Coconut Red Lentil Soup (Esalen Ayurvedic Dal)

A vibrant red lentil soup (or stew) that is always hugely popular. A friend turned me onto this Ayurvedic dal recipe from the Esalen Cookbook years ago. Red lentil based, curry-spiced coconut broth with back notes of ginger and tomato, with slivered green onions, and a finish of cilantro or kale.

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Let’s talk through the story of my favorite red lentil soup. Years ago, two of my neighbors hosted a soup party. It was an inspiring affair – big pots of simmering soups and stews, house full of chatty, friendly people. Part of what I liked was the simple premise. The hosts (David & Holly) made a number of soups, guests were asked to arrive with their drink of choice and one thing to share – salad, appetizer, or something sweet.
Coconut Red Lentil Soup in a Bowl

The Inspiration:

One of the vegetarian soups that night was a beautiful shade of yellow-orange. It was a light-bodied, curry-spiced coconut broth thickened with cooked red lentils and structured with yellow split peas. It appeared to be a beautiful take on lentil soup. When I asked Holly to tell me about it, she mentioned it was based on an Ayurvedic dal recipe in the Esalen Cookbook, a favorite of hers. I suspect that recipe might have been inspired by the Bengali-style cholar dal where you see chana dal punctuated with raisins in many preparations.
Ingredients for Soup on a Marble Counter

Holly happened to have an extra copy of the Esalen book, and sent me home with my belly full, a new cookbook tucked under my arm, and a few suggestions related to the soup. I still make this soup regularly, love it (so much!), and thought it might be fun to revisit it today in video form – enjoy! I’ve also included some notes related to adapting this soup to the Instant Pot.

 

What Makes this so Special?

The method used to bring this soup together caught my attention. While your lentils are boiling, you saute lots of scallions in butter (or ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil) in another pan. Add to those scallions a fat dollop of thick tomato paste along with plenty of toasted spices and you’re on your way. This flavor bomb is what you stir into the lentil base. Golden raisins plump up with curry broth. There are beautiful back notes of ginger, and depth from that tomato paste. It all comes together in one amazing bowl of restorative, lentil soup goodness. To be honest, I consider the raisins optional and make this often without – or sometimes I swap in some chopped dates.
Red Lentil Soup

Topping Ideas:

I’ve cooked this soup countless times over the years and tend to finish it with what I have on hand. The original recipe has you go big on cilantro. But you can see in these photos I sometimes pile it high with extra scallions and freshly-baked kale chips. Other ideas:

  • finish with a few big handfuls of finely shredded green cabbage
  • stir in a few big handfuls of chopped kale
  • fry 30-40 fresh curry leaves in a few tablespoons of oil adding some chile flakes (or torn chiles), mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the last 15 seconds or so. Pour generously over each bowl
  • finish with deeply roasted tomatoes and omit the raisins

Coconut Red Lentil Soup in a Bowl

A Variation

There was one variation that I noted after cooking this because it stuck out to me as particularly delicious. I was out of scallions and ginger but still wanted to make something along these lines. Instead I used a strong paste made of chopped garlic and serrano peppers – probably a 50/50 blend. I added a few tablespoons of the mixture in place of the scallions in the recipe. The end result was feisty, strong and really wonderful.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we have over the last decade or so! Here’s where you can find all the soup recipes, if you want to explore more. And there are lots of lentil recipes in the archives as well.

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Gougères

Gougères are perfect, golden pom-poms of cheese-crusted magic. This one-pan method sets you up for success every time. Even better – keep these little cheese puffs frozen, ready to bake, always.

