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Overhead shot of one-bowl zucchini salad

Zucchini has never inspired me much, until this summer, and it is this great one bowl Lemon Feta Zucchini Salad I have to thank for it. It's such a simple salad, but the flavors come together in a big way. Lemon juice and zest offer a bracing acidity and zip, feta adds a salty creaminess, and pine nuts offer a grounding buttery, component. Big cracks of black pepper add a ton of character. Mix it all together in one serving bowl-- so efficient and tidy! This salad is delightful with a multitude of foods, especially anything grilled, or all on its own.

A bowl of Lemon + Feta Zucchini Salad

Let Lemon Feta Zucchini Salad Transition You to Autumn

The autumnal equinox is only 16 days away, but zucchini will be with us for yet a while. Nearly all applications (except, maybe, a chocolate cake with zucchini hidden in it) are better with smaller young zucchini. However, don't be afraid to use the big boys of early autumn in this dish. The bigger squashes will need lengthwise halving or quartering and seed removal, but will tenderize nicely with a little marination from the dressing.

Bonus Recipe for an Easy Autumn Dinner: Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Many people tend to get really busy as September gets underway, and this speedy one-bowl lemon feta zucchini salad takes about 15 minutes to make. Snuggle it next to a sliced roasted pork tenderloin for a complete meal in 30 minutes flat. The leftovers will make a nice lunch the next day.

Here's how I'll sequence it: Preheat the oven to 425°. Wipe the tenderloin dry with a paper towel and generously salt and pepper it. In a small bowl, mix two tablespoons Dijon or grainy mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon onion powder, if you have it. Spread half the mixture all over the pork tenderloin, place it in a large cast iron skillet or on small baking sheet, and roast it in the hot oven for 16 to 22 minutes. It should feel firm but with some give when you press it with your finger. The internal temperature should be between 140°-145°. (I remove mine from the oven at 140° to ensure it is juicy, as the temp will raise another 5 degrees while it rests.) Allow the tenderloin to rest under a foil cover for ten minutes. Slice and serve with the remaining half of the mustard sauce.

While the tenderloin is roasting, make the zucchini salad except the garnishes. Set it aside. Once the roast is sliced, give the salad a last toss, top it with the garnishes, and voila! Dinner is served.

Making the One-Bowl Zucchini Salad

The batch you see in these photos uses a mix of yellow and green zucchini, but one or the other delivers the same goodness if that's what you have. Slicing it thinly but not too thinly lets the slices hold up to a stir. A thickness of about 1/8" is your aim. The zucchini will absorb your nice dressing without wilting at this thickness. This is the tool I love to use to get even, quick slices.

A heavy dose of cracked black pepper really makes this dish, so don't hold back. Fresh basil and avocado are optional but delicious additions, but not necessary. If you have them use them; if not, don't worry.

Add the rest of the ingredients directly to the bowl without dirtying a single measuring cup or spoon. This is truly a one-bowl wonder of tidiness!

A note on toasting pine nuts: I wish I had a dollar for every time I've burnt a batch of pine nuts. Kitchen multi-tasking can be a detriment when it comes to nuts. I used to put them on a small baking sheet and pop them into the toaster oven for 6-8 minutes. Sometimes they turned out perfect, other times like mini charcoal briquets. Please take my advice and take the very few minutes it takes to toast them in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan often to let them toast evenly. Stay right there! Notice their change in color and aroma. By all means, do not walk away from the pan. Relax and hang out a minute. Toasting nuts is a definite Be Here Now task.

Half a bowl of lemon + feta zucchini salad.

Another Great Idea for an Autumn Zucchini Dinner

Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta

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.

Have you joined the 101-Mile Kitchen 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!

Bowl of lemon + feta zucchini salad.

