Latest Posts

how to use thanksgiving leftovers

how to use your thanksgiving leftovers

Let’s be real. Thanksgiving is all about the leftovers.

You see my sister makes these amazing turkey sandwiches. Her secret is, she puts an extra slice of gravy soaked bread in the middle. I call it the Moist Maker.

Raise your hand if you really wanted to soak a piece of bread in leftover gravy to put in the middle of your leftover turkey sandwich after hearing about Ross’s sandwich on Friends. It must have been good, because he freaked out when someone else ate it. That sandwich was the only good thing going on in his life. And, as I’m nearing 30 myself, I can kind of understand where he’s coming from. That must have been one helluva sandwich.
how to use up thanksgiving leftoversFor the first Thanksgiving I ever hosted, all on my own, I bought my turkey just a few days before Thanksgiving. There wasn’t much of a selection left at the grocery. I ended up with a huge turkey. I think it was at least 20 pounds. (We had 7 people over for dinner.) We had to borrow a dining table from a friend. We didn’t even have a gravy boat — we served our guests gravy out of a cast iron teapot!

I had so much turkey left. (And so much of everything else.) But, I am forever grateful for that humongous turkey. Immediately after Thanksgiving, my now-husband had to travel to Canada for a three-day work trip that turned into eight days. I was in between paychecks and didn’t have any money for more groceries, so I ate leftovers until he came home. I had to get creative, but I was thankful that I still had enough.

how to use up thanksgiving leftovers_alittlelocavore.comThere’s nothing wrong with loading a plate with leftovers just as they are. But sometimes, after a few days (or a few plate fulls), you need to mix it up a bit.

If you’re still saddled with leftovers after you’ve risen from your food coma, I’ve got you covered with ways to have fun with what’s left.

Dinner rolls

gluten free garlic herb dinner rollsGluten-free dinner rolls have a bad habit of drying out and getting a bit more dense as the days go by. But they’re still delicious and a little density is no reason to toss them in the trash.

For a fun snack, appetizer or even a lunch for little ones, make soup shooters! This is inspired by my fave food blogger Jessica at How Sweet Eats.

dinner rolls mini bread bowlsTo make mini bread bowls, start with room temperature rolls. Slice off the tops. (Rolls that are firmer and a bit more dense work the best here, making the gluten-free garlic herbs dinner rolls from Flying Apron a perfect option. Softer, fluffier rolls may work, but will need a gentle touch. They might also be easier to work with if they’re cold.)

Use a spoon to hollow out the rolls, leaving at least ¼-inch on each sides and the bottom to hold the soup. Save the bits of bread that you’ve scooped out to make bread crumbs. Warm the rolls gently in a 300°F oven for at least 5 minutes. Watch closely so they don’t get too toasty or burn.

Ladle your favorite soup in the bread bowls. Serve warm, on a plate or in a small bowl in case of a spill.

tomato soup shootersWhile fun, I know this can be kind of impractical. For extra dinner rolls that might be too soft for bread bowls (or if you’re too tired to make another mess), make bread crumbs instead! Chop or tear the rolls into smaller pieces and pulse in a food processor until crumbled to your liking. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300°F for about 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Watch closely so they don’t burn. They’ll get crunchier as the cool. Once the crumbs are completely cooled, place in a Ziploc baggie and store in the freezer.

Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, veggies

Turkey sandwiches (with a Moist Maker, of course!) are a must. But, if you’ve got a lot of the above ingredients on hand, try making a quick and easy Thanksgiving-style Shepherd’s Pie.

Heat your oven to 400°F.

Shred or dice the leftover turkey. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, omit the turkey and use your favorite faux meat or just load the filling up with veggies. Cooked lentils or sauteed mushrooms are a delicious substitute, too!

Heat the gravy in a stock pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat. If it has thickened a lot overnight, add some soup stock or broth until it’s thinned out a bit. If you have leftover vegetables, add those to the gravy. (Not casseroles; think steamed Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower or plain corn.) A 12-ounce bag of frozen mixed veggies also works perfectly (or whatever frozen/canned veggies you have on hand). Stir in the turkey.

Heat leftover mashed potatoes in the microwave so they’re easier to spread. (You can add extra milk or broth to soften them up a bit, if necessary.) Pour the warmed gravy and vegetable mixture into a large casserole dish (or individual ramekins) and top with the potatoes. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes start to brown and the mixture is hot and bubbling. Let cool for a few minutes before eating.

using leftover mashed potatoes_alittlelocavore.comMini mashed potato-y goodness. Yes yes yes.

Stuffing

easy french onion soup_alittlelocavore.comUse leftover stuffing to top French Onion soup. This soup is easy to make because it requires minimal ingredients: onions and stock or broth are the most important. Garlic, white wine and herbs are worth adding, too (and it’s a great way to use up some of that wine that’s leftover!).

There are plenty of great recipes to follow. I like this step-by-step guide from The Kitchn with lots of helpful tips. My stuffing mix from Flying Apron included walnuts and cranberries. I added sauteed celery, onions and Brussels sprouts (of course). I LOVED the bright tart bites of the cranberries and the flavor of the sprouts mixed with the soup. It totally enhanced the flavor.

Once you’ve caramelized your onions and brought your soup to a simmer, prep your stuffing. If it’s really cold or has hardened overnight, warm it gently in the microwave.

Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls and top with the stuffing (about ¼-½ cup, depending on the size of your bowls). Then add shredded or thin slices of cheese. (Gruyere or Provolone are the most common, but use what you’ve got on hand!) Daiya mozzarella is highly recommended for being the best melty vegan cheese. If you’re not into cheese, omit it, and top the soup with warmed stuffing. It’s delicious either way!


Don’t forget dessert!

What’s better than pie? Let me tell you.

how to use leftover pieI love dessert. But, after a few days in the fridge, pie can be less enticing. The crust might have gotten soggy (or stale, which sadly tends to happen more quickly with gluten-free baked goods).

You can totally doctor up those last few sad slices of pie and make new, fancy desserts with minimal work.

Layer scoops of pie with whipped cream for easy pie parfaits. (I like making mine from scratch, but there are so many great grocery options these days. There’s this incredible CocoWhip vegan whipped cream from So Delicious. It’s vegan cool whip, people. It’s amazing.) Add granola or toasted pumpkin seeds (or even pomegranate arils!) for a little crunch and texture. Sprinkle with cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice/apple pie spice.

layered pie parfaitsI layered scoops of Dutch apple and pumpkin pie, because why not have a bit of both in every bite?

If you have just one or two slices left of pie, make a milkshake! This works especially well for custard pies (like pumpkin or chocolate cream) where the crust may have gotten a bit soggy after sitting, but it works well with any kind of pie.

how to make pumpkin pie milkshakesTo make a milkshake: Place 1 piece of pie into a blender. Add 2 scoops of ice cream and a splash of milk. Blend on high until combined. Add more milk as necessary to achieve the milkshake consistency you prefer.

I combined pumpkin pie with Crème Fraîche gelato from Snoqualmie Ice Cream. Pecan pie would pair beautifully with vanilla, caramel, chocolate (or even banana!) ice cream and I think chocolate cream pies would be delicious with mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Top your milkshake with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy!

pumpkin pie milkshake I hope that you all enjoyed a delicious day with great gluten-free food and good company. For me, Thanksgiving is all about family and gathering together. I spent my day cooking and visiting with family, sharing stories and playing games. (Currently: Star Trek Settlers of Catan.)

I am so thankful for this space and for the ability to share my creative food ideas and stories with you. I am most thankful for those who read what I’ve written and enjoy my creations. Thank you.

how to use thanksgiving leftoversDisclosure: This post was created in cooperation with Flying Apron Bakery in Redmond, WA. My ideas and opinions here, as always, are my own. I was provided some materials (dinner rolls, stuffing and pie) to create these recipes.

Advertisements

sweet potato and hard apple cider chicken pot pies

It’s the season for serious comfort food.

I may have gone on a little bit of a pie bender after introducing you to how I make gluten-free pie crust. Sweet or savory, the options are really limitless!

