Today I'm teaching my community how to make this wonderful warm autumn grains, grapes, and greens pilaf. Our phenomenal Lane County Farmers Market has hosted a series of cooking demonstrations generously funded by the Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District. Some fabulous local chefs have been smashing it up with their demos all summer long. And today, it's me, a professional home cook sharing with the crowd. I'm extremely honored to be among this group of people, making our local foods more accessible to our community, and adding value to those shopping at our market.
About This Grains, Grapes and Greens Pilaf
With the exception of olive oil, salt, and pepper, every single ingredient in this dish was purchased at the farmers market. My intent in developing today's recipe was to stuff it full of local ingredients, spotlighting ingredients that abound at the market today and the growers and producers who bring them to us. This very moment. This exact week of this exact season. I wanted my dish to taste like Oregon at this very moment. There is a good chance that many of these ingredients will give you that "terroir", or sense of place, if you live in the northern hemisphere. If you live down under, file this away for your autumn cooking next April.
Grains, Grapes, and Greens is a Seasonally Flexible Recipe
This recipe rendition captures autumn, with grapes coming ripe and wintery greens, still tender and young, just now coming to market. Grains are enduring-- we enjoy them throughout the year. Here are some change-ups you might make with this idea, no matter the season:
Replace the grapes with apples, firm pears, or segmented citrus. In the summer, blueberries, pitted cherries, and diced stone fruit will work wonderfully.
Rotate through barley, wheat berries, farro, freekeh, and the array of colorful rices-- black, brown, red, and purple. They all work perfectly as the base for this type of warm salad or pilaf.
What nuts grow in your area? We're famous for our hazelnuts here in Oregon. As a matter of fact, we grow 99% of the U.S. hazelnut crop. Use whatever nut you have or love. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts are equally good here. Even pine nuts, really a seed, not a nut, would be wonderful.
Whatever hearty, sauté-able green you can put your hands on would be fantastic. Kales, chards, collards, mustards, dandelions, nettles, and arugulas are the first ones that come to mind. Swap at your whim, or whatever is available. Today I'm using rainbow chard-- look at its vibrant colors!
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Warm grains like barley, farro, or brown rice, gently sauteed greens, and juicy just harvested grapes and a quick in-the-skillet vinaigrette make this dazzling Pacific Northwest-centric pilaf sparkle. Or, use it as a warm salad. Either way, healthy never tasted so good.
Cook the grains pasta style: Rinse the grains and place them in a medium saucepan and fill the pan with at least 6 cups of water. Add a healthy pinch of salt and stir. Bring to a boil, stir again, and adjust the heat to a slowly bubbling simmer. Cook for 45 - 60 minutes or until the barley is plump and tender. Drain well.
While the barley is simmering, wash the greens and remove the stems. Slice the stems into ½" pieces. stack the leaves on top of each other, and roll the stack into a long cigar shape. Slice through the roll first lengthwise, and then into 1" pieces.
In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the cut greens to the pan and saute, stirring every minute or two, until the greens have become tender and soft. Salt and pepper the greens to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 teaspoon pepper).
Stir in the warm grains and the vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you'd like. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in about half the grapes.
Place the warm pilaf in serving bowl or platter. Top with the remaining grapes and the crushed hazelnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
+ Jane Touzalin of The Washington Post says it best."Hulled barley, considered a whole grain, has had just the indigestible outer husk removed. It’s darker in color and has a little bit of a sheen. Pearled barley, also called pearl barley, is not a whole grain and isn’t as nutritious. It has lost its outer husk and its bran layer, and it has been polished. It has a lighter, more matte appearance."They can be used interchangeably. However, hulled barley is a more nutritious whole grain and also holds its shape better is soups and stews. Hulled barley takes up to an hour to cook, whereas the pearled kind cooks in about 30-45 minutes.
Is it possible to be glum in the presence of orange things, like this autumn sunset-hued roasted fig-glazed winter squash? As autumn comes knocking, this three-ingredient wonder is a cheery and scrumptious welcome to the cool-weather cooking season.
Like an oven being lit, my imaginative cooking fires are lit by trying new ingredients. This little recipe started when I was recently introduced to blackstrap vinegar. At our farmers market, I met Klee and Cherie Wiles-Pearson of Spoiled Rotten Vinegar who make, among other vinegar, the award-winning blackstrap vinegar used in this dish. They appropriately call it "One American's retort to Italy's aged Balsamic." Blackstrap molasses makes it full-bodied, rich, and sweet, and it works in most applications where one would normally reach for Balsamic. One sip of this living food and I am forever hooked.
