If we're going to talk Blue Cheese and Pear Tartine, we might start with this. What the heck is a tartine, anyway?
Tartine (the direct translation is "a slice of bread and butter") is how the French refer to an open-faced sandwich, or really anything served on a toasty slice of amazing bread. (Italians have their own version called crostini, or "little toasts.") It's fair to say that in France all kinds of delicious things can become tartine toppings. I've read about whole-in-the-wall tartineries in Paris that turn out glorious little morning, noon, and nighttime snacks using just a toaster oven and a few delicious toppings. It seems that the only limiting factor to what might go on a tartine is a person's imagination.
Blue Cheese and Pear Tartines Taste Like a Place
With this in mind, I decided to make a little collection of tartine that reflects special places right where I live. This Blue Cheese and Pear Tartine recipe samples the micro-cuisine of Oregon's Rogue River valley. Rogue Creamery makes the most fabulous Rogue River Blue cheese. Before aging, the wheels are wrapped in Syrah leaves that have been soaked in pear spirits which is, well, wow! Rogue River Blue is a cool-weather seasonal cheese that sells out every year, and when that happens, their Oregon Blue is my next choice. It is also cave aged, and mild and creamy.
The Rogue River Valley is also famous for its pears, with a long history that goes back to seeds pioneers in covered wagons brought west in the mid-1800s. If you've ever been the happy recipient of Harry & David pears, also a Rogue Valley institution, you know how special our Oregon pears are.
My gift to you!
If you'd like the larger collection of tartine recipes I've dreamed up that reflect Oregon's Columbia River, Hood River, and Willamette Valley, click here to request one.
With the weather drawing more of us outdoors and the days growing longer, springtime feasts and little improptu gatherings are starting to happen. Do think of making blue cheese and pear tartines, either for a special breakfast, a light lunch, or as an appetizer for your get-togethers. Use whatever blue cheese and pears you find at your market.
Taste More of Oregon
Oregon's tourism board, Travel Oregon, has a remarkably organized the state into regional "food trails" and provides visitors with lovely guides to each. If you find yourself in my neck of the woods, Travel Oregon will send you a guide prior to your visit. I also offer cooking classes in my home where you can have a wraparound experience-- local food and wine in the Oregon countryside with an expansive view.
Drizzle or brush both sides of the baguette sliced with olive oil. Toast lightly. Distribute the sliced or crumbled blue cheese on top of the toasted bread, and place under a hot broiler for 2-3 minutes, until it begins to bubble. Place pear sliced on top of the blue cheese, and broil again for another 2-3 minutes until the pears are warmed and look a bit juicy.
Drizzle the pears with honey. Distribute the chopped hazelnuts over the tartine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve while hot.
Every now and then I cook for just myself, something like this warm spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette, warm barley, toasted hazelnuts, an egg, with beautiful golden crowns of Delicata squash. It takes me back to my single days when I first learned to eat alone. For 47 years of my life there was family at my dinner table, and suddenly eating alone was such a hard thing. I had finally learned to enjoy it by the time this one particularly extraordinary guy came along.
What can I tell you about my this man, who became my husband? First, Scott is a never-ending source of puns that always make me laugh. He is really sweet with his mother, daughters, sons, grandchildren, my whole family, friends, grocery checkers, wait staff, dogs and cats, well, everyone. He always takes the generous view of (nearly) all people.
Going places with him is always a fun adventure.
We once hiked what seemed like 400-foot high sand dunes to visit the Oregon coastline. The wind was howling, it was raining, and my hikers were filled with sand. It had not been my favorite afternoon, and we still had to climb back over the dunes to get to our car. I was over it. He pulled out his phone, pretended to dial, and held the phone to his ear.
"Hello?" he said with a serous façade. "My wife is ready to have the helicopter pick her up and return her to the chateau. Twenty minutes? Great, thank you." Scott always knows how to make me laugh, and how to gently move my legs-- and my attitude-- in the right direction.
