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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.
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
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
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. 
 
Platter Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy on table with wine glasses and bottle of wine.

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

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

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

Overhead closeup photo of Parsnip Poutine with Rich Mushroom Gravy.

What is the Best Pairing?

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

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

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

Making the Poutine + Gravy

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

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

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

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

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

Parsnip Poutine + Rich Mushroom Gravy

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

For the Parsnips

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

For the Mushroom Shallot Gravy

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

Bring it All Together

  • Arrange the roasted parsnips on a large warmed platter in a spiky spoke-like fashion. Ladle the hot gravy in the center. Arrange the cheese curds over the gravy, and top with a bunch of thyme for garnish. Serve while piping hot.
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
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4
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

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding in a casserole dish
Bread turns golden as it soaks up the pumpkin-based custard.

Pumpkin can't seem to get away from the use of sugar and cinnamon-y pumpkin pie spices that relegate it to the sweets table. This Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding-- with things like onions and herbs-- opens a whole new world of pumpkin possibilities.

Here, the dusky earthiness of pumpkin is the perfect match to lots of herbs, mushrooms, and two cheeses in the recipe. Think of it like a cheesy stuffing baked outside the bird, or like a strata.

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding Brings People Together

woman serving savory pumpkin bread pudding from baking dish.

The people who gather at my table represent a wide range of dietary needs and preferences and, if you live in America in 2021, this is likely the case for you, too. This bread pudding is easily modified to meet the challenges of nourishing a dietarily diverse crowd. And the challenges of the cook organizing meals for them!

Having dishes on the table that respect everyone's needs can be a challenge that you likely know all too well. Above all, it is important to me that there be food that all my beloveds can share. I want no one to feel left out when the oohs and ahhs start happening!

This Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding serves as a hearty main course for non-meat-eaters, and a tasty side dish for meat-eaters. Tailor it to your crowd by trading plant milk for dairy milk, and non-dairy cheese for the Parmesan and Fontina. Gluten-free bread is an easy swap that everyone will enjoy. However, egg substitutes have not been tested in this recipe.

Savory Pumpkim Bread Pudding in a baking dish.

Making the Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Firstly, start with an artisan-style bread with lots of bubbles and holes in the crumb that create cozy spaces for the eggy pumpkin custard to rest. Day-old bread is even better, because it will soak up the custard best and bake up with a more firm sliceable texture.

After that, making pumpkin puree from scratch is really easy in an Instant Pot. Try making a batch or two to freeze and have on hand for all your pumpkin cooking and baking. The convenience of canned pumpkin is great, but there is a quality trade-off.

Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch.

Ingredients needed for Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding.
Things you'll need to make a Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding of your own.

The make-ahead nature of Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding makes it a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, or any time. Assemble the bread pudding the day before you need it, then baked it off on serving day. I hope you enjoy having pumpin in this savory way!

Other Savory Pumpkin Recipes:

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce and Toasted Hazelnuts

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding in a casserole dish

Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Course: Main Dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Nut-Free
Preparation: Casserole
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8
Maximize pumpkin's savory notes with a hearty bread pudding filled with aromatics, herbs, and mushrooms.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pumpkin puree, made from scratch or canned See link for video tutorial on making your own in the Instant Pot.
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk or your favorite non-dairy milk
  • 2 cups finely grated parmesan, divided (about 6 ounces) for dairy-free option, replace this with 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
  • 1 pound artisan-style bread (the holes and bubbles capture the custard nicely, and stale bread is best) baguette, boule, pugliese, etc.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for dairy-free version) or butter
  • 2 medium onions, in about 1/4" dice
  • 2 cups celery stalk and leaves, sliced about 1/4" thick
  • 1 pound mushrooms, slices about 1/4" thick
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, sliced about 1/4" thick, and roughly chopped through
  • 3 teaspoons fresh thyme, leaves removed from their stems or 1 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, very finely minced or 1/2 teaspoon ground dried sage
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, diced into about 1/4" cubes for dairy-free version, omit or replace with a firm dairy-free melting cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Oil a deep 9" x 13" baking dish or casserole. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Wash and dice the onion, celery, mushrooms, kale, and herbs. Dice the fontina and finely grate the Parmesan. Set aside.
  • Make a custard by first whisking the pumpkin puree and eggs together, then slowing whisking in the milk to combine. Add in about ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add half the olive oil or butter. Add the onions and celery and sauted, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent and soft without browning, about 5-7 minutes. While the onions are softening, in your largest mixing bowl, use your fingers to tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Remove the crust only if it is especially thick and tough, otherwise include it. Lightly salt the bread and toss it.
  • When the onions and celery are tender, add them to the bread. Heat the rest of the olive oil or butter in the skillet and sauted the mushrooms until they have released some of their moisture and are beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, kale and ½ teaspoon or so of salt and a generous amount of pepper and sauted another 2-3 minutes until the kale has softened a little and the mushrooms are well-browned. Add them to the bread and onion mixture in the large bowl. Add the diced fontina if using, and give the ingredients in the bowl a good toss.
  • Pour the reserved pumpkin custard mixture over the bread and vegetables and gently stir with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides and bringing the ingredients up from the bottom to evenly coat them with the custard mixture. Tip it out into the prepared baking pan.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top, and bake for another 15 minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before serving. The pieces cut nicely into squares like lasagne, or can be spooned out with a large spoon.