Klee ferments and bottles Spoiled Rotten Vinegar's distinctive vinegars. Cherie designs the beautiful, information-filled labels that highlight the work of local artists. The charming Spoiled Rotten Vinegar bottles are not made to be hidden behind cupboard doors.
Ways to Use Your Fig-Glazed Squash
Besides straight-up out of the oven, here are other some ways to put this fig-glazed winter squash to work from now until spring.
Lay the roasted rings over a bed of cooked barley, farro, wild rice, quinoa, etc. that has been mixed with olive-oil-cooked onion and perhaps chopped parsley. Drizzle the whole thing with the glaze.
For a salad, put the roasted squash on a bed of slivered kale that has been tossed in a spoonful of the glaze and sprinkle on chopped toasted hazelnuts.
Tuck halved or quartered figs in and around the squash for a lovely fall touch.
Utilize the heat of your oven and make fig-glazed squash alongside a roasted chicken, turkey breast, pork loin, or pork tenderloin. They are delicious together, and energy efficient this way!
Try the glazed squash in a rice bowl, along with some browned tofu or leftover protein.
Tips for Preparing Winter Squashes
What variety of winter squash wouldn't be lovely in this recipe? I am wildly fond of the Red Kuri variety, not only because of its red-orange luminosity, but also because it cooks to a silky texture without falling apart. Kabocha squash is similar. And don't forget Delicata, which offers a yellow contrast and is a great little squash, too. Except for butternut, none of the varieties listed in the recipe below require peeling. Their skins soften equally to the flesh when roasted.
Scrub winter squash and then microwave it for 2 minutes or so on high power before cutting into it. This allows the knife to slide through the squash more easily. I think it makes scooping the seeds out a little easier, too.
Making the Fig-Glazed Winter Squash
Above all, don't give up on this recipe if you can't find blackstrap vinegar. Dark Balsamic is a worthy substitute.
Where are fig jams, spreads, or butters found? Many grocery stores that have a gourmet-style cheese section carry fig jam, spread, or butter. Ask there. Trader Joe's fig butter is good and is generally the most affordable. I keep a jar or two of it around for cheese boards and cheesy paninis. You may also find it in the jams and jellies section of your grocery. This is the fig spread I'm using at the moment, and it is excellent.
The density of the glaze is dependant on the particular fig jam, spread, or butter you use. If your glaze is so thick that it doesn't drizzle off your mixing spoon, thin it with a tablespoon or so of water. You want it just loose enough to drizzle in a thin ribbon. If you happen to thin it too much, just reduce the fig/vinegar mixture back down in a small saucepan over medium heat for a few minutes.
Save any glaze leftovers and use it in a salad dressing. With a little olive oil added, it is terrific on a leafy salad with apples, chopped dried figs, and some toasted nuts.
Store leftover fig-glazed squash tightly covered in the fridge. Then rewarm it gently in a microwave oven or a toaster oven.
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 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.
Preheat the oven to 400° convection roast. Scrub the squash, cut them in half, and remove the seeds. Slice the squash into ½" slices. In the case of Butternut squash, slice the sold neck pieces in half. Lay the squash slices on a silicone mat-lined or parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over the squash, and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.
While the squash is beginning to roast, mix the fig jam, blackstrap or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add up to 1 tablespoon of water to the mix to make it thin enough to drip from the spoon.
After the squash has roasted for ten minutes, bring it out of the oven and flip each piece over. Drizzle the slices with about half of the fig glaze mixture. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°, and roast for another 10-12 minutes, until the squash is browned in spots, fork-tender and somewhat translucent in color, and the glaze has thickened. Watch this closely toward the end so the glaze doesn't burn.
Arrange the squash rings and/or slices on a serving platter. Drizzle a few more spoonsful of the reserved glaze over the top, and serve. A green garnish (like parsley or microgreens) makes the colors really pop! Leftovers store nicely in a covered container in the refrigerator.
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.
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.
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!
One-Bowl Lemon + Feta Zucchini Salad
Course: Main Dish, Salad
Season: Bounty (August - October)
Dietary: Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Total Time: 15 minutesminutes
Servings: 2as 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.
1poundyellow and/or green zucchiniabout 2 medium zucchinis
1largelemon, zested and juiced
3tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
¼cuppine nuts, toasted
⅓cupfeta, crumbled or in small cubes
lots of freshly cracked pepper
flaky salt, to taste
1avocado, cubed or sliced (optional)
2tablespoonsfresh basil, torn into small pieces (optional)
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.