One-Bowl Lemon + Feta Zucchini Salad

Course: Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine: American
Season: Bounty (August - October)
Dietary: Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2 as a main, 4 as a side
Author: Pam Spettel
An exceptionally flavorful way to enjoy zucchini, this one-bowl wonder is a great transition to autumnal eating.
Print Recipe

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 pound yellow and/or green zucchini about 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • cup feta, crumbled or in small cubes
  • lots of freshly cracked pepper
  • flaky salt, to taste
  • 1 avocado, cubed or sliced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into small pieces (optional)

Instructions

  • Slice the zucchinis to about an ⅛" thickness directly into a 2-quart serving bowl. (A mandolin really helps here.) Sprinkle the lemon zest and juice and olive oil over the zucchinis. Grate the garlic clove over the top. Give it a good heavy grind of fresh black pepper, and a few generous pinches of salt. Mix together gently but thoroughly with your hands.
  • Add half the toasted pine nuts, feta and fresh basil (if using) and mix again.
  • Arrange the slices in the bowl to look pretty-- seperate them and spread them around a bit. Sprinkle the remaining pine nuts and feta on top. Give everything another good grind of black pepper and another pinch of salt. Top with avocado slices or cubes, if you are using them. Serve. Store leftovers in the fridge for 1-2 days.
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.
Raspberry sorbet and Rosé cocktail next to a bottle of Rosé and a houseplant.
Raspberry sorbet and a splash of inexpensive French Rosé is a great party-starter or porch-sipper!

We love to have people in, and we typically bid them welcome with a glass of local Oregon wine. But this summer we're welcoming our guests with simple sorbet-based cocktails. These relaxed ice-cold aperitifs have jazzed up our customary summery chilled white or rosé offerings.

I first discovered this cocktail shortcut with my limey-herbal Douglas Fir Tip Sorbet added to a splash of The Botanist gin. It was a big hit as a way to kick off a fun dinner party. I've included below a recipe for blueberry or blackberry sorbet, and here's last year's strawberry sorbet recipe. When added to your favorite liquor, each of these sorbets make a fancy, pretty cocktail easier than summer itself.

There's nothing quite like capturing fresh, local, perfectly ripe fruits and berries into a sorbet. Of course, if you're not in the mood to make your own sorbet, it's perfectly AOK to grab a tub from the grocery to make a quick cocktail. I don't think anyone will turn it down.

Top-down photo of a balckberry sorbet on a striped cloth.
Blackberry sorbet (recipe below) and gin cocktail.

The Summer Sorbet Cocktail Notion

Many cocktails begin with muddled or syruped fruit, and/or a sugar-water simple syrup. What is sorbet if not fruit, sugar, and water? Save a bunch of steps and go straight for the sorbet in your freezer and whatever complimentary hooch you have in your home bar. Think of it as a light, boozy float in construction, and an easy refresher to drink.

The idea is to put one firm scoop of sorbet and one shot of liquor in a coupe or rocks glass. Easy peasy.

By making your own sorbet, you can use up the summer fruit bounty of your own local area. Here are some sorbet/liquor combinations that make a smashing summer cocktail. But I don't see a thing wrong with using your favorite liquor with your favorite sorbet, whatever they may be. Champagne, prosecco, and cava would be winners in every case, too, for a lower alcohol refresher.

  • Blackberry or blueberry and gin, tequila, or vodka
  • Strawberry or raspberry and vodka or tequila (try chilled dry rosé with raspberry!)
  • Stone fruits (cherry, peach, apricot, nectarine) and bourbon
  • Apple, banana, or peach and bourbon
  • Tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, coconut, guava, etc.) and rum or tequila
  • Citrus (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) with vodka or gin
  • Cucumber or other melon and vodka or gin

But by all means, experiment and enjoy making your own combinations.

Raspberry and Rosé cocktail with mountains in the background.
Raspberry sorbet and a splash of rosé-- highly complimentary and wonderfully refreshing.

Entertainer's Tips with Sorbet Cocktails

The sorbet cocktail is easy to make a mocktail-- sub in sparkling waters, tonic, or soda water for the liquor.

How do you make your sorbet cocktail really pop? Be sure to use a colorful garnish! Citrus twists, wedges, or wheels; herb leaves or sprigs; an edible flower; or a piece or two of fruit on a skewer all take your presentation up a notch.

Bedazzle your friends by matching your sorbet to your tablecloth, napkins, dishes, and/or flowers. Making your space pretty seems to put people in a festive mood!