Still Learning About Him, Still in Awe
I could go on about how smart and good looking he is, too. But here's what you really need to know. At this moment one of Scott's most dearly beloveds is in long-term hospital care. She lives far away, and when he couldn't be at her side in the first days of her medical situation he was nearly beside himself. He has now spent a few weeks at her bedside helping her heal, with more time away from home to come. He has full-heartedly embraced the task of caregiving in the most beautiful way, with strength, humor, devotion, and hope.
So, this won't be the last time I make spinach salad with pancetta vinaigrette for one. I'll be doing more dining alone off and on for a time, while this amazing person I call my husband is away doing God's work of loving so well.
About this Spinach Salad Recipe + Pancetta Dressing
This pretty shoulder-season main-dish salad uses hearty curly spinach, the last of the winter Delicata squash in my vegetable basket, and some warm cooked barley, naturally gluten-free buckwheat groats, or farro. Warm salads are so satisfying during the spring and autumn season changes. This one is every bit as yummy to eat as it is lovely to look at.
Portland's James Beard award winning Joshua McFadden's book, Six Seasons; A New Way with Vegetables provides the inspiration for the pancetta vinaigrette. I divert from his recipe in a few places-- I use the olive oil and rendered pancetta to lightly wilt hearty spinach right in the pan. Sherry vinegar is my choice for this dish instead of red wine vinegar that Chef McFadden uses, and I add it just as the spinach is finished wilting in the pan. And, since I'm cooking for one, I reduce the overall ingredient quantities.
Other Shoulder-Season Main-Dish Salads You May Enjoy
If you like this recipe, please give it a rating by clicking on the green stars on the recipe card below. That will help others find it in their searches, too. If you like this post, please subscribe to receive my newsletter for more recipes, cooking tips, and cooking class information. When you sign up, you'll receive a free downloadable Taste of Oregon tartines recipe booklet.
Warm Spinach Salad + Pancetta Vinaigrette
Course: Main Dish, Salad
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
A delicious salad using the last of winter's produce and the first of spring's. Toasty nuts, warm grains, and an egg make it very special, Increase quantities as needed.
¼cuphulled barley, buckwheat groats, or farro*see notes for cooking times.
½smallDelicata squash, sliced into ½" rings, seeded
2tablespoonsolive oil, divided
2handfulscurly leaf spinach. washed and shaken dry(see special instructions if using baby spinach)
¼cuptoasted hazelnuts(place nuts on a small baking sheet in a 350° degree oven 6-8 minutes until fragrant)
1boiled egg, cooked to your liking and peeled
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 357°. Put the barley, buckwheat groats, or farro* in a small saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to a lightly bubbling simmer. Leave the pan uncovered, and cook the grains until plump and tender, stirring occasionally. This will take between 15-60 minutes depending on your grain of choice. Drain, and set aside.
Place the sliced Delicata squash rings on a small baking sheet, drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place into the hot oven for 20-25 minutes until fork-tender and beginning to brown in some places, flipping halfway through.
About 5 minutes before the grains are finished cooking, warm one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the pancetta and garlic. Move the pancetta and garlic around in the skillet with a wooden spool or spatula until it is rendered, crispy, and slightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach. Toss the spinach in the warm pancetta garlic oil until it is just beginning to wilt, about 2-3 minutes. Add the warm cooked grain and sherry vinegar to the spinach, and toss until well coated in the vinaigrette.
Place the spinach and grains on a serving plate. Arrange the Delicata slices on top, sprinkle with hazelnuts, and place the egg on top. Serve.
Grain cooking times:Barley: Pearled-- 20-30 minutes Hulled- 45-60 minutesBuckwheat groats- 15-25 minutesFarro: 20-50 minutes depending on if grains are pearled or hulled
I've been experimenting with the design Rule of Threes in my cooking. Used in graphic design, interior design, and fashion-- really anywhere design concepts are applied-- the principle is that things arranged in groups of three are more appealing, evocative, and satisfying.
Long ago, it is said, Nordstrom sales associates were required to dress this way-- skirt, blouse, sweater; slacks, shirt, vest; dress, boots, scarf, etc. Accessories were the grace notes added to the rule of threes formula. I've begun to think this is true for the food on a plate as well.