These little cuties. They’re bowls of savory, comforting warmth full of seasonal goodness. Sweet potatoes and granny smith apples enhanced with the crisp, refreshing flavor of cider. They’re hearty, but not heavy — partly because they don’t have crust on the bottom. These are time-saving pot pies.

potpie-2I like making individual pot pies because they’re cute, and leftovers are more convenient for carrying to work, but this recipe would be just as good in a savory galette or a single large pot pie.

gluten free chicken pot pieAutumn has finally arrived here, in full force, with cooler temperatures and rain. I was driving through downtown the other day and watched men climbing trees to hang Christmas lights, and noticed that most of the trees still have their leaves. I was grateful to still see so much foliage.

It’s totally sweater weather, but we are lucky to not yet need heavier winter coats or bundles of layers (at least this former Michigander doesn’t).

potpie-7November is so many things. Settling fully into this season, making our way to winter. There’s so much to savor — I have been reveling in the abundance at the farmers markets and the long transition from summer to fall.

It’s also a chance to slow down just a little bit before the true rush and hullabaloo of the holidays (especially for folks like me who work in the retail and service industry — there will be no stopping until January). Thanksgiving is when most of us share and vocalize our thanks, but I think the whole month, as we gear up to give and gather, is a great time for gratitude.

gluten free chicken pot piesBut really, when isn’t it a good time for gratitude?

I think I’ve said that my recipes are “infinitely adaptable” enough times. You’re probably sick of it. But it’s so true! Swap out the sweet potato for some butternut squash cubes. Throw some sliced Brussels sprouts into the mix. (Oooh, yes. Please do that! For me.) If you don’t do chicken, leave it out and make these totally veggie pot pies. This is also a great way to use up those random odds and ends, like broccoli stems.

Kitchen sink pot pies? Yea, that could totally be a thing.

gluten free pot pie crustI made the pot pie filling with a local hard apple cider, but you don’t need to if you don’t want. Use regular apple cider instead, or apple juice, or just more broth. Whatever you want. These are your pot pies.

I used the Wild Washington semi-dry cider crafted by Tieton Cider Works. They use organic, Washinton-grown apples and this cider sounded so quintessentially Washington to me. It is crisp but juicy with a mineral quality. If you want to use hard cider, I recommend using something that’s crisp and clean and more dry like the Crispin Brut or Angry Orchard Crisp Apple (although the Apple-Ginger would be fantastic too!).

tieton washington ciderThe other beautiful thing about this recipe is that you can make much of it ahead of time. The pie crust can be rolled out and cut to size a day or so before you plan to make them, stored on a covered baking sheet in the fridge until you’re ready. Make the filling in advance, too, and reheat before portioning into the dishes. Then all you have to do is assemble, bake and eat!

Local List

  • Apples
  • (Hard) Apple cider
  • Butter
  • Carrots
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Onions
  • Sweet potatoes

If more of us valued food and cheer above hoards of gold, it would be a merrier world.
— J.R.R. Tolkien

gluten free fall pot pie

Gluten-Free Apple Cider and Sweet Potato Chicken Pot Pies

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 sheet pie dough (prepared or store bought)
Butter/olive oil
1 pound chicken tenders (or breast cutlets; you can also use pre-cooked shredded chicken)
1 white onion, peeled and sliced
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced sweet potato (I didn’t peel mine)
1 cup diced granny smith apple (2 apples; I didn’t peel mine)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons dried herbs de provence (or dried thyme/rosemary)
2 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour
1 cup hard (or regular) apple cider
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper

Directions

First, prep your pie crust. If you’re using individual ramekins, cut out circles large enough to fit the top of the dishes. (It’s your choice whether you want them to fit in the dish exactly, like mine did, or if you want them to hang over the edges.) If you’re making a single large pot pie or savory galette, roll out the dough and trim to size. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and store in the fridge until you’re ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat and add the butter or oil (a combo of the two works great!). If you’re using fresh chicken, pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the heated pan without crowding, and cook for about 6-8 minutes per side, until the chicken is browned and no longer pink the center. Remove from the pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, chop or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. (You can skip this step if you’re using chicken that’s already cooked and chopped.)

Reduce the heat. In the same pan, add the sliced onions. Stir occasionally, making sure the onions don’t burn. Cook until they are deeply fragrant, browned and caramelized. If the onions are cooking too fast or burning, reduce the heat. (This will take about half an hour.)

Add the diced carrots and sweet potatoes in with the onions and saute for 7-10 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the minced garlic and the dried herbs. Saute until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir until the flour is incorporated.

Add the cider and deglaze the pan, scraping up any delicious browned bits on the bottom of your pan. Raise the heat and add the stock. Add the diced apples, frozen peas and shredded chicken. Bring the mix to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

Distribute the mixture evenly among your ramekins or casserole dish(es). Remove your prepared pie crusts from the fridge and place the rounds on top of your pot pies. Using a sharp knife (or a fork) cut slits (or poke holes) in the pie crust tops to vent. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan to catch any drips (and make them easier to put in and take out of the oven).

Whisk the egg and water together. Brush the tops of the pie crusts with the egg wash.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the pie crusts are puffed and golden and the filling is bubbling. (You will need to extend the baking time for a larger casserole.)

Serve with a fluffy green salad and glasses of cold cider!

washinton apple ciderGather ’round and dig in.

fall seattle farmers market haul

my market haul 11-8

Autumn has arrived. The rainy season is upon us. But, after more than 20 years of snowy seasons, I’ll take it. (Snow on Halloween. Snow on Easter. Sometimes snow on Christmas, because that’s real life. Sometimes snow drifts that were taller than me!)

We got lucky last year. It was a mild winter, and a gorgeous summer. The trade off of the subtle seasons was, unfortunately, drought and forest fires across the state. I have a feeling this year we might finally be introduced to the true Seattle rain. The I-haven’t-seen-the-sun-in-21-days kind of rain. We’ll see. Is it weird I’m kind of excited?

(Talk to me again in 4 months when I’m vitamin-D deficient and wallowing in seasonal depression.)

local seattle vegetablesThis week for me is all about the veggies. I’m taking a conscious step away from animal proteins for the moment, which often take center stage in our meals and on our plates while veggies, fruits, legumes and grains are secondary. I’m listening to my body (and everyone else’s ragged voices), and am trying to fill myself with meals that pack a serious nutritional punch to support my immune system and myself as we transition into the cold, wet winter.

There is an abundance of vegetable variety available on the farmers’ tables right now, which makes it easier to indulge without being bored. There were still tomatoes at the market this Sunday! I never thought I’d see heirloom tomatoes (not grown in a hothouse) in November, but there they were. Bright, vibrant peppers and fluffy greens are just as plentiful as the hardier winter veggies like carrots, cruciferous veggies and squashes.

seattle farmers market shoppingStoney Plains Farms still had corn on the cob! Many of the ears had silks and husks, but I treated myself to a bag of cobs that had already been shucked so I could make sure they were intact. My mind immediately went to work dreaming up something to pair with peppers and tomatillos.

purple scallions This week, I went to the market with a list in hand. I usually go with a very general idea of what I’d like or need, with vague bullet points like “chicken” or “greens.” I then see what’s available and let that inspire me.

One of my goals, which I am always working to improve, is to reduce food waste. Often my eyes and my inspiration get carried away at the market and we end up losing and tossing produce that’s gone bad before I can cook it. We’re lucky to live in a city that values and provides composting, so I know our food scraps are still doing good even if they’re not edible, but I’d prefer that they fill our bellies and not the bin.

So, I went with a list. And I almost stuck to it. The great (and sometimes not-so-great) part about shopping at farmers markets is that there’s always something else, something more. Something that’s new or strange or unique. Sometimes what you really, really need isn’t there and that can be a bummer, but it’s also a great challenge to find inspiration to swap one (missing) ingredient for another that’s available.

fava bean leavesThe new thing I found this week was fava bean leaves. They look to me a little bit like dried bay leaves (same shape and light green color). Intrigued, I asked the farmer what exactly does one do with fava bean leaves.

Snap off a leaf and give it a taste, he said. So I did, tenderly pulling off a piece and chewing it while he chatted. It was lightly bean-y, nutty, and green.

fava bean leavesChop the leaves and toss them fresh into a salad. Or lightly, gently saute them. All the flavor of the bean without all the work! he said.

