make the Coconut Rice

  • Over the sink, rinse the rice in a fine-mesh strainer with cold water, stirring the rice with your fingers until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the coconut milk, ginger, turmeric (fresh or dried), and serrano* to the saucepan (if using.) Bring to a full boil over high heat. cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on, and set the rice aside.

To Serve

  • Lay down a bed of rice in the center of each plate. Place two cakes on the rice. Top with generous spoonsful of warm mango chutney, and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Notes

The salmon cakes and mango chutney are perfect with Oregon Pinot Gris and other dry white wines, and sparkling whites. 
All components can be made ahead-- perfect for entertaining. Rewarm the salmon cakes in a hot oven for a few minutes. Warm the rice and the chutney in lidded saucepans over medium-low heat. This, of course, works well for any leftovers, too.
Experiment using halibut or other white fish in place of the salmon.
*I suggest a pretty wide range of quantity for the ginger, turmeric, and serrano for the rice, as well as an option for dried ground turmeric if you can't find fresh. This rice is stellar with all of these added, but you have the freedom to choose to omit, increase, or reduce the quantity to suit your taste. We like it with its full-flavor, all-in, maxxed out goodness. 
The rice can be made with full-fat coconut milk, but it will of course have a heavier, oilier feel. If full-fat is what you have, please use it, but to try it once with light coconut milk. 

Lemony Asparagus-Bean Salad

Part two of the Ode to the Bean trilogy recipe is an asparagus-bean salad with lemon vinaigrette. Its crispy lemon-panko topping is pretty special, if I don't say so myself. It makes a great side dish, but we ate it as our main course and loved it.

To bring you up to speed, last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans. My objective was to create three unique recipes that wouldn't having us hating beans by the end of the week. The three recipes-- today's lemony asparagus-bean salad, along with pasta with beans and mushrooms, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl-- resulted in three distinct, tasty success stories.

pot of beans cooking
Cooking the pot of beans with aromatic celery, shallot, garlic, and bay leaf

What's so exciting about starting with dried beans?

I waxed on about the joys of beans in the first post, so today, let's talk size.

Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with. There's a bean for every liking and situation.

The huge Corona weighs the same as 19 wee Alubia Blancas

In case you're wondering, it takes 19 Alubia Blancas to reach the weight of one Corona bean, which happens to be 3 grams. These are the kind of things I nerd out on!

I'll say it again-- it's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.

Growers + Makers Wine Notes:

A favorite of ours, Artisanal Wine Cellars 2013 Adams Old Vine Reserve is a graceful representative of Oregon Pinot Noir. This wine was grown in the Chehalem Mountains, and is a food-friendly delight as much as it is an ethereal sipper. Notes of mineral, forest floor, and soft cherry carry through.

The soft tannins in this wine work just fine with the raw asparagus. I would think twice about putting it together with cooked asparagus.

For the Lemony-Asparagus-Bean Salad, you'll start with a pot of cooked beans. No one can describe how to do this easy, basic step better than the folks at Rancho Gordo, so allow me to make that introduction. "Rancho Gordo, meet my friend. Friend. . . Rancho Gordo."

Ingredients you'll need

This almost no-cook dish comes together in minutes. (The panko topping is quickly crisped up in a skillet in about 5 minutes.) Here's where the value of cooking the beans earlier in the week comes! It's not often you run across ideas for raw asparagus, and I'm not sure why-- it's a perfect salad ingredient. Gluten-free and dairy-free options are noted in the recipe.

Next up we'll wrap up the Ode to Beans trilogy with the Beans, Greens, and Pork recipe. Be well, friends.

asparagus bean salad on black plate

Lemony Asparagus-Bean Salad with Crispy Lemon Topping

Course: Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Keyword: dairy-free option, gluten-free option, pot of beans
Season: Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Pam Spettel
Crunchy thinly-sliced raw asparagus and creamy white beans in a simple lemon vinaigrette, with crispy panko and sharp Parmesan curls, on the table in 15 minutes.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 3 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 bunch asparagus, thick stems peeled, thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal
  • 1 green onion or green garlic stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Crispy Lemon Topping

  • ½ cup panko, regular of gluten-free
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • zest of one lemon (reserved from above)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 ounces shaved Parmesan (omit for dairy-free option)

Instructions

For the Salad

  • Prep the asparagus, the green onion or green garlic, and the chives. In a mixing bowl, combine the prepared vegetables, white beans, and herbs with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving bowl or platter.