Not only does this method of cooking work from a taste and visual point of view, but it is actually pretty easy to pull together a dynamic dish using this concept.
Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad
In this 30-minute dish the triad of warm earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and cool creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Each of the parts requires very little or no preparation. The simple vinaigrette acts like the jewelry that ties the whole ensemble together.
The rule of threes concept worked perfectly in this recent red pepper, white bean, and feta recipe, too. The smoky bright red peppers, the earthy light white beans, and sharp tangy feta create a synergy that is tied together with a crown of herb sauce. Magnificent, yet simple.
It only looks challenging! Make Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad soon for an ever so delicious, beautiful, fancy-fast-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it is still delicious. Serve it alongside meat, or enjoy it as a vegetarian main course.
How can you use this Rule of Threes concept in your cooking and meal planning? I'd love to hear about your ideas and experiments!
Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad
Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad, Side Dish
This triad of earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Quick to make but ever so delicious and versatile, make this soon for a fancy-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it's still delicious.
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, place the minced shallot and Dijon mustard. Stir gently. Add about half of the thyme leaves stripped from the stems, salt and pepper. Cover the shallot mixture with the vinegar of your choice. Eyeballing it, add enough olive oil to double the volume in the jar, or about the same in height to the shallots and vinegar. Shake until the salt is mostly dissolved and the mustard is thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
Now Make the Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarines + Burrata
Light or preheat your grill for a hot, direct fire/heat.
In a medium saucepan, place the lentils, bay leaf, a pinch of salt, and 3 1/2 cups water. Bring lentils to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are al dente, but not mushy and broken. Begin chcking their doneness at the 15 minute mark.
While the lentils are cooking, place the halved nectarines on a preheated grill over direct heat. Oil the grates first, and place the nectarine halves cut side down. Do not move them until the 3 minute mark, and check for rich grill marks. They may need another minute or so to become deeply marked. Flip them and grill another 3 minutes until the skins have grill marks, for a total of 6-7 minutes. Don't let the nectarines overcook-- you just want them warmed through and kissed with flavor from the grill.
When the lentils are done, drain off any remaining liquid. Sitr in the diced celery and leaves, reserving some of the leaves for garnish. Mound this onto plates or a serving platter.
Arrange the nectarines on to mounded lentils. You may chose to halve some of them.
Place the burrata on top of the lentils. Sprinkle the remaining thyme and celery leaves over the top and serve.
This recipe serves three people as a main course, or six people as a side dish.This salad is especially luxurious served warm, but equally delightful served chilled, especially if you need to make the components ahead of time.Peaches would be just as lovely in this dish as the nectarines. Use what you have or prefer.Recipe star ratings are very welcome and appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback this way.
Have you ever had a restaurant salad that just took your breath away? One where everything is in balance, it's not gasping for life under a soggy dressing, and the lettuce is crackly-crisp and tender as angel wings? You can do that at home, too.
Here are three easy steps to rescue your salads from being sad and pathetic, including a fast and easy no-measure Classic French Vinaigrette. You'll see how fun and easy it is to take that basic ratio and create an infinite variety of vinaigrette options.
Dry Leaves for a Crisp Salad
Whether you wash your lettuce leaves or use pre-washed, thoroughly drying them will help make your salad restaurant-quality. I pile my washed greens into the center of a thin dish towel, fold the long edges over the leaves, gather the corners into my fist and walk outside.
Here's where it gets weird. I stand in the grass swinging the dishtowel of lettuce around and around in huge arm circles like we did in grade-school calisthenics. The centrifugal force is enough to make and water fly out, but not harsh enough to maul the leaves. My neighbors think I'm a total nut. This is the price I pay for perfect salad.
Dry leaves accept a light coating of vinaigrette, and the salad will go to the table with its crisp crunch that won't fade through the meal.
Dry lettuce makes an amazing difference. And, hey, you get in a little exercise.
Dress and Toss For Success
Yes, your homemade vinaigrette makes an enormous difference, but the quantity you use is just as critical to a memorable salad.