Blackberry or Blueberry Sorbet Recipe

We Oregonians are super lucky to have a huge array of summertime berries, both cultivated and wild. In my freezer there are currently four berry varieties of sorbet to mix and match. Such fun.

Berry recipes tend to taste boring and flabby without a little acid balance, which is usually taken care of by adding lemon juice. I've been using berry-flavored vinegar in place of the lemon. If you have berry vinegar on hand, do try it. With berry vinegar, the need for a touch of acidity is met with an amped-up berry flavor to the finished product, be it pie filling, compote, or sorbet.

Some blackberry and blueberry sorbet recipes suggest using the fruit raw. I make strawberry and raspberry sorbets that way, but find that black and blue berry flavors are better with a gently cooking in sugar. The flavors become deeper, smoother, and richer-- just a more lush experience.

However tempting it is to cut back on the sugar in a sorbet, resist the urge. Less sugar makes for a hard block of fruit -flavored ice rather than a creamy-textured scoopable sorbet. This recipe has been tested multiple times with various levels of sugar, with the best results never going below the stated 1/2 cup. If you want less sugar, just consume less sorbet. It's really the only way around the sugar conundrum.

Be Prepared with the Right Tools

You will need an ice cream maker for this sorbet recipe. I make so much sorbet and ice cream with summer fruits, and consider it one of the best ways to preserve this gift of nature. I've had this Cuisinart model from Sur La Table for many years. It never fails, and is easy to use. I highly recommend it. One of my favorite dinner party desserts is to serve a duo or trio of compatible sorbet flavors with a little cookie, and I have an extra freezer bowl for my ice cream maker to make this really efficient.

Have fun with your sorbets and summery sorbet cocktails, and see what a rainbow you can create!

This post contains affiliate links, including but not limited to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. When 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.

My Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker has been around a while! A tried and true tool.

Share Your Success!

I hope you'll try summer sorbet cocktails or making your own blackberry or blueberry sorbets. When you do, 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, and when you do I'll send you a free Taste of Oregon appetizers recipe downloadable as a thank you!

A blackberry summer cocktail on an outdoor table.

Blackberry or Blueberry Sorbet

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Season: Bounty (August - October)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Servings: 1 quart
Author: Pam Spettel
Capture the freshest ripe taste of summer berries with this simple summer treat.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh blackberries or blueberries lightly rinsed and stems removed
  • 3/4 cup water
  • ½ to ⅔ cup sugar, depending on ripeness of fruit (don't use less than ⅔ cup!)
  • 2 teaspoons berry-flavored vinegar, or lemon juice

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, place the berries, water, and sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the berries are beginning to burst open and become very juicy.
  • Remove from heat and allow the berry mixture to cool slightly. Stir in the berry vinegar or lemon juice, and chill in the refrigerator until thoroughly cold. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Sit out for 10 minutes to slightly soften the sorbet before scooping.

To Make a Sorbet Cocktail

  • In a small tumbler or rocks glass, add one generous scoop sorbet, followed by 1.5 oz. of your favorite liquor. Garnish with a wedge, wheel or twist of citrus, a fresh herb leaf or branch, fresh edible flower, or a piece or two of fruit on a skewer. Serve with dispatch.
Cowboy sloppy joes on a platter with beans.

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

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

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

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

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

cowboy sloppy joes, cowboy beans on a platter.

Making Cowboy Sloppy Joes

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

Another Hearty, Quick Ground Beef Recipe

Cheap, Quick + Easy 20-minute Beefy Spinach Burritos

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

Cowboy Sloppy Joes on a platter with cowboy beans

Cowboy Sloppy Joes

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

Making the Mediterranean Chicken + Artichokes

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

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

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

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

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken skillet.

Preparing Artichokes for Mediterranean Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

Other One-Skillet Meals You'll Love

Weeknight Gingery Broccoli Beef Stir-Fry

Green Goddess Mac + Cheese

Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta

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

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken

Mediterranean Artichoke Chicken

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Yesterday I shared with you The World's Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich, made with garlicky greens, caramelized onion, and brie. It's only fitting that you have The World's Best Tomato Soup recipe to go with it. The two are a match made in heaven.