So, I bought a bunch. (Chianti, anyone?)

romanescoMy other fun find this weekend was romanesco. I’ve had this spiky veggie before (it tastes like a mix of broccoli and cauliflower). Since broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower were already on my list, I figured I’d go all in with the cruciferous veggies this week.

fresh spinachSo on Sunday, I walked through the rain (and got quite the upper-arm workout) and brought home bags of vibrant, colorful goods including:

Foraged chanterelle mushrooms from Foraged and Found Edibles.
Broccoli, corn, fava bean leaves, sorrel and spinach from Stoney Plains Organic Farm.
Beans, cilantro, purple scallions, romanesco and tomatillos from Growing Washington
Brussels sprouts (on the stalk!) from Summer Run Farm.
Yellow and orange carrots (perfectly plump for spiralizing) and white and red onions from Collinwood Farm.
Fresh cranberries from Bloom Creek Cranberry Farm.
Fresh Alaskan King Salmon From Loki Fish Co.
I also grabbed the most ginormous head of cabbage and large collard green leaves but in my haste (and in the rain), I forgot to jot down the names of the farms!

growing washington beansMy head is spinning with fun, flavorful ideas for all of this produce. After I photographed it, I spent a little bit of time prepping and organizing everything in my kitchen and fridge. I clipped the sprouts from the stalk and cut the crowns off the broccoli, reserving the stems with some others I’ve been saving for cream of broccoli soup.

Taking these moments to prep, assess and organize helped me to start my week off right.

foraged chanterelle mushroomsMy market meal plan

I am planning to use what I’ve purchased efficiently (and with loads of flavor) to reduce waste and also our spending on eating out, which can sometimes be a challenge when I get home late after a very long day of work. I’m approaching our meals with an open mind, knowing that I have room and freedom to make changes or adapt new dishes as my mood, cravings and time constraints require. This week, there are also lots of recipes I want to try (or am drawing inspiration from to create my own dishes with what I have on hand).

  • White Lentil Risotto from My New Roots using the foraged chanterelles (and some creminis I have leftover in the fridge). I may add some chopped sorrel to the finished risotto for a bright, lemony finish.
  • Collard green burritos with a “creamy” roasted tomatillo and cranberry salsa (made creamy with pureed cauliflower), loaded with black beans, cilantro rice, onions and corn.
  • Cream of broccoli soup made with leftover broccoli stems.
  • Salmon with roasted romanesco and creamed fava bean leaves and spinach.
  • Spiralized carrot “pasta” with a Thai basil and sorrel pesto with broccoli and toasted peanuts.

I also want to try out this recipe for cauliflower buns from My New Roots, but I’m going to try to parse it down because there’s no way I can consume 12-16 buns. I made a batch of grape jam last week and am now craving a good biscuit/bun/English muffin breakfast topped with jam and butter. I think these buns (especially if I made them a little sweet, not savory) might be the answer. (Plus, they’d make an excellent addition to go with the cream of broccoli soup.)

alaskan salmon from loki fish coI was starting to feel like I was in a food rut, but not after this weekend. Despite the rain, and my soaking wet shoes, my market trip left me feeling full and inspired.

washington cranberriesCheers to healthy, happy eating this week! What will you be making?

my farmers market haul

my recent market hauls

It might be a surprise, but I don’t go to the farmers market every weekend. Sometimes, my shopping trips are so fruitful, they feed us for more than a week. Sometimes, I have a hankering for tuna melts (my husband makes the best ever) or the Thai restaurant in our building. (The scents of Thai cooking and deep-fried spring rolls waft through our apartment every day, and sometimes our bellies follow our noses and give in to takeout.)

This is a few weeks worth of trips. I meant to share my first haul with you weeks ago (when I actually went to the market), but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately — autumn rolled in and brought with it allergies and a lingering head cold which sapped all of my motivation. This is what I bought, and how I used these ingredients to craft meals and explore new recipes and ideas.

Sunday, September 27

Wow! It really has been a minute. I’m sorry I didn’t share this beautiful bounty with you sooner.

what i bought at the farmers marketThis was a bountiful trip. We loaded our bags and brought home:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots (nice and fat, perfect for spiralizing)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chinese spinach
  • Cilantro
  • (The hugest!) Collard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Eggplants (a large purple one and a small heirloom variety)
  • Fresh foraged Chanterelle and Bear’s Tooth mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Hardy kiwi (also called baby kiwi)
  • Kimchi and kraut
  • Parsley
  • Polish sausage
  • Purple Viking potatoes
  • Steaks
  • Swiss chard

fresh cherry tomatoes

foraged chanterelles

baby kiwi fruits
These hardy kiwi, also called baby kiwi or kiwi berries, are delicious! They taste like kiwi, and look a lot like kiwi fruits inside, but they are entirely edible. The skins are smooth and soft, not furry and weird like regular kiwi. They’re also amazing nutritional powerhouses: they offer more vitamin E than avocado, more vitamin C than oranges and more potassium than bananas. Plus, they’re loaded with healthy fiber. They were a great addition to our morning green smoothies.

heirloom variety of eggplant

baby eggplants
These heirloom eggplants were so vibrant and colorful, I couldn’t resist buying a few. I ended up roasting them with tomatoes, onion and garlic for a quick pasta sauce. They offered a classic eggplant flavor and a thick creaminess to my sauce.

collard green leaves
These collards were seriously so huge, I had to include my husband for a size comparison. I’m experimenting with using these greens as wraps for sandwiches, burritos and enchiladas. (Hopefully a recipe is coming soon!)

My market meals:

  • Kimchi fried rice with mushrooms, greens and herbs
  • Pan-seared Polish sausages with mashed Purple Viking potatoes and kraut
  • Grilled steaks with roasted broccoli
  • Roasted tomato and eggplant pasta sauce
  • Green smoothies for daysssss

Plus, I did some recipe testing (of course). Delicious dishes are on the way!

Sunday, October 25

This was a short shopping trip. I was recovering from my first-of-the-season cold and my husband was out of town. I went out and wandered. I only got a few things, but they were hefty and gave me quite the arm workout as I walked home!

wpid-wp-1446603603697.jpg
I never bring home fresh flowers because my two cats are crazy chewers — flowers never survive, unless they’re set up high and then we never enjoy them. (We also forget to water them… this is the peril of being too short, sometimes.) Peeking at bouquets at the market is one way to enjoy the seasonal beauty. I love the addition of kale flowers (those purple beauties).

wpid-wp-1446603627351.jpg

wpid-wp-1446603619539.jpg

This celery. Whoa, man. It literally stopped me in my tracks. It’s just so beautiful and fragrant. I love adding the leaves to fresh salads or smoothies. Bloody Mary anyone?

wpid-wp-1446603647745.jpg
Brussels sprouts! On the stalk! I totally took one of these home. And then I made this ramen with miso-roasted sprouts.

My market haul this week was small:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Celery
  • Sugar pie pumpkin

I’m emptying my fridge and prepping for another visit to the market this weekend, weather permitting. I’ll share my fall finds with you soon!

baked plum and grape pie

italian plum, concord grape and apple gin pie 

This pie has been many years in the making.

Back in 2010, I checked out David Lebovitz’s newest cookbook, Ready for Dessert, from my local library, eager to learn about making pastry and ice cream. It was then, I think, that I really discovered that baking requires a lot of work. (It would be many more years before I figured out that it is very much worth the extra effort.) I’m not sure I made a single recipe from that book; I was intimidated by the names alone. Profiteroles. Crème Brûlée. Gâteau Victoire. Ingredients I hadn’t yet discovered, like black currants and anise. And Concord grapes.

There was a recipe for a Concord grape pie in the book, which I dreamed of making for my little brother (who was, and still is, a huge fan of all things grape flavored). This was, however, before I discovered farmers markets, and the extent of my shopping skills involved picking out the most exotic produce from Whole Foods. Concord grapes could not be found. The recipe had so many steps. The grapes required a lot of prep, a lot of love, to remove the skins and tiny seeds, but the book promised it was well worth it.

gluten free pie for fallIt has taken me a few years to find the right pie crust recipe, to grow comfortable with the process of making pies from scratch, and to find joy in the science and steps required in baking. I truly believe that everything happens at the right time, exactly when it’s meant to happen. (It sounds cliche, I know, and so predictable. But, after 27 years of successes and failures, I have found it to be true.)

This is the fall when this pie was meant to be made.