Notes

Make It Your Own:
Add chunks of squash or pumpkin, use mustard greens or chard instead of the kale, try different cheeses and herbs. Follow your heart and use what you have!

Flourless walnut spice cake adorned with fall fruits and flowers.
Flourless Walnut Spice Cake with Fall Fruits and Flowers

Rustic Cake at Its Very Best

In my calculus, a rustic cake has a short list of ingredients, an interesting texture, and most importantly is adorned very plainly-- a straightforward glaze, scoop of ice cream or whipped cream, a smatter of nuts or seasonal fruit is all it takes. This Flourless Walnut Cake and its coffee or spice versions deliver on a promise of simplicity.

What a cake like this misses in complexity is made up with a certain honesty. It's like the fresh rosy-cheeked girl in a calico dress that smells of clothesline sunshine.

Flourless walnut cake on a cake platter.
Flourless Coffee-Walnut Cake with Coffee Glaze and Candied Walnuts

Or, our flourless walnut cake is like filtering your way through a crowded party, and meeting a gentle-souled person standing in the corner with whom to while the evening away.

Uncomplicated joy.

Multi-tiered, colorful swooped, swirled, and filagree-frosted cakes sometimes disappoint on the part that really matters-- flavor. With flourless walnut cake or its coffee or spice versions, what you see is what you get. The beauty is natural, not forced.

Making the Flourless Walnut Cake

Woman holding place with flourless walnut cake.
Flourless Coffee-Walnut Cake, fresh from the oven.

Starting with room temperature eggs, like with most baking, is imperative to the success of this recipe. Sugar simply cannot dissolve into cold yolks. Cold whites don't whip to their lofty heights. Here you spend a good deal of time building structure by dissolving sugar into yolks and stiffening the whites, so give yourself a guaranteed win by setting your eggs out in advance. (When I forget, I help the eggs warm up by placing them on a bowl of lukewarm water, changing it for more when it goes cold. Never try this with hot water or you make crack open a semi-cooked egg!)

Traditional recipes for this type of cake ask you to whip all of the whites into firm peaks at once. Here, I have you whip them to medium peaks at first, then add only a third of them to the yolk/sugar/nut mixture to lighten the batter. Then, you'll go back and whip the remaining two-thirds of the whites into firm stand-up-at-attention peaks before gently folding them into the batter. I have found this greatly increases the structure of the cake, resulting in a taller cake with less shrinkage when it comes out of the oven. Even though our dear little flourless walnut cakes are humble, they still like to make a good first impression.

If you chose, top either version with a pile of candied walnut halves, made the same way Sarah at Sustainable Cooks makes her pecans. The only difference is that I add 1 tablespoon water to the skillet along with the sugar. Make extra! Candied walnuts are great in salads or on a cheese platter, too.

Both versions-- coffee-walnut and walnut spice cakes together on a table.
Choose plain walnut, walnut spice or coffee-walnut variations with this one simple recipe.

More Rustic Cake Recipes

Sweet Corn Buttermilk Cake + Blueberry Compote (gluten-free)

Zingy Lemon Ginger Zucchini Cake

Flourless walnut cake on a cake platter.