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Gougères are my secret weapon this time of year. This means a bag in the freezer, always at the ready. I make the dough ahead of time (any afternoon I have a few extra minutes) then bake them straight from the freezer whenever I fancy. There is something irresistible about the way they explode in size. The way they bake into golden pom-poms of cheese-crusted magic. Like soufflés, I think there is a perception that they’re tricky to make. But, I promise, with a little practice (and know-how) you can have an impressive platter piled sky-high with puffery with next to no effort.
Gougeres piled high on a small plate

How To Make Gougères: The Basics

Gougères are a baked savory pastry made with a French choux dough mixed with cheese. They have a reputation as being difficult, but they’re really not. They’re more fun than anything. To make gougères you combine liquids (water, milk, beer, etc.), butter and salt in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You add flour and stir madly into a smooth paste. After allowing the paste to cool a bit, you work in eggs – one at a time. Then add grated cheese and any other herbs, spices or other flavoring ingredients you’re inspired to try. Dollop onto baking sheets and bake! I’ll provide my go-to gougère recipe below, get comfortable with that and then have a blast making endless variations.
Gougeres piled high on a marble table

Can I make Gougères Without a Mixer?

Yes! And it’s my favorite way to do it. There are a number of approaches people take when making gougères. I opt for the path resulting in the best result and the least amount of dishes and devices to wash after. Meaning, I use a one-pan method, stirring by hand. I don’t bother with a mixer. And depending on the day, I will sometimes push dollops of the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets from a spoon rather than piping from a bag. I will say, piping delivers gougères with beautiful rise, more-so than dropping dollops with a spoon. But the former is still pretty impressive!

Mixing gougeres batter in a saucepan

This Gougères Recipe

This recipe calls for beer and milk as the liquids in the batter, but the direction you take the flavors is adaptable. I love the maltiness beer brings to the dough, set off by the bite of sharp cheddar cheese. Skip the super hoppy IPAs here. You might trade out the beer for water, tea, or other flavorful liquid. I like a bit of milk in the batter, as it helps the dough bake into that lovely golden-brown color. Also, don’t feel married to this combination of cheese and herb/spices, it’s a favorite, but I certainly vary each batch based on what is on hand. I’ll list some variations below.

Gougeres on a baking pan

Pro-tip!

Before I forget. See the little pointy bits on some of my gougères? They can happen after piping dough onto the sheet pan. To get rid of them simply use a finger to press the dough level just before baking. You can see the difference below. I left them on about half, and pressed them out of the other half.

Gougeres piled high on a small plate
Gougeres on a parchment lined baking sheet

Important Things to Know

There are a few important details you don’t want to learn the hard way when it comes to making gougères.

  • Eggs: First, be sure to use large eggs (not extra-large).
  • Get ready: Prep all your ingredients ahead of time.
  • Avoid under-baking: Let the gougères brown all the way, particularly up the sides, before pulling them from the oven. The resulting structure will prevent the tops caving.

Gougeres on a plate one with a bite taken out of it

Gougères Variations

I made this batch (pictured) with ale, a strong cheddar cheese, and one well-chopped serrano pepper. But the variations you can dream up are endless. Some ideas:

  • Fennel & Cheddar Gougères: Add a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds. It’s nice with the beer and cheese.
  • Mustard Sesame Gougères: Add a couple teaspoons of strong mustard and sprinkle the gougeres with sesame seeds prior to baking. A bit of fresh thyme is nice here as well.
  • Whole Grain Flour Gougères: Substitute in up to half the weight in flour with whole wheat flour or rye flour.
  • Spicy Lemon & Cayenne Gougères: Swap in goat cheese for the cheddar and stir in the zest of one lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne.

See what I mean? Just start playing around. You can also play with color. As I mention up above, you can replace some of the liquid in this recipe with fresh, strong juices. For example, carrot juice, turmeric water, beet juice, etc. Have fun experimenting! 

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Candied Walnuts

Caramelized and toasted, these crunchy candied walnuts use brown sugar and spices to deliver the perfect snack or topping.

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The best candied walnuts are oven-baked. Don’t let anyone tell you different. It’s worth knowing how to make them and there are many reasons to keep candied walnuts on hand. First off, buying them can be wildly expensive. Second, they’re infinitely snack-able. And, they have a knack for making salads, popcorn, crumbles and cheese plates extra special. Once you nail down a great base recipe and technique for candied walnuts you can tweak them a thousand different ways with different spices, herbs and flavors. Today we’re going to talk through all of this.

Candied Walnuts on a Sheetpan

What Makes Good Candied Walnuts?