A Word About Canned Tomatoes

I've driven Interstate Five through California's agricultural regions many times. Enough times to see truckloads of produce pulling off the highway into the many canneries there. May I tell you that not all canned tomatoes are of the same quality? I've observed truckload after truckload of hard pink balls in the truck-trailers. It's not hard to know how they will perform in flavor and texture next to their red, ripe cousins. My practical observation is that you truly get what you pay for in canned tomatoes. Unless you use a lot of canned tomatoes, the price differential is relatively small. It might not make that much difference in a stew with lots of other flavors, but here's my rule of thumb: If the word tomato is in the title of the food I'm making, like tomato sauce, for example or the world's best tomato soup, I spend the extra dollar.

Making the World's Best Tomato Soup

tomato soup with garlicky greens and brie grilled cheese sandwich

First, lets talk equipment. This is a time when an immersion blender is more than handy. Yes, you can blend the soup in batches in either a food processor or blender. However, a stick blender will get the job done and reduce the amount of cleanup you'll have. I've not met a cook yet who would argue with that!

Because it's still late winter I used dried herbs and a bay leaf, which also gets blended into the soup, but in the growing season, trade those herbs out for fresh basil, fresh thyme, or any of the tender, leafy herbs that suit you.

Two other touches make the soup extra special. I save parmesan rinds for times like this. Just throw one in during the short simmering period for an extra flavor boost. The rind will soften and become somewhat gooey looking, but holds together just fine and can easily be fished out prior to blending. If you don't have a parm rind on hand that's just fine. The soup is still lovely so don't let that stop you from making it. The second bit of magic comes with a hearty drizzle of balsamic vinegar as a finishing touch.

The olive oil in here gives it a creamy texture and appearance, but if you love a splash of milk or cream in your tomato soup, by all means use it.

If you like this recipe, please leave it a star rating by clicking on the green stars below the title in the recipe card below. If you like the 101-Mile Kitchen project, I'd be honored if you subscribed to the newsletter!

A platter holding all the ingredients for The World's Best Tomato Soup
a top-down photo of a bowl of red tomato soup in a white bowl.

The World's Best Tomato Soup

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Soup + Stew
Cuisine: American
Season: All Season
Dietary: Gluten-Free
Preparation: Fast + Easy, One Pot/One Pan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
A few special touches make this recipe the only one you need for The World's Best Tomato Soup!
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. flour, rice flour, or 1-to-1 GF flour
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes and their juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 parmesan rind, optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until the onion has softened and is starting to become translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, basil and bay leaf and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and sauté, stirring for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and their juices, the water, optional parmesan rind, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the parmesan rind and blend the soup using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender. If using a food processor or blender, blend in batches. Blend until the soup is fairly smooth, but still has a slight amount of tomato texture. Remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Serve piping hot.
tomato soup with garlicky greens and brie grilled cheese sandwich

I often make soup and some kind of grilled sandwich or panini for supper in the cool weather months, and this week's sandwich was a true hit. Garlicky greens and caramelized onion grilled cheese made with creamy brie is a rather fancy sandwich. I'm going so far to say this is the world's best grilled cheese to date.

Inspiration for Special Grilled Cheese

In my town there is one special spot that adds so much to my experience of living here. Provisions Market Hall is a beautiful place full of gastronomical goodness and so much more. Inside is a gorgeous florist, a wine shop, a beautiful kitchen and gift shop, a specialty foods grocery complete with lovely cheeses and charcuterie, freshly baked breads and pastries, wood oven baked pizzas with bubbly crusts, a coffee shop, and delicious lunch items. Provisions is a place of visual wonder, yes, but also offers practical support to the entire spectrum of us who cook and offer hospitality at home. When you visit Eugene, you just must visit Provisions.

I met a friend for lunch there last week ordered their chard and brie grilled sandwich special. It was so delicious I couldn't wait to try making it at home. I used kale because that's what I had on hand. Chard, kale, or even spicy mustard greens would each be gladly received in this glorious sandwich.