A few weeks ago, on a surprisingly warm fall afternoon full of a sunshine, I spotted my first Concord grapes, lined up on a farmer’s table next to Italian prune plums, white peaches and nectarines. The dusty indigo of the grapes and plums looked so beautiful and enticing, I bought a pint of both on a whim.

concord grapes at market
Concord grapes need a little extra love and prep for this pie, but (like David Lebovitz promised) it is totally worth it. Squeezing the grapes from their skins is quick, meditative work (that flies by if you’re perched in front of the TV watching your favorite show).

I know this recipe is coming to you at the tail end of Concord season. If you can’t find any more fresh grapes, try tossing the sliced plums with a few tablespoons of the best grape jam you can find. (You’ll probably need to use a cup or so more plums, too, just to make sure your pie is as full as it can be with fruity goodness.)

concord grapes on the vineBaking, for me, is like meditation or exercise. Before you roll your eyes (if you haven’t already), hear me out. One of the things I love most about doing Pilates or other exercise is that is demands you be entirely present. For at least one hour a day, my mind and body are intimately connected, working together and focused on the same task. While there’s some room for chit-chat, depending on the exercise and present company, everyone and everything is focused on the movements. I don’t have the space to let my mind wander, and so it’s a great escape — especially if I am feeling anxious or stressed.

Baking offers that same sort of relief, because it requires that same kind of commitment from both mind and body. (I learned this lesson the hard way once, baking the same quick bread loaf four times and forgetting different key ingredients in the first three batches because I was too distracted.)

maple leafI suffer from an inability to meditate, in the traditional sense. Sitting lotus style with legs crossed, palms resting gently on the knees, mind turned inward but also simultaneously quieted and focused. I fidget. I slouch. I struggle most with clearing out my thoughts. The benefits of meditation are well-known and touted often not just by celebs, but CEOs and high-achievers, I felt downtrodden at my inability to achieve something so seemingly simple.

Then I baked this pie.

pie with plums and grapesI’m not suggesting you replace exercise with baking. (All things in moderation, right?) The truth I discovered is that meditation is what you make of it and, like most things, there’s no one right way.

The process of baking a pie can seem intimidating, time consuming or even fraught with stress. But relaxing into and focusing on the process, connecting the mind and body on this task, also seems to create a space for the mind to relax and let go of worry or anxiety or any of the number of things it has carried, cataloged or been weighted down by.

Maybe the best way to find internal peace is to do something you really love, and give it all you’ve got.

And we must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.
— David Mamet

The added benefit is that the meditation is productive — in the end, you have pie! For me, instead of creating an altar, I’ve cultivated a kitchen space and studio where I can go. Cooking and baking are my daily meditation moments. There’s a lot of power in the tactility and sensory elements, too. Squeezing the Concord grapes from their skins releases that intense sweet-tart smell that is the true “essence” of grapes. (These are the grapes of juice and jams, the smell we’ve associated with the name since childhood PB-and-Js and jugs of inky purple, syrupy sweet Welch’s juice.)

Plus, who can resist the smell of a pie baking in the oven?

spy hop apple ginThe gin I used in the filling is a true gem. When I came of legal drinking age years ago, gin was my go-to. In fact, I was pretty heartbroken to let it go when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease more than eight years ago. (I struggle with alcohol distilled from grains, and generally avoid them all despite arguments that the distillation process removes most or all of the gluten protein molecules. A cocktail isn’t worth the risk.)

My husband and I happened upon this gin in a small grocer on Orcas Island during a weekend away in early spring to scope out possible wedding locations. It’s made locally, on San Juan Island, and is distilled entirely from apples — not a drop of grain alcohol involved! The apples and the particular blend of botanicals yields a fragrant, light and surprisingly sweet (but not sugary) drink that’s enjoyable to sip on its own over ice. It smelled so good simmering with the grapes that I did a little happy dance.

gluten free pies for fallThe beauty of this pie is that it is tremendously flexible. The gin, though wonderful, isn’t necessary. The pie filling is simple, letting the plums and grapes shine. It would be delightful with a sprinkle of ground cardamom, some fresh vanilla bean seeds, or even lemon or lime zest for a little extra pop. You don’t need to make decorative pie crust leaves, or even put a top crust on the pie at all. But, if you want, this pie would work well with a top crust — plain or fanciful is up to you (and your preferred crust-to-filling ratio).

This is all about finding your happy place. Let’s bake some inner peace.

finished pieLocal List

  • Concord grapes
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Italian prune plums
  • San Juan Island Distillery Spy Hop Harvest Gin

If you’re gluten-free, I recommend checking out my easy-as-pie dough recipe. (For this recipe, I made 1 ½ batches of the dough — exact measurements are below — in order to have extra for the decorative leaves. I used these pie crust cutters from Williams-Sonoma. You can make a single batch of dough, or double it if you want a full crust for the top of the pie.)

If you’re not gluten-free, or not in the mood for making a crust from scratch (no judgement from me y’all), you can use your fave dough recipe or a ready-made crust from the grocer.

gluten free pie crust

Gluten-Free Concord Grape and Italian Plum Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print
Notes: For step-by-step instructions and tips on my fave gluten-free flour blends for pie crusts, check out my latest pie dough recipe. Omit the gin if you prefer, but reduce the cornstarch in the filling to accommodate for less moisture.

Ingredients

For the crust:
300 grams gluten-free all purpose flour + more for rolling
188 grams cold butter, cubed (about 13 ½ tablespoons)
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch (15 grams)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk, whisked
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1+ tablespoon ice water
1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water or heavy cream for brushing the crust before baking

For the filling:
2-3 cups Concord grapes
1 pound Italian prune plums (about 16 plums)
¼ cup gin
½ cup organic sugar
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions

Make the dough:
Make sure all of your ingredients are cold. Sift together the flour, salt and cornstarch. Chill together in the mixing bowl, or in the bowl of your food processor. When the flour mix is cold, use a pastry blender or your food processor to cut the butter into the flour until the butter is about the size of small peas. Mix in the eggs, vinegar and one tablespoon of ice water. Test the flour to see if it sticks together by gently squeezing a bit between your fingers. If it’s still dry, add more ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Make the filling:
While the dough is chilling, prep the fruit. Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Then slice each half in half again so each plum is quartered. Discard the pits. The skin of the plums is thin enough that it will soften when the pie bakes, so you don’t need to remove it.

Squeeze each grape between your first finger and thumb to separate the pulp from the skin. Reserve the skins in a separate bowl and put the pulp in a small saucepan. Once all the grapes are squeezed from their skins, add the gin to the pan and place over medium-low heat on the stove. Bring the mix to a light boil. Let the grapes and gin cook for 6-10 minutes until the seeds have separated and the pulp has broken down. Let the mix cool slightly, then press it through a fine mesh strainer or sieve to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds. Toss the pulp with the reserved skins.

Toss the plums and grapes together and refrigerate while you roll out the dough.

Roll out the dough:
Remove your chilled pie dough from the fridge. If you’re making dough decorations, like leaves, separate the dough into roughly 1/3 and 2/3. If you’ve made enough dough for two crusts, separate the ball in half. Set aside the dough for the top of the pie.

Flour a piece of parchment paper and your pie dough. Flatten the dough for the bottom crust into a disk and roll out in a circle larger than your pie dish. (I used a 9-inch pie pan.) Gently transfer the dough to the dish and trim the edges. Set in the fridge to chill.

Roll out the remaining dough. Cut out your leaves or decorations and transfer to a baking sheet. If you’re planning a full top crust, place the dough on a cutting board or sheet pan and set in the fridge to chill for a few minutes while you fill the bottom crust.

Assemble the pie:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. If you’ve prepared a top crust for your pie, remove it from the fridge.

Toss the grape-plum mixture with the sugar and cornstarch and pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. If you’ve made decorations, place those on a separate sheet tray to bake. If you have prepared a top crust, gently lay the dough over the filling, trim the edges and then flute or press the edges of two crusts together. Using a sharp knife, gently cut a few slits in the top crust. Brush the crust with the egg and water mixture or heavy cream. Brush any decorations with this mix as well.

Place the pie dish on a baking tray to catch any drippings and transfer to the oven. If you have decorations, transfer that tray to the oven, too. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350°. Keep an eye out for the decorations — they’ll be ready much earlier than the pie. Remove decorations from the oven after another 10-15 minutes when they are puffed and golden brown; transfer from the baking tray to a wire cooling rack.