This is subjective, of course, but I like candied walnuts with a thick, brown sugar bark. So much coating it becomes hard to see the definition in the curves and swirls of the walnuts. The optimal size of the walnut pieces is up for debate. The merit of perfectly candied whole walnut halves is hard to argue with. It’s my preferred size for salads, snacking and the like. But, candied chopped walnuts, in smaller pieces, make a wonderful topping for scoops of ice cream, mixing into popcorn, integrating into fruit crumble and crisp toppings or adding to granola. This round I stuck with halves.
Walnuts in a Bowl coasted with Brown Sugar Mixture

Baking Versus Skillet?

There are two common methods for making candied walnuts – in the oven or in a non-stick skillet. You will likely have success with either method, but let me tell you why I prefer baking the walnuts. Toasting walnuts in a skillet is always awkward. They’re craggy-shaped and where nuts touch the pan they either get too dark or the rest of the walnuts stay too light. It’s more challenging to know when your sugar is hot enough to set when using a skillet. It’s basically automatic in the oven, so you don’t sweat it as much. The oven envelops the walnuts in dry heat and you get much better toasting and browning. The dry heat of the oven also seems to strip the water from the egg whites while the sugar toasts resulting in crunchy snappy candied walnuts. Exactly what you want when they’ve cooled completely.
Candied Walnuts

Candied Walnuts: The Technique 

I’m going to call out a few important techniques and tricks here. This way you won’t breeze over them once you’re deep in the recipe.  

  • Coating the walnuts: You are going to get in there and stir these walnuts at TWO points, for minutes at a time. Once to initially coat the walnuts with the egg whites. And again once you stir in the brown sugar mixture. Really go for it. See photo below.
  • Separate the walnuts for baking: Try to separate the walnuts so they don’t bake into clumps on the baking sheets.
  • Avoid under-baking: Use all your senses to know when to pull the candied walnuts from the oven. I look for a few things. Things should smell toasty when you open the oven. The sugar coating should be nice and deeply golden at the edges, where the coating touches the pan. You need to bake long enough that the sugars bake and will be snappy once cooled.
  • Let the walnuts cool completely: Let the candied walnuts cool  for ten minutes or so before moving them around or taking them off the pan. It will be easier to break them up, the texture is best and they won’t burn your mouth.

Ingredients for Candied Walnuts

Variations:

There are endless ways to switch things up here. How about…

  • Add some zest. Avoiding the white pith, use a vegetable peeler to strip the zest off a lemon, Meyer lemon, or orange. Cut into the narrowest slivers. Stir into the sugar mixture.
  • Experiment with seasonings and spice blends. My rule of thumb here is…if it is good in a cookie or pie, it will likely be good here. Think gingerbread spices, pumpkin pie spice, Bahārāt, quatre épices.
  • Try an alternate nut. Pecans are a great substitute. Or a mix of walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. I also like to throw some sliced almonds (skins on) into the mix.
  • Crunchy Chewy Candied Walnuts: Add some dried or freeze dried fruit. You can use chopped figs or dates here. Or stir in chopped dried banana and/or pineapple before baking.
  • Rosemary Sesame Candied Walnuts: this is a version I used to make regularly. Add 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves, 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1/3 cup chopped dates or dried figs to the brown sugar mixture.
  • Less Sweet: Scale back the brown sugar to 1/2 cup.
  • Spicy Candied Walnuts: Add a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Keep the curry powder from the original recipe or leave it out.
  • Espresso Candied Walnuts: add 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder to the brown sugar. Skip curry powder.

Walnuts Coated with Sugar Mixture Before Baking

How To Serve Candied Walnuts

I’ve thrown out some ideas up above, but there are so many great ways to serve candied walnuts. Use them:

  • Always in salads. Use them in kale salad, apple salad, even this wedge salad as a finishing touch.
  • On their own or as part of a cheese platter or (these days) a butter board.
  • As a topping to add crunch to blended soups.
  • As a component in a yogurt or granola bar for brunch.
  • In baked goods. Work them into your favorite quick breads and batters. Imagine a favorite gingerbread or brownies dotted with candied walnuts!