If you're a fan of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese combination, this is the sandwich you'll want going forward. The slightly bitter greens, sweet earthy caramelized onion, and bloomy brie are the perfect foil to tomato soup. Tomorrow I'll share my recipe for the best tomato soup so you'll have the matched set.

Making the Garlicky Greens and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

There is nothing tricky here. Caramelize a few onions, cook some greens, and layer them on top of brie. Using a really good bread will also make a difference, so try for that, too.

grilled greens, onion, and brie sandwich with bowl of tomato soup

Other Soups to Serve with Garlicky Greens and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

World's Best Tomato Soup. Get the recipe here.
Winter White Vegetable Soup. Get the recipe here.
Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. Get the recipe here.

ingredients needed for garlicky greens, caramelized onion, and brie grilled cheese sandwich
tomato soup with garlicky greens and brie grilled cheese sandwich

Garlicky Greens, Caramelized Onion, and Brie Grilled Cheese

Course: Appetizer, Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Cuisine: American, French
Season: All Season
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2 to 3 sandwiches
This gussied-up grilled cheese sandwich levels up your tomato soup and grilled cheese game.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch chard, kale, or mustard greens ribs removed, chopped into about 1" pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • sliced pain de mie or artisan bread, 2 per person
  • 5-6 ounces brie, sliced ¼" thick

Instructions

  • In a large skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. Place the sliced onions in the skillet, sprinkle on several pinches of salt, and allow them to sit undisturbed for several minutes. When the bottom is beginning to brown, turn them, and once again allow them to brown undisturbed for several minutes. Continue this for about 15 minutes until the onions are soft and golden brown throughout.
  • While the onions are caramelizing, in another large skillet heat another 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. Place the chopped greens in the skillet, and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the greens have cooked down about 1/3, or are beginning to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
  • Lay the bread out on a work surface, and lay slices of brie on one side. Divide the sautéed greens among the sandwiches over the brie, then divide the caramelized onions over the brie. Cover each sandwich with its remaining bread slice.
  • Wipe out the skillet that the greens were cooked in with a paper towel, and heat the remaining Tbsp. olive oil in it over medium heat. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook each side until golden brown and crispy. Cut sandwiches in half and serve with tomato soup or simple salad or fruit.

Notes

Left over cooked greens and caramelized onions store well for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. 
bowl of green goddess mac and cheese on a green plate.

Adulting has been especially challenging this week, and comfort food has been as important as ever. Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese has that magical combination of being carb-y, cheesy-gooey, and packed full of good-for-you stuff that ensures that if this is all you eat for a week, you'll at least be getting your vegetables.

This recipe amps up the adult factor with the addition of Dijon mustard and a few anchovies to the cheesy base. These additions offer an exciting depth of flavor snuggled up with the same cozy familiarity you expect from good ol' macaroni and cheese.

How Can I Help?

When the going gets tough for friends and family we ask, "How can I help?" Often the response is something like, "Well, there's nothing anyone can really do except send your love/ good energy/ healing thoughts/ prayers." I'm a big fan of asking the universe to surround my beloveds in need, but when I hear that there's nothing I can physically do to help it is frustrating to not DO something.

This week the shoe is on the other foot. I have been on the other side of those words how can I help? and have learned their hidden power.

Even when there is nothing practical others can do to help, the willingness of a friend to accept a small chunk of my burden has a remarkable effect. Every person who asks this forms a network of support and love that lessens my emotional weight. Every one of the beautiful souls who steps forward to ask how can I help? becomes an invisible army around us-- my family and me.

So never be discouraged if there's "nothing you can do". Your presence, your calls, your prayers and good juju are so important. So impactful. So encouraging. Such a display of kindness. Love personified, even.

And, if you can, show up with a dish like this one so your loved one is sure to eat their vegetables all wrapped up in the comfort of good ol' macaroni and cheese.

What Wine Should I Pair with Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese?

Anchovies and Dijon mustard make this recipe incredibly wine-friendly, not that plain mac and cheese needs a lot of help with that! And this week there definitely has been wine! We found the 2020 Conde Valdemar Blanco Rioja from Valdemar Estates Winery in Walla Walla, Washington to be a better than perfect pairing. It is light, clean, and refreshing-- in other words, a wonderful foil to the rich cheese dish. This is truly a joyful wine.