Oregon-style smoky caponata is my attempt to replicate a most memorable caponata I once had at the historic James Beard awarded Nick's Italian Café in McMinville, Oregon. Nick's caponata (a sort of Sicilian version of ratatouille) is made in a wood-fired oven that imparts a lovely smoky note not typical to caponata. I think of it every year at this time, when tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are at their seasonal peak. This year I decided to make it at home, even without a wood burning oven of my own.
The idea of how to pull this off, however, came from another Oregon restaurant. We recently ate at King Estate Winery Restaurant, where a fresh oyster dish came in a covered Dutch oven in which hay from their farm encircled the oysters, was lit, and then quickly covered before being whisked tableside. We erupted in happy sighs of awe when the lid was removed, the smoke puffed out, and the gently smoked raw oysters were revealed. The aroma was incredible and the food inside was a stunning surprise.
I thought-- Hey! I mean, hay! I'm an Oregon hay farmer! I've got tons of that stuff. What could I smoke? How about a caponata like Nick's?
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.
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!
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.
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 minutesminutes
Cook Time: 40 minutesminutes
Total Time: 55 minutesminutes
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.
1 largered, orange, or yellow bell pepper, seeded, large diced
½largepurple onion, large diced
4medium tomatoes, ripe, large diced
8clovesgarlic, peeled and roughly chopped into large pieces
6tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil, divided
2tablespoonstomato paste mixed with 3 tablespoons water
3tablespoonssherry vinegar, or white wine or red wine vinegar
¼-⅓cupblack oil-cured olives, green Castelvetrano, or Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
salt and ground black pepper to taste
¼cupmixed fresh oregano and basil, roughly chopped
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Blackberry or Blueberry Sorbet
Season: Bounty (August - October)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Author: Pam Spettel
Capture the freshest ripe taste of summer berries with this simple summer treat.
4cupsfresh blackberries or blueberrieslightly rinsed and stems removed
½ to ⅔cupsugar, depending on ripeness of fruit(don't use less than ⅔ cup!)
2teaspoonsberry-flavored vinegar, or lemon juice
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
1lb.orecchiette or other small pastause gluten free pasta if you choose
3cupspumpkin puree (two 15 oz. cans)
½cupdry white wine
1bunchcurly or lacinato kale, large ribs removed, chopped into 1" pieces
salt + pepper to taste
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course most ales and beers are also delightful with poutine.
Making the Poutine + Gravy
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.
The parsnips roast, the mushrooms soak and the shallots, garlic, and herbs are prepped; caramelizing the shallots; the mushrooms and their soaking water go into the gravy; everything is plated and topped with cheese curds.
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.
1 oz.dried porcini mushrooms, or other dried cooking mushroom
12oz.shallot, approximately 4 large peeled and sliced ½" thick
2tablespoonsfresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
2½tablespoonsGF One-for-One flour, rice flour, or all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
¼lb.cheese curds, or goat cheese
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.
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
Meatballs and sliced lemon roast together; Roasted lemon will go into the sauce; Prepping the vegetables for the sauce; Quickly saute the sauce while the meatballs roast and the pasta cooks; Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce with some of its cooking water.
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.
What Wine Shall I Serve?
The mediterranean flavors in the sauce-- garlic, condensed roasted lemon, and Kalamata olives-- were perfect with the Willamette Valley wine producer Anne Amie2019 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.
Turkey Meatball + Roasted Lemon Zucchini Pasta
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Total Time: 55 minutesminutes
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.
1 cuppanko or purchased bread crumbsboth are available in gluten-free options
¾cupmilk, dairy or plant
1 ½cupsgrated zucchinisqueezed of moisture in a clean kitchen towel
1poundground turkey94% lean will be juicier than 99% lean
1 ¼cupfinely grated parmesan cheesereserve ¼ cup for serving. For dairy-free, replace this with 1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast.
1teaspoononion powder, optional
1largeor two smaller lemons, sliced 1/2›" thin
For the Pasta and Roasted Lemon Sauce
¾poundspaghetti or bucatinior gluten free pasta
extra virgin olive oil
3-4cupszucchini, diced in about 1/4" pieces
1shallot, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
½teaspoonred pepper flake
1/2cupKalamata olives or other black olives, roughly chopped
roasted lemon slices, above, chopped into small piecesthe 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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!
8ouncesfontina cheese, diced into about 1/4" cubesfor dairy-free version, omit or replace with a firm dairy-free melting cheese
salt and pepper to taste
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
2tablespoonsfinely ground coffee beans, plus 1 teaspoon for optional glaze
Coffee Glaze, Optional
1teaspoonfinely ground coffee beans
5tablespoonswarm or hot strong brewed coffee
½teaspoonpure vanilla extract
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.
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.
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.
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.