For the Crispy Lemon Topping

  • Heat the olive oil to medium-high heat in a small skillet. Add the panko and stir to coat it evenly with the oil. (It will absorb the oil, leaving very little at all in the pan.) Flatten the panko out across the bottom of the pan, and leave it to toast for about 45-60 seconds before stirring. Repeat until the crumbs are thoroughly toasted to a medium brown, being careful not to burn the crumbs. This should take 5 minutes or less.
  • Place the crumbs in a small bowl. Stir for a minute or two to cool them slightly. Add a pinch of salt and the grated lemon zest, stirring to incorporate the zest throughout. The slight warmth of the crumbs will make the zest very fragrant.
  • Spoon the crispy lemon topping over the salad. Shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler, and place the Parmesan curls over the salad to serve.

Notes

Make it Your Own:
Try fresh mint or other herbs instead of or with the chives.
Humble Beans

I can think of no other food that radiates humble, simple elegance like the bean. Beans are easy to cook, fit into most dietary lifestyles, and are seasonless-- they make a hearty wintertime stew or a chilled summery salad with equal aplomb.

Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

Last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans, and made a little game of seeing what I could do with them throughout the week that wouldn't grow wearisome. The pasta with beans and mushrooms, lemony asparagus-bean salad, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl were each distinct, and each a success.

The true miracle of it is that only four ounces of meat were used to season just one of the dishes, and yet meat was not missed. Beans are tasty, protein-rich, loaded with fiber, and when used with other flavorful ingredients are totally satisfying.

Lemony Asparagus Bean Salad

This post includes the recipe for the pasta, bean, and mushroom dish. Recipes for the other two dishes will come in quick succession in separate posts. An Ode to the Bean trilogy, if you will.

In the third post, we'll address the elephant in the room-- the Magical Fruit Effect.

Why go to the trouble of cooking dried beans?

Let's talk about the advantage of using dried beans rather than canned, not that there's anything wrong with that! The texture of beans cooked from scratch is more toothsome, less waterlogged, and texturally more interesting. There are nearly infinite varieties of dried beans, each having their own unique flavor, too. Some are clean with an almost mineral slate-like flavor (the Alubia Blanca is an example), some are slightly smoky flavored, some are nutty, and some are meaty.

Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with.

Brothy Beans, Greens, and Pancetta

A pound of beans cooks up into ten full-sized servings-- likely more when used with other ingredients-- making them a definite proletariat choice.

In their brilliant display of versatility, beans eagerly accept the flavors of the ingredients they are put with. The humble bean grows in most climates, and people from most cultures use beans in some way in their cooking. There's just so much to love about the unassuming bean.

It's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.

Grower's + Makers Wine Notes:

With the Pasta, Bean, and Mushrooms dish we served RoxyAnn Winery 2017 Claret. This Bordeaux-style blend, grown in warm Southern Oregon, is rich and soft and great with these mushrooms. It's a good value, too.

Things you'll need for Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

To start with, you'll need a cooked pot of beans. No one can describe how to do this easy, basic step better than the folks at Rancho Gordo, so allow me to make that introduction. "Rancho Gordo, meet my friend. Friend. . . Rancho Gordo."

If you like this recipe, please give it a star rating, and leave any comments letting me know what you think!

Be well, friends.

Humble Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Keyword: mixed herbs, mushrooms, pasta, pot of beans, quick and easy
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Pam Spettel
There are so many fantastic things to do with a pot of freshly cooked beans, and this is one of them! Humble and unintentionally vegan, full of herbs and earthy mushroom and bean flavor, chewy pasta, and loaded with energy-giving protein, it's a dish fit for a queen.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 cups white beans, cooked or canned white beans
  • ½ pound pasta, your choice orecchiette is nice- it holds the little beans!
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, any kind (these are chestnut mushrooms)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup bean cooking liquid, or reserved pasta water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1 lemon, zested and squeezed
  • ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Put a pot of water with a palmful of salt (about 3 Tablespoons) on to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. (It will finish cooking later.) If you don't have any reserved bean cooking liquid, reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain. Set the pasta and pasta water aside.
  • While the water comes to a boil, clean and trim the mushrooms. If using button mushrooms cut them into quarters. Zest the lemon and squeeze it of its juice. Set them aside.
  • Mix together the chopped oregano, chives, and parsley and set them aside on your cutting board.
  • Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, mushrooms, shallot, and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, leaving the mushrooms in place to brown a bit before stirring. Repeat, leaving the mushrooms undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring until they are cooked through and have a slight browned color. Adjust your temperature if the shallots are browning too quickly. Remove about ½ of the mushrooms from the pan and reserve for serving.
  • To the mushrooms in the skillet add the beans, pasta, and bean cooking liquid or pasta water, scraping up any mushroom juices. Stir, and season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir in about half the mixed herbs and the lemon juice. Allow the cooking liquid to reduce about ½, leaving some moisture in the pan.
  • Spoon the pasta, beans and mushrooms into a a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Spoon any pan juices over the top. Place the reserved mushrooms on top, along with a healthy sprinkling of fresh herbs and lemon zest.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
There is no shame in using canned beans- I keep them in my pantry at all times for quick and easy meals. The beans will be mushier, so handle them a little more gently.
Experiment with different types of beans, different pasta shapes, whatever mushrooms are seasonal, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. 
If you don't have a lemon on hand, add 2 or 3 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar instead. 

roasted artichokes in baking dish

Artichokes are another of the short-season wonders, and we try to eat as many as we can while they are available. This terrific recipe from Allison Roman's book Nothing Fancy is super easy, and makes the most succulent, juicy, and rich-tasting artichokes ever. It's nice to have a new addition to the 'choke repertoire. 