Bake the pie for another 30-40 minutes until the filling jiggles when shaken (if you don’t have a top crust), or when the top crust is golden brown.

If you find the crust is browning too quickly or is in danger of burning, cover it gently with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, place the decorative leaves on top. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Enjoy!

concord grape pie with plumsI’m off to eat a little more of my inner peace.

gluten free pie crust ready for baking

easy as pie gluten-free pie crust

It must be fall, because all I want to do is bake.

I never used to think that making pie was easy. You have to work quickly so everything stays cold, and there are just so many steps between crust and filling, making and baking. And those intricate, beautiful, lattice-woven crusts? No, thank you.

The saying easy as pie actually refers to eating pie, not making it (same goes for “piece of cake” apparently). But over the years, I have discovered there’s a real peace in making pie. Once you have your routine figured out, there’s something pleasurable to the process. It’s almost as if time slows down, even if you’re moving quickly. The tactility — blending butter cubes into flour, rolling out the dough, flipping it into a pie pan — is almost like digging your fingers down into the sand on a beach, or making mud pies as a kid.

Making pies, for me, started as a way to process (or put off, depending on how you look at it) emotions and to, for just a little while, not be sad but instead intently focused on something else. The first pie I ever made was back in 2011. It was right after I graduated from college, moved to Atlanta, and just after my grandfather passed away.

It was simple — if I remember right, the dough was just flour, salt, butter. I didn’t have a pastry blender and I only had a mini 3-cup food processor, so I had to cut the butter into the dough in batches. I was so excited, that I literally sat in front of the oven in our tiny, corner galley kitchen and watched as the pie baked.

Making pie taught me to slow down and to problem solve (ahem, mini food processor).

A few months after that first pie, our next door neighbor passed away suddenly. She was a wonderful woman who looked after Craig when he first moved to Atlanta, traded carrots and onions from her CSA share with us, and bonded (surprisingly) with our less-than-social cat, Quigley. She was beloved by many who lived in our apartment complex, and I baked another pie in her honor to share at the memorial we held in the community center.

how to make gluten free pie crustThe first time I made this particular pie crust was a few years later. It was wrapped around thinly sliced, juicy Georgia peaches drenched in a locally-made margarita jelly and dusted with lime zest. Craig told me it tasted like pie crust he had as a kid. I literally jumped for joy. (His mother was, after all, an award-winning pie maker.)

This pie crust is pretty much no-fail. I’ve used many variations of flours — sometimes my own combinations, sometimes a pre-made gluten-free baking mix. It always works (some blends just need more or less water, as different flours require different amounts of hydration).

I’ve used it to make savory galettes and mini pot pies. I’ve substituted shortening for some of the butter. When making savory dough, I’ve substituted cornmeal for some of the flour and lard for some of the butter. It’s easy to put together, easy to roll out. It really is easy as pie.

chicken and vegetable galettewpid-wp-1444280077661.jpg

 

How to Make Gluten-Free Pie Crust

The two most important parts of making pie crust are to start with cold ingredients (and tools), and to work quickly so everything stays cold. (It helps if you have a fridge/freezer wide enough to accommodate a sheet tray or pie pan in case things need to chill out for a few minutes in between steps.)

how to make gluten free pie crustI’ve come a long way from the simple, three-ingredient pie crust of my first foray in baking. There are a few more ingredients here, but not too many. This is the Goldilocks of pie crusts.

To prepare, set up your mise-en-place. Get all of your ingredients prepped and ready, and have all the tools you’ll need throughout the process handy. There are two ways to prep the crust: by hand, using a pastry blender and wooden spoon, or in the food processor.

Measure out all of your ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, salt) and place the bowl in the fridge to chill. (If you’re using the food processor, pulse the dry ingredients together to aerate, then put the bowl, blade, and ingredients all together in the fridge to chill before adding the wet ingredients.)

Beat the egg and put in the fridge to chill. Chill the vinegar/vodka, too. Dice the butter and keep in the fridge until you need it.

cutting in butterOnce everything is chilled, cut the butter into the flour. I used to use a food processor for this, but now I prefer doing it by hand to make sure the butter is the right size. Work the butter into the flour until it’s the size of small peas. (If you use a food processor, pulse the butter into the flour. Don’t run the blade or you’ll cut the butter too small.) You can place the mix back in the fridge to chill for a few more minutes if the butter is starting to soften.

adding the liquidsMake a well in the center. Pour in the wet ingredients: the beaten egg and the vinegar or vodka.

adding ice waterAdd a tablespoon of ice water and mix to combine (or pulse again the food processor).

see if the dough comes togetherTest the dough by squeezing it in your hand. If it sticks together, it’s ready. If not, add a bit more ice water, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the dough holds together. It’s going to be shaggy and there will be some crumbly bits in the bottom of the bowl. That’s good, as long as you can pull and press all the dough together. The flours will fully hydrate when you let it rest in the fridge.

gluten free pie doughGather all the dough together in a ball.

Wrap the ball tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can let it rest overnight. I often make the dough a day or two before I plan to roll it out and use it. If you do let it rest for a longer period of time, let it sit on your kitchen counter for 10-15 minutes before rolling so that it softens ever so slightly and isn’t too brittle.)

gluten free pie crustRolling Gluten-Free Pie Dough

Once your dough has rested, you’re ready to roll! The beauty of this pie dough is that it’s an absolute joy to roll out. It’s easy to handle, as long as you keep a few things in mind: Your rolling surface should be clean, and dusted with flour. Your rolling pan should be dusted with flour too.

The ambient temperature of your work space is important too. If it’s warmer, you’ll need to work more quickly and you may need to put the dough back into the fridge for a few minutes throughout the process to keep the butter from melting.

If the dough is too cold and stiff, it will be more brittle and will break when rolling. If it’s too warm, the butter will soften and the dough will become sticky and more prone to breaking/ripping or sticking to the rolling pin.

The easiest way to roll out and transfer the dough is to lightly flour a piece of parchment paper, and roll the dough out on that. (You can also use a Silpat or silicone baking mat.) I don’t usually use a piece of paper on top, but you can add a top layer of parchment or even Saran Wrap to protect the dough from sticking to your rolling pin.

rolling out gluten free pie doughDust your work surface and the top of your pie dough with flour. Press the dough into a flat disk. It’ll crack. That’s OK.

rolling out gluten free pie crustRoll your dough out, working your rolling pin from the center of the dough circle to the edges. Rotate your rolling pin or, if you’re rolling the dough out on a piece of parchment, it’s really easy to just spin the dough clock-wise, so that you can roll the dough out evenly. You want it to be thin, but not so thin that you can see through it.

Continue to sprinkle the top of your dough with flour as you roll it out. If any dough sticks to the rolling pin and gets pulled up, gently use your fingers to press the dough together.

gluten free pie crustThe dough should be bigger than your actual pie dish. I’m terrible at rolling in perfect circles (as you can see…it’s more rectangular). It’s OK because you can fix the shape once you flip the dough into the dish, as long as what you’ve rolled out is bigger than what you’re baking in. (If you’re making a galette or open-faced pie, you can use a bench knife to trim the edges to the shape you want, or leave it rustic.) Once it’s rolled out like this, you can transfer it to a cutting board or an upside-down sheet pan and chill it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up before transferring to the pie pan.

how to move gluten free pie crust to the pie panTo transfer the dough to the pie plate, I gently roll the dough and the parchment paper around my rolling pin. I make sure the parchment provides a layer so the dough doesn’t end up wrapped around (and stuck to) itself. I also only roll about half of the dough around the rolling pin so that it’s easier to move. I support the part that’s hanging out with my arm as I move it and flip it into the dish.

transferring dough to the pie panGently flip the dough over the pie dish and unroll from the rolling pin. You can maneuver the dough so that it settles into the dish.

pressing the dough into the panLift the edges and pat the dough so that it is evenly settled into the pan (touching the bottom of the pie dish) without being stretched or tearing.

gluten free pie crustWhoosh! Remove the top layer of parchment paper from your dough. This will work if your dough and the parchment were properly floured before rolling. If your dough is sticking to the parchment, work gently to separate them and use your fingers to gently pat the dough and repair any spots that might have torn.

trimming the edgesUsing a knife, trim the edges of the dough. I leave about ½-inch so I can crimp the edges.

how to crimp pie dough edgesFinish your edges. I like to crimp my crust because it looks pretty, and has the added benefit of hiding any imperfections or uneveness in the dough. To crimp, press the dough with your pointer finger on your right hand in between the middle finger and thumb of your left to create little ruffles. (If you’re adding a top layer of crust or doing lattice work, you might not want to crimp the edges. Wait until the top layer of dough is on the pie before finishing the edges.)

gluten free pie crust ready for bakingYour gluten-free pie crust is ready for filling! Once it’s rolled out and in the pan, you can keep it in the fridge until ready to use. If it’s going to be a day or two, press Saran Wrap on to the dough to prevent it from drying out. (I did that with this crust and kept it tightly wrapped in my fridge for two days before filling and baking it.) I have not yet tried prepping and freezing this dough, but I think it would work well. (I need to make some space in my freezer before filling it up with pie crusts!)