Flourless Walnut Cake with Coffee + Spice Versions

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Season: Bounty (August - October), Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: Baking
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 12
Flourless Walnut cake is tender and delicious just as written, but the addition of coffee or baking spices takes it next level-- One recipe with three variations-- plain, Coffee, or Spice-- to suit your mood. Three primary ingredients, a few simple steps, and you'll have beautiful dessert cakes all winter.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups walnuts, ground (instructions below) 8 ounces
  • 7 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Flavoring Options

Coffee Glaze, Optional

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans
  • 5 tablespoons warm or hot strong brewed coffee
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Flourless Walnut Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter and flour (or use very finely ground walnuts) a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil to catch any butter that melts out in the oven.
  • In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts. This will likely take only 8 -10 pulses. Stop just as they begin to clump. (Any further and you'll make walnut butter, not quite what we are after). Set the ground walnuts aside.
  • Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment. Beat the yolks with the sugar and salt 6-8 minutes until the mixture is fluffy and pale yellow. (You'll be glad you let your eggs come to room temperature for this-- the sugar more readily dissolves in eggs that are not cold.)
  • If you are making a plain flourless walnut cake, move on to step five. If you are making either a walnut-spice cake or a coffee flavored cake, add the spice mix or the finely ground coffee beans now and mix in thoroughly.
  • Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer and with a silicone or rubber spatula, fold the ground walnuts into the yolk mixture.
  • In a separate clean bowl free of any oils or grease, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla to medium peaks. (The cream of tartar helps stabilize the whipped egg whites.) Gently fold about a third of the egg whites into the walnut mixture. Then, whip the remaining egg whites once again until they just reach firm peaks. Fold them gently into the walnut mixture in two batches, folding until no more white streaks remain.
  • Place the cake batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the cake is puffed, set (not jiggly) in the middle, and a cake tester (I use a bamboo skewer for this) inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan about 20 minutes before removing the springform ring. The cake will have sunk in the center and formed charming cracks and crags, perfectly normal for this rustic meringue-style cake.
  • Decorate with seasonal fruits, a dusting a powdered sugar, or the coffee glaze below. Seve with whipped cream.

Coffee Glaze

  • Place the sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and coffee, tablespoon at a time, and whisk until a glaze forms. It should cling to the whisk and drip off in thick long ribbons. Adjust by adding more powdered sugar or water to make it thicker or thinner. Drizzle the glaze from the whisk around the edges of the cake, allowing some to flow toward the center of the cake and some to drip off the edges. Allow the glaze to set for an hour before covering or serving.

Notes

To make the Coffee Glaze a Spice Glaze, replace the ground coffee with one teaspoon of the same spice blend you use in the cake, and replace the brewed coffee with warm or hot water.
Garnish the spice cake with fresh fig halves, lightly roasted (6 minutes at 350, just to soften) plum prunes, tiny grape clusters, and/or unsprayed organic food-safe flowers or flower petals.  

Bowls of Pumpkin Black Bean Soup, a loaf of bread, and wine on a table ready for a party.

Soup as Your Secret Weapon

In case you haven't noticed, the world really needs us right now. The paradigm-looting pandemic isn't over. Differing points of view are dividing friends and neighbors when we aren't paying attention. It's as though the collective pulse is slow, the heartbeat is going quiet. Bold acts of friendship are as important as they ever were.

Lean in and let Pumpkin Black Bean Soup be one of your secret weapons in the defense of friendship.

Closeup of a bowl of pumpkin black bean soup.

Lean In, Full and Strong

I've found that leaning in to my loved ones and community happens best when I first make my own self full and strong. Now is the time to follow the pilot's directions. "Ladies and gentlemen, should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

Simply put, if I run out of oxygen I cannot assist someone else with gaining theirs. If I'm gasping for air I am fairly useless in creating a safer, happier, nourishing place for others.

In this season known for its comfort food, let us remember this for ourselves. Eat reviving foods, feed ourselves well. Warm, spicy, hearty things that nourish not just our bodies, but our eyes and hearts and imaginations. And then share it with others out of our own fullness.

Overhead photo of bowls of pumpkin black bean soup, bread loaf, and wine glasses.

Make More Bean Soup Joy

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup is a stealthy way to make more joy. Make more festivity for Halloween night supper. Make more personal success-- image your game-day touchdown by sharing this big pot of soup with loved ones. Or make this soup as an easy dinner party with whoever it is that makes up your pod these days.