Making Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese

I used to always make mac and cheese with this ratio:
One pound pasta/ 4 tablespoons flour/ 4 tablespoons butter/ 4 cups milk/ 4 cups (one pound) shredded cheese. This ratio feeds a tribe.

Since most of us here are feeding one, two, three or four people on a daily basis I've revised my formula:
One-half pound pasta/ 2 tablespoons butter/ 2 tablespoons flour/ 2 cups milk/ 2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded cheese. In our household, that makes enough for a very handy two meals apiece. If you are feeding a bigger household, guests, or a gathering, just double the recipe as it is written.

Yes, there are little anchovy fishies tucked into this dish. Umami, friend! Do give them a try. Adding the raw broccoli florets to the mixture right before baking keeps them a wee bit crunchy and not lost in the creamy pasta. The crispy topping adds a wonderful textural note, too. You may be tempted to forgo that part, but it is a low-effort-high-reward addition.

You'll also note that I used our local favorite Tillamook Creamery Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in this dish. If you don't have a local cheesemaker near you, these are worth seeking out.

platter of ingredients necessary for green goddess macaroni and cheese

Other Comfort Foods for When the Going Gets Rough. . .

. . . for you, or for those you love:
Carrot Risotto with Green Garlic Sauce: Recipe Here.
Easy Winter White Vegetable Soup and Infinite Variations: Recipe Here.

a serving bowl of green goddess macaroni and cheese on a green plate.

Green Goddess Macaroni + Cheese

Course: Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Season: All Season
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4
Familiar comfort food, with a green goddess veggie twist.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Green Goddess Macaroni and Cheese

  • 8 oz. macaroni other small pasta regular or gluten free
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oil-packed anchovies, drained and mined (optional)
  • 1 large stems broccoli, stem peeled and diced, florets broken apart
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose or rice flour use rice four of GF 1- to- 1 flour for GF
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 6 oz. fresh spinach
  • 8 oz. grated cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese (2 cups) or a mix of any of these to equal 2 cups

Crispy Garlic Lemon Topping

  • ½ cup panko regular or gluten free
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, grated into bowl

Instructions

Make the Topping

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and stir thoroughly. Set aside.

Make the Mac and Cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the macaroni. Cook the macaroni according to package directions.
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the diced onion, garlic, anchovies, and diced broccoli stems. (Reserve the broccoli florets for later.) Sauté over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.
  • Stir in the flour and salt and pepper. Add the milk and Dijon mustard, and continue stirring as the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Stir the spinach into the milk mixture until it is wilted. Use a blender (working in batches) or a immersion blender right in the pot to blend the vegetables into the milk mixture, turning it green. Stir in the cheese until it it completely melted. Stir in the broccoli florets. Pour the ingredients into a 9" x 13" baking dish.
  • Spread the crispy topping over the macaroni mixture. Bake until hot and bubbly, and the edges begin to brown. Allow to set 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

Don't let the anchovies scare you. They add a depth of flavor (nothing fishy) and elevate this dish to a wonderful adult comfort food!
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.
A plate of valentines cookies, a book of poetry, and a photo of young lovers

Making food for people, especially these Valentine Shortbread Heart Cookies with Blood Orange filling, is an act of love. Mr. Fred Rogers, my truest childhood hero, said, "Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

Love is showing up, on repeat, day after day. It's the things you never knew you'd do. Like spending nights in the NICU next to your newborn's incubator. Or forgiving the hurt of a friend over and over again until you don't remember it anymore, which you hope is soon. Sometimes you are the target of your own love when you allow yourself to let go of guilt, grief, or fear.

"I know the secret of life: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things."

Anne Lamott
Valentine Shortbread Heart Cookies on a plate with poetry book.

Messing Up is OK

The wonderous thing about love, is that you will mess it up. That's just part of it.

Just like the verb cooking, loving calls for a lot doing. Trial, practice, mistake-making, and what can feel like wasted time and resources. But your flops are exactly how you learn to love better. The trick is to not give up. Keep practicing. Your acts refine as you practice them. Your acts become who you are. With a little tenacity your love eventually looks more like the soufflé you'd hoped for and less like the dog's breakfast.