With a great big bowl of lettuce-based salad and a nice homemade Classic French Vinaigrette, you likely need only one or two Tablespoons of dressing. This is true.
You won't believe it until you start tossing. And tossing, and tossing. Using two large spoons, gently turn your leaves over and over and over. In a minute, you'll see the dressing not dripping and puddling in the bowl-- it will be evenly clinging ever-so-gently on all the surfaces of the lettuce without bogging it down.
Lightly-dressed, your salad becomes a fresh and bouncy salad that is softly flavored with the lovely vinaigrette, as perfect salad was made to be.
A little bit of great vinaigrette, a lot of tossing. Try it!
Go Easy on Add-Ins
I love a salad that's loaded with vegetables, fruits, cheeses, nuts, croutons, and the works, but that can put a lot of pressure on your tender lettuce. There are a few ways you can remedy this.
One way is to simply go lighter with your added ingredients, as in the salad below.
Secondly, if you plan to toss the salad before serving, put heavy add-ins in the bottom of your bowl, then top with the lettuces and dressing, tossing the lettuce without spooning down to the other ingredients. In the last toss or two, scoop down to bring the heavier ingredients up to the top, and serve with dispatch.
Thirdly, toss your lettuce with your fantastic homemade vinaigrette and arrange it on a platter. Now place your other vegetables and ingredients into the bowl, add a little dressing, and toss them separately before gently placing them on the lettuce. Once again, serve right away.
Lastly, my favorite way to keep heavy ingredients from collapsing the life out of the lettuce is especially nice if you need to make the salad a little ahead of serving. Toss the lettuce and dressing and place on a serving platter. Mound each separate ingredient on your cutting board and drizzle each one with a few drops of dressing and toss it with your hands before moving on the the next. Take each separate pile of goodies and make a little space between the leaves and place it there. Be an artist and arrange these colorful piles around the lettuce.
This last method is perfect for gatherings and parties. Create some gorgeous salad-as-a-meal platters that present beautifully, and either toss it together tableside, or allow your fellow diners to select and build their own plates from your creation.
One Set of Ratios, Infinite Options
This no-measure recipe offers you a few measurements as guidance to get you started, but soon you'll just grab a spoon, a jar and a knife and whip dressings and marinades out like you're the garde-manger of your favorite French restaurant.
Classic French Vinaigrette and Infinite Variations
Use no-measure easy ratios and flavorful vinegars, oils, aromatics, herbs, sweeteners, and emulsifiers to create a world of your own customized vinaigrettes and marinades. Taking your salads from boring, limp, and soggy to exciting, crisp and refreshing couldn't be easier.
For each of the three variations and all of your own creations:
In the bottom of the jar, put all of the ingredients except the vinegar and olive oil. Be generous with the salt-- it's the only salt all your salad vegetables will get!
Eyeballing it, pour vinegar into the jar until is about half full.
Eyeballing it again, pour in about the same amount of the olive oil as vinegar and other ingredients until the jar is 1/2 full. Screw the lid on tightly (very important!) and shake like heck.
Viola! You've made a fabulous vinaigrette!
A word about proportions: We're working in equal proportions of vinegar + aromatics/sweeteners to olive oil. To make less vinaigrette, fill the jar with fewer aromatic ingredients and vinegar. Then just match the height of olive oil in the jar to the height of the things in the bottom of the jar. (If your aromatics and vinegar come ¼ of the way up the jar, add about that same amount of oil to make the jar only half full. Sometimes I only want a tiny bit of vinaigrette for just one salad, and I may only put ¼" of flavorful ingredients and vinegar in the bottom of the jar, topped off with ¼" of olive oil. It's all a matter of ratios, not a matter of strict measurements!
Make it Your Own:Aromatics, singular or in combination:
any mustard, except yellow
any chopped fresh or dried herbs
smashed strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries
jam or jelly
a touch of sugar
any kind of citrus juice
almost any kind of vinegar
red wine, white wine, sherry or champagne
fruit and berry varieties
rice and rice wine
balsamic and white balsamic
high quality olive oil
neutral-flavored vegetable or canola oil
a few drops of sesame oil in addition to one of the above
The broad category of humans called mothers, like all the other broad categories of humans, are not intractably indivisible and uniform. Nope, the perfect motherhood monolith is just a false notion. Every single person who bears the label "Mother" stands uniquely alone in their personhood. The way each mom fills out their mother-space is theirs alone.