Or in support to yourself, make the whole big pot and parcel out 2-cup portions for your freezer. That way you'll always be fueled for your loving, life-giving actions even when you don't feel like cooking. The joyfully act of making the soup itself is a beautiful life-giver.

More About Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

A wooden platter with the recipe ingredients mis en place.

Put together this rich and fragrant rusty-brown soup in a flash with canned ingredients from your pantry, or with dried black beans you cook yourself. (Beans from Rancho Gordo are the best ever, and their Midnight Black Beans are perfect here.) Directions for the easy way and the beans-from-scratch way are included. I love it both ways, depending on the amount of time I've got to give. Click here for link to a Facebook Live video of me explaining the easy process of making pumpkin puree from scratch.

Make it vegan by omitting the ham hock or pancetta for another delicious way to go, even for committed meat-eaters.

The aroma coming from the pot of this seasonal soup is so inviting and so comforting. Pumpkin gets a well-earned reprieve from its sugar and spice gig, making a happy marriage with the savory black beans and cumin. It really is the perfect thing for the chilly days ahead.

Oh, by the way, a perfect accompaniment to this warming soup is a huge loaf of Caraway Rye Black Bread. Together they make enough to feed a crowd of friends bent on making more joy, no matter what.

One bowl of Pumpkin Black Bean Soup with spoon.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Course: Main Dish, Soup + Stew
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
Preparation: One Pot/One Pan
40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 2 quarts
Comfort food at its best, let Pumpkin Black Bean Soup be your secret weapon in defense of friendship. Pumpkin gets a reprieve from sugar and spice in this happy marriage of savory black beans and cumin.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 15 oz. cans whole black beans, drained See Notes section for cooking beans from scratch.
  • 1 15 oz. can whole or diced tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, diced (about 2 large onions)
  • 2 poblano chilis, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. pancetta or bacon, diced (optional) Omit for vegan option.
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 15 oz cans pure pumpkin Or one 28 oz. can.
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 can Stout or other favorite beer (optional) I love Athletic Brewing Company's non-alcoholic All Out Stout for this.
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste at the table
  • pumpkin seeds, cilantro, green onion, and/or sour cream as toppings

Instructions

  • Blend together in a food processor half of the black beans and the canned tomatoes. Process until nearly smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large soup or stock pot to medium-high heat. Add the diced onions, poblano, garlic, pancetta (if using, salt, and pepper. Stir together, and allow the vegetables to thoroughly soften as the pancetta crisps up a bit, stirring frequently and adjusting heat to prevent them from browning, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and Mexican oregano, stir, and allow to cook another 3 minutes or so.
  • Add the blended bean/tomato mixture to the sauteed vegetables and stir. Stir in the pumpkin, and then stir in the water and stout (if using). Simmer and stir frequently for 20 minutes or so to slightly condense and thicken, and to let the flavors come together. Stir in the remaining whole beans and serve. If you are making this in advance of serving time, add the beans in the last five minutes before serving to they don't overcook and collapse.
  • Right before serving, stir in the vinegar and taste to adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls, serve plain, or garnish with your favorite combination of topping ingredients.

Notes

For cooking the black beans from scratch:
If you are cooking your black beans from their dried state, you can omit the pancetta and include a ham hock, which adds a lovely smoky flavor and a little smoked pork to the pot. For the vegan option, of course, do not add a hock.
You'll need:
Soak the beans 4-6 hours covered by 2" in water. Place the beans and their soaking water (I think this preserves some color, flavor, and nutrients, but you may also drain the beans and start with fresh water) and the ham hocks (if using) in a pot large enough to cover by 2" of water. Bring to a rolling boil for five minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, with a lid set ajar. Stir every now and then, and begin tasting for doneness at the one-hour mark. Try your best to not overcook the beans-- just cook until they are tender to the tooth, but have retained their shape. 
Proceed with the recipe as directed in step one. 
With this method, drain the beans through a colander and use the cooking liquid (pot liquor) to replace some or all of the water. This captures the extra flavor the cooking liquid offers into the soup. After the ham hock cools, pick any meat from it and reserve until step four, adding it back with the whole beans. 
woman in sweater holds whole loaf of Caraway Rye Black Bread.

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

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

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

How to Use the Caraway Rye Black Bread

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

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

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

About the Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caraway Rye Black Bread on a cutting board

Caraway Rye Black Bread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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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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