Remember all this when you make these pretty little Valentine heart shortbread cookies for your beloveds. Each time you press your pinky into the dough, you imprint the part of yourself that is set on loving. The soft, unchilled dough gives way to make adorable little heart shaped vessels that hold a tad of sweet blood orange goodness you also have made.

Unfilled Valentine Shortbread Heart Cookies on baking tray, before baking.

As you form the little Valentine hearts, they will remind you of your beloveds. Some, like a crotchety uncle, hide their tenderness in crooked wrinkles. Some, like an emotional 8th grader, absolutely cannot contain their contents. Others are the picture of every-hair-in-place perfection. The likeness of each heart says they belong together on the plate. Their uniquenesses make the plateful interesting. Just like you and your beloveds.

Other Sweet Treats Your Valentines May Enjoy

Strawberry Sorbet and Strawberry Dairy-Free Ice Cream: Get the recipe here.
Chewy Hazelnut Meringue Cookies: Get the recipe here.
Flourless Walnut Cake, with plain, spice, and coffee-flavored versions. Get the recipe here.

Finished Valentine Shortbread Heart Cookies grouped together on a platter.

Pinkyprint Valentine Shortbread Heart Cookies with Blood Orange Curd

Course: Dessert
Season: Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Nut-Free
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 4 minutes
Servings: 40 cookies
Author: Pam Spettel
A simple shortbread base, filled with love and pink blood orange curd. No need for perfection here-- just celebrate each cookie's unique heart, just as you do your beloveds.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Blood Orange Curd

  • 3 egg yolks, whites saved for another purpose
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup blood orange juice freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp blood orange zest finely grated
  • 1 stick unsalted butter cut into small cubes

Vanilla Shortbread Dough

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • cups AP flour

Instructions

For the Blood Orange Curd

  • Make a double boiler by simmering 3" deep of water in a large saucepan. In a medium/large stainless steel bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and sugar until sugar just starts to dissolve.
  • Whisk in both juices and zest.
  • Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water. Cook curd, stirring with a rubber spatula almost constantly, until it begins to thicken. It should have the consistency of loosely whipped cream. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in butter cubes all at once, stirring until butter is completely melted and fully incorporated. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove bits of zest and any solid egg proteins.
  • Chill at 2 hours before using in the cookies. This makes about 1 ¾ cups-- you will only use about ½ cup for the cookies. Store the rest for another purpose.

For the Vanilla Pinkprint Cookie Dough

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment or non-stick mats.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Beat in the egg and vanilla until fully incorporated and fluffy. On low speed, blend in the flour until just incorporated.
  • Using small scoop, scoop up a bit of dough and roll into a 1" ball with your palms. Place on the baking sheet. Using your pinky, press down near the top of the ball, making an indentation. Make another indentation right next to it. Make a third indentation centered in the hollow just below the first and second indentations to begin making a heart shape in the dough. Use your fingers to elongate the edge at bottom of the ball, and to make a dent in the edge of the top of the ball. Repeat, making fun little heart shapes, each with their own personality, using up the dough. You should have close to 20 hearts on each baking sheet.
  • Chill dough hearts until they are very firm, at least an hour. This part is critical, or you'll end up with a puddle in the end.

Putting the cookies all together:

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Bake one sheet for 7 minutes. Working quickly, once again use your pinky to depress the heart shape that has puffed up. It will be hot, so use caution. Using a very small spoon, like a baby or demitasse spoon, fill the depressions with cold blood orange curd. Don't over flow!
    Place the cookies back in the oven for another 5 - 7 minutes, keeping a close eye. You want them fully cooked and just barely beginning to go golden on the bottom, but not browning on the cookie itself.
    Allow to cook for two or three minutes on the baking sheet, to set up, them remove to a cooling rack to complete cooling. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, if they last that long.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
Use store- bought lemon, lime, or raspberry curd instead of making your own. Easier yet, fill them with any red or pink jam.
Save time by simply using your thumb to make an indent. No need to make a heart to make these cookies pretty and delish all year long.

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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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