My mom and I live nearly 3,000 coast-to-coast miles apart, or roughly the same distance as it is from my home to Mexico City or Montreal, Quebec. It's been nearly 16 months since I've seen her.
We've missed some big things this year-- we made the most of her 80th birthday celebration with a Zoom party. She's stayed well, the most important thing. But I miss her.
Here are some of the things that make my mom different than all the other moms in the world:
My mom has always had that young-for-her-age cuteness.
My mom has a great sense of aesthetic. It is from her that I learned to group things in odd numbers, what the word monochromatic meant, how to fan a stack of paper napkins with the bottom of a glass, and how to accessorize an outfit.
My mom throws great parties. She makes custom invitations for every event, even a neighborhood weinie roast. She carries a theme all the way through the party, from that early invitation to some little parting gift-- usually something she's made.
My mom made sure that my Christmas birthday was never overlooked. Not one single year in all my years has she ever given me a birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper, and she always held some fun birthday party in the midst of the holiday bustle.
My mom was a good cook and made sure she introduced my brother and me to lots of different foods at an early age.
My mom is an intuitive gift-giver. She gives clever, meaningful presents that always surprise and delight.
My mom likes bananas only if they are in the four-hour window of being pale-to-medium yellow and ever-so-slightly slightly green at the tip. At the ice-cream shop she asks to see the bananas before ordering a banana split. Deep yellow or spotted bananas are meant for baking ONLY.
My mom LOVES all things wedding. My mom has made wedding bouquets for more brides than I can count, and a few wedding dresses and cakes too. Her telephone ringtone is Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
My mom hosted a ladies-only royal wedding sleepover for William and Kate and stayed up all night watching the festivities. People from three states attended.
My mom always cries at the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, the playing of the national anthem or Amazing Grace, and at goodbyes.
My mom allowed me full access to her kitchen as a tiny little kid. It wasn't her kitchen-- it was our kitchen. She taught me how to use flame and knife safely and didn't hover over my experiments thereafter.
My mom taught me that cleaning up after myself was an important part of cooking and would call me back into the kitchen if I'd slap-dashed through it. I appreciate the sense of discipline she instilled.
My mom is not afraid to be the only couple on the dancefloor.
My mom starts almost every day with coffee and a breakfast bar in bed. Her routine makes me smile.
If I were with her this week, I'd make mom these tasty Banana Coconutty Breakfast Cookies. I'd actually make a double-batch, and zippy-bag them up for her freezer so she'd have a month of homemade breakfast cookies after I left.
What makes your mom the unique person she is or was? Please leave a comment to help us all celebrate our mothers this week.
These breakfast cookies are made with hazelnuts, one of our Oregon treasures. They are naturally gluten-free if you chose GF oats. The contain no dairy, and no added sugar-- just naturally sweetened with very ripe bananas. Don't be tempted to use the green-stemmed ones here. The browner the better and you will never know there is no sugar added.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, egg, olive oil, and vanilla. Set aside.
Crush the hazelnuts with the wide side of a chef's knife blade, then roughly chop the hazelnuts a few times, leaving them somewhat chunky. Slide them into the wet ingredients.
In a food processor fitted with its steel blade, pulse the oats five or six times to begin breaking them down. Add the hazelnut flour and pulse another 5 or 6 times to combine. Add the baking powder, spice of your choice, and salt and pulse another few times just to incorporate.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the bowl, along with the coconut. Stir thoroughly. Leave it sit 5 to 10 minutes.
Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops are light golden brown and the bottoms are lightly browned, switching the pans half-way through. (Teaspoon-sized drops will bake in about 16 minutes; larger drops will take longer.) Allow the cookies to cool on their baking sheets 5 minutes or so, them move them to a cooling rack to complete cooling.
Store airtight for up to 5 days. These also freeze nicely.
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.