Now you’ve got your pretty gluten-free pie crust. What will you fill it with? Tell me!

It could be argued that there is an element of entertainment in every pie, as every pie is inherently a surprise by virtue of its crust.
— Janet Clarkson

Easy Gluten-Free Pie Crust

  • Servings: 1 pie crust
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Notes: I have used a variety of flour blends for this pie dough. My favorite ready-made GF AP flours are Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend (I buy in bulk at Costco) or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour. Both work exceptionally well, but I find the Namaste blend often needs more water (usually 6-8 tablespoons). If you’re preparing your own blend, try a 60/40 blend of starches to grains. I like using sorghum and millet in pie crusts; sorghum lends softness and structure while millet helps with crispness and flakiness.

The vodka, too, helps with flakiness. It’s flavorless and the alcohol will bake off, but if you don’t have any on hand, you don’t need to rush to the store to restock the bar. Its absence won’t be missed.

This recipe makes enough for one pie crust.

Ingredients

200 grams gluten-free flour + more for rolling (see notes above)
125 grams (9 tablespoons) butter
1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon apple cider or champagne vinegar (or vodka)
1+ tablespoon ice water

Directions

Weigh/measure out your dry ingredients and whisk together in a large bowl, or pulse together in your food processor. Place everything in the fridge to chill while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Cut the butter into small cubes. Place in the freezer to chill.

Whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon of ice water. Place in the fridge to chill, along with the vinegar.

Let everything chill for 10-15 minutes.

Add the butter cubes to the flour mix. Using a pastry blender, incorporate the butter into the flour, rotating the bowl as needed, until the butter is about the size of the small peas and fully mixed in with the flour. If you’re using a food processor, pulse the mix about 10 times until the butter is small and incorporated into the flour.

Add the whisked egg, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of ice water to the dough. If you’re working by hand, use a wooden spoon or silicone spoonula to mix the ingredients together. If you’re using the food processor, pulse until the dough is moistened and the liquids are incorporated.

Test the dough. Squeeze a bit between your fingers. If it stays put, it’s good to go. If it’s still a bit crumble, add more ice water (about 1 tablespoon at a time) until the dough just comes together.

Bring the dough together into a ball. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare to roll out the dough: get a piece of parchment paper ready and sprinkle it with flour. Rub your rolling pin with flour, too.

Unwrap your chilled dough and flatten into a disk on the floured parchment. Dust with flour.

Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/8-inch thin. Dust the top of the dough with flour as needed to prevent sticking as you’re rolling it out.

If your dough softens as you’re rolling or becomes too sticky, transfer to a cutting board or upside-down sheet pan and let it chill again in the fridge.

To transfer the dough to the pie pan, gently roll the dough with the parchment paper over your rolling pin. Flip the dough and unroll into the pie dish. Gently lift the edges and then press the dough into the pie pan. Remove the parchment paper.

Using a bench knife, pastry knife or other sharp edge, trim the edges of your pie crust. Use a fork or your fingers to crimp or decorate the edges (unless you’re planning to add a top crust to the pie).

Fill the crust and follow instructions for baking. Enjoy!

owl helperLove love love! Happy baking, locavores.

sweet peppers in season

the first of fall

Just like that, it’s October.

It seemed like summer was just swept out from underneath me. In a whirlwind three months — from late April through early August — we planned our wedding, got married, and had our honeymoon (surprisingly, it was our first full vacation together). We left Washington at the beginning of August when the breeze was still soft and warm and the sun’s last light didn’t fade until 10 p.m. (or later). Then we spent 10 days in hot, humid Hawaii. When we got home, it was fall already.

kirkland wa farmers market

We’ve been slow to get back into the swing of things, riding the euphoria of being newlyweds. The wedding and the honeymoon are over, but there’s still plenty on our to-do lists. Thank you notes, announcements, ordering pictures and the mind-boggling demanding process of changing a name.

This is my favorite time of year. It is so full. Of nostalgia and potential; one season overlapping with the next. Early fall is so abundant in all things that it feels decadent, almost sinful. Though the sun sets earlier in the evening and the heatwaves of summer are just a distant memory now, September here was full of sunshine and warmth. The breeze is cool, but not yet chilled. We haven’t yet needed to pull our heavy sweaters and winter coats out from storage. We still have baseball games alongside this city’s Richter-scale roar for football games. The leaves are starting to yellow and fall on the trees in the city, but so many of them are still so full, lush, green. Maybe, in my newly wedded bliss, I’m romanticizing the golden tinge of summer that’s lingering, but we are so lucky. It’s no secret that I don’t like change, and so this slow start, these baby steps toward the cold and rainy winter, is so appreciated. I am grateful that this fall has been good to us.

my favorite flower

When I finally made it back to our local markets a few weeks ago, I remembered why I am so thankful for the overlapping of seasons. It’s like nature’s last hooray, our last moments to slow down and savor before the more limited harvests of winter. This is also my first summer-into-fall in the Pacific Northwest, and I was so surprised to see so much stocked up on the farmers’ tables. There are still strawberries and tomatoes! Ripe, sweet peaches and nectarines, plums and grapes. There’s still summer squashes alongside the first appearance of the hardier varieties.

what's in season

I was looking for a quote or poem about fall to include with this post. So many are full of nostalgia, but also tinged bittersweet. Many personify autumn simultaneously as a harbinger of warmth but also the macabre — the death of the trees, the long darkness of the coming days, a chilled wind sweeping through bristling branches. There was very little that really explained the depth or the buzz of this time of year. The intersection in the Venn Diagram between summer and autumn. (But, in the end, I did find a good one.)

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
— Lauren DeStefano

The last few markets we’ve visited have offered us the change to savor those last succulent pieces of summer while also gleefully welcoming the first colorful showings of fall. (Here’s looking at you, Brussels sprouts!)

brussels sprouts are back!

colorful cauliflower and romanescoWhile I’ve been away from this space physically for the last few months — I realized there was just no way I could fully dedicate myself to planning a wedding, getting married and simultaneously developing this blog — I haven’t been far away in spirit. I have spent the last few months dreaming and brainstorming, and have spent the last week finally making many of those dreams a reality.

There’s a new section on the home page now: To Market, To Market. In the coming weeks, I hope to share my adventures at local Seattle markets, what I bring home and how I use the ingredients. In the moment — jostling with the crowd, chatting with farmers, photographing and purchasing produce — I forget to notice or write down who my farmers actually are. I’m making a resolution (hopefully with the help of my husband) to jot down the names of farms and farmers so that I can provide links and more information for you, as well.

I have many dreams for this space. I appreciate having the ability, the space, the means to pursue this passion and to share it with you. I’m so excited for what’s to come.

baby purple eggplant

rainbow swiss chard stems

all kinds of peppers

pimenton peppers

fluffy foraged mushrooms

about bears tooth mushrooms

green and purple basilmulticolor snap beans

italian flat beans

apples

Happy fall, friends!

fish tacos

rockfish tacos with cortido, cukes and cotija cheese

Taco Tuesday!

A few weeks ago at the farmers market, we were on the hunt for fresh fish. There’s always frozen and smoked salmon available, as well as locally farmed oysters. But I was having a hankering for fish tacos.