Two Pans of Candied Walnuts Cooling

How to Store Candied Walnuts

You have some options here. But the first step is to let them cool absolutely completely. Then store in any air-tight container, like a mason jar, or re-usable baggy. Always reseal the container tightly after snacking. You can also freeze candied walnuts, in a tightly sealed container, for up to a few months.

Two Pans of Candied Walnuts Cooling

The recipe makes a one pound batch, so you’ll have plenty to share or just keep on hand. Here’s a photo of little baggies filled with candied walnuts accented with rosemary and lots of sesame seeds. So tasty. Enjoy!

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup

A simple, everyday broccoli soup made special with crusty, mustardy croutons and cheddar. Perfect for those days when you need some extra nutritional punch.

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I’m going to argue that broccoli cheddar soup is best made to order. While many soups and stews get more complex and enticing after a day or so in the refrigerator, I don’t find that to be true when it comes to soup of the broccoli variety. Am I alone here? The good news is this version couldn’t be simpler. It’s quick to make and perfect for those times when you need something with a serious nutritional punch. The soup gets a bit of an unexpected twist by topping it with golden, crunchy, mustardy croutons. Which you can skip, but I wouldn’t.
A Favorite Broccoli Cheddar Soup

The Recipe: A Better Version of Broccoli Cheddar Soup

One of the things you notice when you look at a lot of the broccoli cheddar soup recipes out there is the stunning amount of dairy in them. There is often so much milk, heavy cream and grated cheese that the soup is nearly white in color. I totally get it, if you’re trying to make a version styled after Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup (and it seems like a lot of people are), you’ll likely go that route. The Panera Copycat Broccoli Cheddar Soup recipes tend to have a ratio of more cream/milk than broth and multiple cups of grated cheese. I’m going to argue you don’t need all that. You can make a creamy, wonderful broccoli cheese soup with a fraction of the dairy, a good blender, and a couple techniques to keep things creamy, bright, and smooth.

Key Ingredients for Good Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  • Broccoli: Look for deeply green, tight heads of broccoli. Avoid any heads that have yellowing florets, discoloration or seem dried out.
  • Vegetable Broth: Use a good-tasting vegetable broth you would drink on its own. I like to make my own broth and freeze it, or make a quick broth from vegetable bouillon cubes or my homemade bouillon powder. Another delicious option would be to use a quick miso broth. You have some options here!
  • Cheese: I call for freshly grated aged cheddar here. Something sharp with a lot of flavor. You can also use a gruyere if you wanted to switch things up a bit.
  • Mustard: The mustard is my secret weapon ingredient in this soup. It pairs perfectly with the broccoli and cheddar and pulls everything together. If you don’t have a whole grain mustard on hand, a Dijon-style mustard is 100% fine to swap.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe

Troubleshooting: How Do You Keep Broccoli a Vibrant Green?

Broccoli (and your broccoli soup) can turn a sad, dull, unappetizing green color when over cooked. For this soup you’ll cook it until bright and tender. Keep an eye on things is my advice on this front.

Troubleshooting: Why is My Broccoli Cheddar Soup So Grainy?

One of the most common problems cooks run into when they make broccoli cheddar soup is a gritty or grainy texture. Your soup may become grainy if the cheese or dairy curdles. With a recipe like the one that follow you shouldn’t have trouble because the cheese is added as a finishing component, off heat. But to avoid “breaking” the dairy while reheating (or with other dairy-rich soups), take it low and slow. Heating the pot over medium-low and avoiding a boil.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe

Broccoli Cheddar Soup: Topping Ideas

Aside from the croutons, this soup likes crusty, toasted walnut bread, or olive bread. It likes a good sheep feta in place of cheddar if that’s what you happen to have on hand, or a kiss of harissa whisked into a bit of olive oil. I know people like to pair broccoli with blue cheese. Personally, I find that to be over-powering, but if you really love blue cheese, it might be another direction to explore. A finishing drizzle of chile oil or a citrus olive oil is always welcome. If you have any other ideas, let me hear them – I make this soup often enough that I need fresh angles to work!