After making this a dozen times or more, I want to encourage you to free yourself from exact measurements, and think instead about ratios. Start with as many artichokes as you plan to serve. I encourage you to make extra while you're at it as they are fantastic cold or warmed up as leftovers.

Think big as far as your baking dish goes. Its surprising how much space the halved artichokes need for their flat surfaces to touch the pan. From there, just think in terms of having about 1/4-inch of wine in the bottom of the pan around the artichokes, to which you'll add another 1/4-inch of water. (I use Sarver Winery Pinot Gris for this-- my favorite from our neighboring winery!) You'll generously drizzle the artichokes with olive oil, and plop in maybe a half-Tablespoon or more of butter for each artichoke half in the dish. Crush as many garlic cloves as you like-- we go big on garlic at this house, so perhaps 2 cloves for every artichoke half, and sprinkle the tops of them amply with kosher salt and red pepper flakes, or my favorite Aleppo pepper.

Aside from prepping the artichokes, the hands-on time is just a couple of minutes. Cover it in foil, bake in a 425 degree oven for 45-55 minutes, depending on the size of your artichokes. Remove the foil from the pan, and assess if it needs a little more water-- you don't want the pan to run dry but do want a reduced glaze to form. Then continue to roast them for another 15 minutes until they turn a deep mahogany, and the cooking liquid reduces into a garlicy little sauce you'll want to dip bread into.

roasted artichokes in baking dish

Great recipe choice for partygivers

If you're hosting a gathering, this dish is for you! It can be made ahead, either the day of or the day before, and warmed back up at the last minute. The artichokes are equally charming served room temperature for warm-day entertaining. While the artichokes pair perfectly with most white wine varieties, they really shine served with the same Sarver Winery Pinot Gris they are cooked in.

Have you noticed what happens when a crowd of people eat with their fingers? It's a magical way to drop barriers and bring people together. Put a bowl on the table for guests to toss their tooth-scraped outer leaves into.

What shall I serve with Wine-Roasted Artichokes?

This dish makes a lovely first course, if you like stretching the table adventure out for hours like we do. It's also a perfect accompaniment to fish, chicken, or pork tenderloin. It is equally good as part of a vegetarian meal, served with a nutty rice pilaf or lemony pasta.

Guess what?

Wine-roasted fennel

This exact technique works to sweeten and juice-up fennel. Give it a try!

roasted artichokes in baking dish

Blissful Wine-Roasted Artichokes

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Keyword: garlicky goodness, prepping artichokes, spring vegetables, wine pairing
Season: Evergreen (April - July)
Dietary: Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Roasting
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pam Spettel
These super easy, garlicky, succulent, juicy, and rich-tasting artichokes are a great make-ahead dish, and are excellent paired with most white wines.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2-3 artichokes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. butter or ghee
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed with the broad side of a knife
  • pinch red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the over to 425°.
  • Trim the edible artichoke stem of any woody parts, leaving as much of it as you can. Snap off the bottom one or two layers of tough outer leaves. Use kitchen shears to trim the thorny ends of the remaining leaves, if any. With a serrated or chef's knife, cut about 1 ½" from the crown of the artichoke, exposing the yellowish and rosy interior.
  • Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, dig out the fuzzy choke of each half, removing all fuzzy bits. Some of the purple-tipped center leaves will come out, too. Place the cut side down into a large baking dish (don't underestimate the size of dish you'll need-- the cut artichokes take up a lot of space!)
  • Pour the wine, water, and olive oil over the artichokes. Add the butter, cut or pinched into pieces, and smashed garlic. Generously sprinkle each half with kosher salt, red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper, and black pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast until the artichokes are fork-tender, about 45 minutes, depending on their size.
  • Remove the foil and continue to roast another 15 minutes or so until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the tops are a mahogany brown. Take care that the liquid doesn't entirely evaporate-- add a little water if needed.
  • To serve, scrape up the garlicky oil at the bottom of the baking dish to spoon on top of the artichokes.

Notes

Make it Your Own:
Use the same exact process for whole fennel bulbs. Very tasty! Perhaps experiment with other vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and turnips, altering the roasting time depending on their tenderness. 
Dairy-free option: substitute olive oil for the butter. 

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You’re in the right place 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. I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how.

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