We spotted a neon poster board sign written with thick black permanent marker. Fresh rockfish $9/pound. The farmer led us to an open Igloo cooler packed with ice and started rummaging around, showing us different packages of fresh fish. This fish. He paused, balancing the clear zip-lock plastic bag in his hand, thinking and recalling. Hmm. Yep. This fish was caught three days ago.

fish taco marinadeIt’s one of the things I love most about the farmers markets. Unless you plan to grow and harvest vegetables yourself, or catch and filet your own fish from the water, this is the freshest you’ll find. (I’ve been given steep discounts because the arugula was four days old. I would have happily paid full price for something that, in my mind, was still fresher than I would find anywhere else.)

At the same market, we stopped at the Firefly Kitchens booth to sample their ferments and probiotic tonics. We are big fans of kraut and kimchi, but the cortido stood out to us. It was new, different, fresh and a little spicy. Cortido is a common Latin American condiment. The woman told us it’s often available on all the tables in all the restaurants in El Salvador. Full of lacto-fermented cabbage, carrots and onions, the mix is spiced with chili flakes and jalapeno. The perfect accoutrement for fish tacos.

tacoscortidoWe first had these tacos on Cinco de Mayo. (Of course.) I had been dreaming of pairing this delicate, tender fish with loads of mint, cilantro and lime. They were good, but not yet great. Craig suggested I leave a little bit of extra marinade set aside for drizzling on the tacos at the end, like a salsa verde.

I made them again the next day. I changed up the marinade to incorporate some thin, pourable locally made yogurt which made the sauce ever so enjoyable to drizzle on the finished tacos. Fresh cilantro and mint leaves, loads of lime juice, a little pinch of spice, lots of crumbly cheese and some thin slices of the first cucumbers of the season. Yes.

gluten free fish tacosIf you are gluten-free, or if you are just a corn tortilla lover, I highly highly recommend getting a tortilla warmer. I have struggled for years trying to perfect how I reheat corn tortillas. I’ve lightly fried them in oil. (So time consuming.) I’ve microwaved them wrapped in damp pieces of paper towel. (Good, but they harden as soon as they’re unwrapped and exposed to the cold air.) I’ve eaten them cold. (Uck. Plus, they fall apart.) I’ve layered them two or three high to prevent cracking and falling apart. (Still a mess. And a waste.) I’ve drenched each tortilla in water and tossed it on a sizzling hot skillet. (Nowhere near the perfection of restaurant-quality tortillas. And it makes my cast iron pan unhappy.)

I don’t know why it never dawned on me to get a tortilla warmer. I snagged one at Metropolitan Market and have been happily devouring perfectly warm, flexible, soft and supple corn tortillas ever since. I want to eat all the corn tortillas now.

I’m not usually a fan of plastic nor microwaving nor putting plastic in the microwave. But this contraption is so easy to use and yields perfect tortillas every. single. time. Plus, I love kitchen items that perform double (or triple) duties. This thing can be used to keep pancakes or waffles warm, too!

Seriously. Treat yo’self. Get a tortilla warmer. You can thank me with tacos.

gluten free fish tacos with cortido

Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer.”
— Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Local List

  • Cilantro
  • Cortido kraut
  • Cotija cheese
  • Cucumbers
  • Mint
  • Rockfish
  • Yogurt

fresh cilantro recipes

Herb-Marinated Fish Tacos with Cortido Kraut, Cucumbers and Cotija Cheese

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
  • Print

Notes: The package of fish that we purchased included two long filets with tenderloins attached. Each filet weighed roughly 11-12 ounces. I cooked one filet (plus tenderloin), which was more than enough taco filling for the two of us. If you’re feeding more than two, use 2 12-ounce filets.

Ingredients

For the marinade:
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
½ bunch cilantro (including stems)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt & pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 12-ounce filet of tender, white fish (snapper, halibut, mahi-mahi or tilapia)

For the tacos:
6-8 corn tortillas, warmed
¼ cup whole or chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup cortido (or kraut or other fermented veggies; I don’t recommend using kimchi)
½ cup (or more) grated cotija cheese
½ cup thinly sliced seedless cucumber
Lime wedges
Hot sauce or red pepper flakes

Directions

In a small food processor, combine the yogurt, oil, lime juice, herbs and garlic cloves. Puree until the herbs and garlic are chopped and fully mixed in. Stir in a pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Reserve and refrigerate 1/4 cup or so of the marinade for serving. Pour the rest into a baking dish big enough to fit your fish filets.

Nestle the fish in the marinade and turn several times to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Prep your tortillas and fixin’s.

To cook the fish, remove from the marinade and rest on a plate for 30 minutes or so until they’re close to room temperature. (Don’t get rid of the marinade just yet!) Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to coat the pan. Place the filets in the hot pan, working in batches if necessary to prevent crowing. Spoon some of the marinade over top as the fish is cooking. Cook on one side for about 3 minutes. Using a fish or very thin metal spatula, gently turn the fish over and cook for another 3-5minutes until the fish is cooked through and flaky.

Remove the filet(s) from the pan. Gently flake the fish into pieces with a fork.

Load your tortillas with fish, cortido, cheese, cucumber slices and cilantro. Drizzle over the reserved marinade and add hot sauce if you want a bit more spice. Enjoy with a cold beer or chilled ginger beer and a big green salad.

meatless tikka masala

vegan cranberry bean and summer greens tikka masala

This recipe should also be known as what I did with the random assortment of leftovers in my fridge.

vegan tikka masala ingredientsEvery once in a while when I am feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, I turn to cookbooks and blogs for recipes and meal plans. Most of the time, though, I listen to Craig and to what my body (and my mind and my soul) need and crave. I find inspiration in the fresh ingredients at the market. I rarely go with a shopping list and instead piece together meals as I pick out raw ingredients. Sometimes I have a very general outline — I need greens, beans, herbs, mushrooms. Sometimes a whole chicken. Sometimes not.

It can be difficult to cook this way. I know not everyone has the time or the interest to cook this way. And, I’ll admit, I still struggle with leftovers and reducing waste. Sometimes I get an idea and then it doesn’t work. Sometimes a recipe needs to be tweaked multiple times, but I still need to get dinner ready and on the table. And sometimes the inspiration dissipates and what I wanted to make turns into a different dish entirely.

I obsessed over this dish for weeks. It started with leftover cranberry beans. I had bought some dried beans at the market (for soup? for chili? I don’t remember), and I had a bundle of collard greens waiting patiently to be used. (This is what happens sometimes when you buy on a whim without a plan. Stuff just sits.) The first of the spring peas had just arrived at the market, too. Bright green, plump and ever-so-sweet.

The next week, collards had already disappeared from the market. But there was beautiful, tender, light green chard and hearty purple kale.

local chard and kaleThis recipe is about using what you’ve got and finding new ways to make ordinary ingredients and pantry staples shine. Don’t have cranberry beans? Use whatever you have — butter beans, garbanzos, kidney, or even cannellini beans would work well. Same for the greens. Any kind of robust green will do in this recipe. (A lighter, more tender leaf like spinach doesn’t need to cook down quite so much, so those kinds of greens should be added later in the cooking process. They’re still equally good.) Use frozen peas if you don’t have fresh. Similarly, thick cream-top whole milk or Greek yogurt or coconut milk can be swirled in at the end. Just a little something creamy.

gluten free tikka masalaYou could, of course, use chicken in this dish to make something more akin to the traditional tikka masala. (In fact, I did just that on the second day of this dish’s life. To use up as many leftovers as possible, I added leftover shredded rotisserie chicken.)

I chose beans in part because they were hanging out in my fridge, begging to be used up. I also used them because I’ve been trying to explore alternative, plant-based sources of protein. Years ago, my doctor advised me to start taking niacin supplements to help my heart. I just discovered that beans are a niacin nirvana and thus have been trying to incorporate them more into my diet. (Did you know that the Native Americans planted — and ate — corn and beans together, since corn is severely deficient in niacin?)

vegan tikka masala with beans

You don’t have to become a vegan. You can become a plant-passionate, plant-inspired bean lover!
— Kris Carr

Plant passionate. Resourceful. Creative. Call it whatever you’d like. Let’s eat!

Local List

  • Cranberry beans
  • Cilantro
  • English peas
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Swiss chard
  • Yogurt

tikka masala with beans

Gluten-Free and Vegan Tikka Masala with Beans, Greens and Peas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon Indian celery
¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh shelled (or frozen) peas
4 cups chopped greens
2 14.5-ounce cans chopped tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ cup heavy cream/yogurt/full-fat coconut milk

To serve:
Cooked basmati rice
Chopped cilantro

Directions

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the coconut oil is melted and shimmering, add the onion and saute until soft and translucent (about five minutes).