What to serve with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I don’t think you need much more than big shards of the mustard croutons included in the recipe, no bread bowl needed. Lol. That said,  but you can certainly take other approaches or layer up! A poached egg would be a way to make a meal of things. Or a simple quesadilla, grilled cheese or egg salad sandwich on the side. Or, something like this TLT. 

More Broccoli Recipes & Ideas

Poke around the archives for more broccoli recipes and inspiration. There are a lot of great recipes from past years worth revisiting. I love a broccoli-centric version of this vegetable stir-fry, this double broccoli quinoa, this orzo super salad, and this is another broccoli soup with coconut milk is another favorite.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe

More Creamy Soups

There are also a bunch of simple, creamy, blended soups in the archives! Or browse all the soups.

 

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Limoncello Macaroons

These limoncello macaroon cookies are golden-crusted, powder-coated, almond-citrus gems spiked with limoncello liqueur.

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I packed a number of things for last weekend’s getaway to Mendocino. One pair of flip-flops, one book, a stack of magazines, a bottle of bubbles, ten rolls of film, three cameras, a tripod and a bag of limoncello macaroons. I bookmarked these Pinched Orange Macaroons a while back, and when my sister gave me a bottle of limoncello (made from lemons in her yard), I decided to do a twist on Patrick Lemble’s cookies using the homemade citrus liqueur and zest. I thought they’d be a nice little treat for the cabin.

Close-up of Limoncello Macaroons on Baking Sheet
The cookies are made primarily from almond paste and they bake into golden-crusted, powder-coated, almond-citrus gems. A tad messy to make, but well worth it. They’ve become one of my all-time favorite little cookies.

Perfect Place for Macaroon Treats - Cabin in Mendocino Woods

Before we dive into the minutiae of macaroon cookie making, I thought I’d share a few photos. For those of you who have missed previous mentions of the cabin, it is waaay off the grid, and a bit rustic – in the very best way possible. I like to sit on the porch and do a whole lot of nothing. We played board games and cards, cracked jokes, and talked a lot about the mountain lion that has been spotted at the cabin over the past few months.
Limoncello Macaroon Recipe

The mountain lion seemed like an abstract concept to me. Abstract in the way that I know there are bears around when I go camping, but I don’t really think about it much because they don’t bother me. There’s a difference here. This mountain lion has apparently killed a couple goats in the area. And then, there’s that photo up above. Lori & Lisa’s cousin rode down the driveway on his quad one afternoon to show us. He’d rigged a motion capture camera near his cabin, just up the road a bit, and apparently the camera captured that frame. It’s hard to tell from my picture, but I assure you, that cat is large.
Limoncello Macaroon Recipe
So, for the most part we stuck around the cabin. Or traveled in a pack when we were out and about. On the food front, Lori made an amazing grilled eggplant, arugula, and mozzarella salad as part of our dinner Saturday night, and if she posts it or publishes it at some point, I’ll be sure to link to it and give you all the heads up. Strong, garlicky, and good. She makes a mean panzanella as well.

Limoncello Macaroon Recipe

As far as the limoncello macaroons are concerned, let me say a few things. First off, they travel quite well. And while they seemed to be at their absolute peak roughly thirty minutes after baking, I placed the cooled cookies in a sealed plastic bag, and they were delicious for days. There wasn’t as much textural difference between the outside crust and the super-moist middle after being bagged, but they were still 90% as good. They’re perfect for a holiday cookie assortment.

Limoncello Macaroon Recipe
They’re also made from one of the simplest batters imaginable. I made one batch following Patrick’s original technique, then took a shortcut with the second batch which you’ll see reflected in my version of the recipe below. In short, I found I didn’t really need to do an egg wash/powder. I found the dough was quite moist. I threw a good amount of powdered sugar down on the counter top and shaped the cookies from there. They had a nice powdered sugar coating without the extra step. If you find you’re not getting enough of a powdered sugar coating before baking, give each ball of dough a light brushing of egg white and a quick roll in more powdered sugar.
Limoncello Macaroons on A Baking Sheet
If you’re still on the hunt for more treats, here’s where you can find all the cookie recipes. I’ll forever love classic shortbread cookies, I’d argue these are the best ginger cookies and please, please give these snickerdoodles a go. They’re kissed with saffron and vanilla, really something special.