While the onions are cooking, puree the two cans of chopped tomatoes in a blender with one can full of water. Set aside.

Add the ginger and garlic to the skillet and saute for about 30-60 seconds until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste and continue to cook until the onions are coated and the mix has darkened in color (about three minutes). Add the spices and saute for another minute until fragrant. Stir in the tomato-water mixture. Cover the pan with a splatter screen and bring to a boil.

If you are using fresh peas: Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add enough salt so the water tastes salty and blanch the peas for about five minutes. Strain and run the peas under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. (Skip this step if you’re using frozen peas.)

When the tomato mixture has started to bubble and boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Working in batches, stir in the greens until they’re starting to wilt. Season the pan with salt and pepper and let them simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the blanched (or frozen) peas and cooked beans. Let the mix continue to simmer for another five minutes.

Do a quick taste test to make sure the greens, peas and beans are cooked through and soft. If necessary, let the mix simmer for a few more minutes. (If it’s looking a little dry, add a splash more water.)

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream/yogurt/coconut milk.

Serve with cooked basmati rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

vegan tikka masalaAre you plant impassioned yet? I’m hungry.

gluten free cake with cherries and rhubarb

gluten-free cherry rhubarb cake with buttery, crunchy pecan crumble

Do you say pee-can or puh-kahn?

Growing up in the Midwest, it was always the latter. Then, I moved to Georgia and started working at a few farmers markets. I found myself settling into a subtle Southern drawl (to this day, I still greet most folks with a cheerful “hi, y’all”). With the territory, and probably also thanks to the peach and pecan farmers down the way, I started saying “pee-can”. I still say it this way. It’s a hard habit to shake.

The pecans I used in this recipe, like the pronunciation, are all the way from Georgia. I bought a huge bag at the farmers market last year and squirreled them away in my freezer. I couldn’t bear to part with them so, like the squid ink, these nuts made the 2,600-mile trip across the country with us.

fresh rhubarb recipesI have a confession. I had never eaten rhubarb before creating this recipe.

Its appearance was always so fleeting, and I never spotted it at farmers markets in Atlanta. Even if I had seen it, I was honestly a little terrified to cook with it. I had heard it was hard to manage — bitter, tart and tough to the point of requiring another fruit (usually strawberries, which arrive a bit later in the season) to all but mask its flavor entirely.

Rhubarb is bountiful in the PNW. Not the first harbinger of spring, but very nearly, it has appeared in abundance at markets here for the last few weeks. The variety I picked up is an older heirloom with stalks that remain almost entirely green, versus the bright pinky-red skin that most attribute to rhubarb. It does have a tart flavor, but more akin to a Granny Smith apple than sucking on a lemon. The flesh has a similar juicy, crisp bite to an apple, too, with just a hint of citrus at the finish.

gluten free cherry cakeWhen I gave Craig the first bite of this cake he said, “I always did like rhubarb.” He did?! We have known each other since childhood, have been dating and nearly attached at the hip for eight years, and our wedding date is (finally) fast approaching … yet here we are, still learning about one another. I did not know, until this cake came out of the oven, that he liked rhubarb. And now I want to make all the things with rhubarb. For him.

seattle cherriesA few weeks ago, we enjoyed a weekend getaway to Orcas Island. On the drive home, Craig pulled up on his phone a list of fun and interesting questions to pass the time. Questions like, If you could bring back one person from the past, who would it be? and What person do you never want to see naked? We laughed and discussed, agreed and disagreed. We answered both quickly and had to sit and ponder our responses. Even after all this time together, there are still things we say and do that surprise each other. (Like calling ahead to the bed and breakfast on the island to make sure they could accommodate my dietary needs. I was surprised with a gluten-free waffle breakfast on our last morning. And me beating him, repeatedly, while playing a new-to-me card game on the ferry ride home.)

cakeingredientsTwo weeks ago, cherries debuted at the farmers market. Red and shiny, sweet and juicy. Don’t eat the whole bag! the farmer told me joyfully. It’s going to be hard, she admitted, laughing. They’re just so good and sweet. I waited until I got home and had the cherries for this recipe pitted and halved before taking a bite. My knees went a bit weak. Whoa, I exclaimed, rushing to hand Craig a cherry. It’s a good thing we both waited until this cake was in the oven, or there would have been no cherries left.

This cake is so good. Buttery, sugary, and tinged with vanilla. Like any good cake should be. I layered the fruit and crumble on top so you get a little taste of everything with every bite. It would be equally as good with the fruit mixed in, if you’d rather go that route. (You just may need to adjust baking time.)

gluten free cherry rhubarb cakeAs someone who both eats gluten on a regular basis and uses his palate professionally, Craig is my best and most important taste tester. When I gave him the first bite, he said without hesitation, Wow. I think I like the cake the best. As someone who generally dislikes dessert and cake, that really is saying something.

This recipe makes a lot of cake. It’s meant to be shared. Celebrate the season, and plan it for a party. Or a get-together. Or a Tuesday. Whatever.

gluten free cherry cakeThis cake is a melding of the seasons. The first of spring and the first of summer. (Is it still spring? Late spring? Early summer? Sprummer?) A toast to still learning, always, and a love that is growing and changing.

People have often asked me whether what I know about love has spoiled it for me. And I just simply say, ‘Hardly.’ You can know every single ingredient in a piece of chocolate cake, and then when you sit down and eat that cake, you can still feel that joy.
— Helen Fisher

gluten free cake with cherriesLocal List

  • Butter
  • Cherries
  • Milk
  • Pecans
  • Rhubarb

Gluten-Free Cake with Cherries, Rhubarb and a Crunchy Pecan Crumble Topping

  • Servings: 12 square slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Notes: For the cake base, you can substitute 225 grams of a gluten-free baking mix (I recommend Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour). If you are not gluten-free, use 225 grams of cake flour. (This measurement is about 2 1/3 cups of flour, but I highly recommend measuring by weight instead of using measuring cups.)

Ingredients

For the cake:
60 grams millet flour
30 grams sorghum flour
70 grams cornstarch
40 grams potato starch
25 grams tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if you’re using a baking mix that already contains gum)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
170 grams of organic raw sugar/evaporated cane juice
226 grams organic butter (2 sticks), room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fruit topping:
2 cups cherries, pitted and cut in half
1½ cups thinly sliced rhubarb stalk

For the pecan crumble topping:
1 cup chopped raw pecans
¼ cup gluten-free all purpose flour
¼ cup raw sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Directions

Prep your toppings: Remove any stems from the cherries and pit them using a cherry pitter or a straw inserted from the top (stem end), pushing the put out through the bottom. (Check out this Huff Post article for a lot of cool ways to remove cherry pits. Having tried a lot of these options, though, I highly recommend buying a cherry pitter to save yourself time and reduce mess and stress.) Once the pits are removed, slice the cherries in half. Wash your cutting board immediately to avoid staining.

Thinly slice the rhubarb about ¼-inch thick. Mix together and set aside with the cherries.

Whisk together the chopped pecans, flour, sugar and spices for the crumble topping. Add the butter and rub together using your fingers until everything is mixed together and crumbly. Set aside.

Make the cake: Lightly grease the bottom of a glass 9-inch x 12-inch baking dish. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom and extending over 2 sides of the dish. Grease the top of the parchment, too. Set aside and preheat your oven to 350°.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed for about five minutes until the mixture has lightened in color and is fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides as necessary.

While the butter and sugar are creaming, whisk together the flours, starches, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt until well mixed and aerated. (You can use a flour sifter or food processor to do this, too.)

When the butter-sugar mixture is fluffy, add the flour slowly in three additions, allowing each addition to mix in before adding more flour. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is mixed together. Don’t over-mix or you’ll deflate the batter. Add the milk and vanilla and mix just until combined.

Bake the cake: Pour the batter into your prepared pan and use a lightly greased silicone spoonula to spread the batter evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Carefully sprinkle the fruit over the top of the cake and then sprinkle on the crumble topping. Bake for another 15 minutes. Check to see if the cake is done. It should be golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. If necessary, bake for another 3-5 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully grasping the edge of the parchment paper, lift the cake from the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy! This cake is good on its own, or topped with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream.

cheerscherries