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The Spicy Coconut Milk Dressing I Love on Everything Lately

This spicy coconut milk dressing is wildly delicious on so many things – tacos, noodles, grilled vegetables, and salads. Make a jar and keep it on hand for quick meals.

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We spent the past week on the west shore of Lake Tahoe not far from where my family would stay each summer when I was young. The cabins along the lake are larger now, the water low. Teens fling themselves from piers into the clear, icy, waist-deep water. When the sky is cloudless, it’s the bluest place imaginable. The first thing I made once we were settled into our camp was a spicy coconut dressing (sauce?) that would go on *everything* throughout the week. It’s a variation on other spicy coconut milk dressings I’ve made in the past, but this version has a lot going on with grilled peppers and minced onions. You can see how I used it here, tossed with rice flake noodles, grilled tofu and whatever needed to be used up in the cooler – roasted tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon.
Spicy Coconut Milk Dressing Over Rice Noodles on a Plate
Here’s a view of the lake. Amazing blue overload. It never gets old.
Picnic Views of Lake Tahoe
The key to this dressing is blistering chiles before chopping and adding them to the rest of the ingredients. It takes the flavor from bright and green to something deeper and less sharp – still spicy though. You can see serrano chiles and Padron peppers below in a wide skillet. I really like to try to get color on all sides if possible.
Spicy Coconut Milk Dressing Over Rice Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes and Herbs
The super-creamy coconut base of this dressing is seasoned with lemon juice and spiked with spicy, blistered chiles. Next, more depth and dimension are added, coming from chopping lots of scallions and onions into juicy oblivion and stirring them in.
Ingredients Arrange in a White Bowl

Spicy Coconut Milk Dressing: What It’s Good On

So, let’s free-style about all the ways to use it. This recipe makes a good amount of dressing. You can use it as a finishing touch on tacos. It’s perfect tossed with just about any noodle or pasta. It’s a game-changer the next time you make potato salad dressing – use the potatoes plus this dressing and build from there. Bonus points if the potatoes are grilled or cooked in a fire. I love the spicy coconut drizzled over corn and grilled vegetables. And it’s great on a structured salad. Last night I put a few dollops in a classic red pasta sauce for a bit of je ne sais quoi and didn’t regret it one bit.

A Jar of Spicy Coconut Milk Dressing

Ingredient: Vegan Fish Sauce

For the salty component in this dressing I call for vegan fish sauce. I’ve been making a homemade version of it lately, using a recipe from Andrea Nguyen’s forthcoming Ever-Green Vietnamese cookbook. I’ve made other versions in the past, but her recipe is the best vegan fish sauce I’ve made. Now 100% my go-to. When the book is out you should absolutely give the recipe a try. In the meantime, there are some good vegan and vegetarian fish sauces available for purchase, including this Ocean’s Halo vegan fish sauce. Or, if you want to make the dressing pronto, swap in soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos for the fish sauce, if that is what you have on hand. Just add it as the last ingredient in the dressing, and add it to taste.
Close up of Platter of Rice Noodles and Tofu
Let me know if you give this dressing a try. Even better, let me know what you use it on! 
If you’re looking for more salad inspiration, here’s where you can browse all the salad recipes. I’m going to use this dressing on this this favorite heirloom apple salad this Fall. Or on this Grilled Wedge Salad as we wind down grilling season.

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Grilled Pizza

How to make grilled pizza and everything you need to know to get it right – with topping ideas!

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When you pair a hot grill with great pizza dough plus a handful of seasonal toppings, your meal game is going to be next level. Grilled pizza season is on and this post covers everything you need to know to about how to get it right.
Grilled Pizza topped with Corn, Chiles, and Mozzarella”   border=

How to Grill Pizza: The Basics

To grill great pizza start with a hot grill that has been cleaned well with a brush. Also key, it helps to be organized. Have your pizza dough, pizza sauce and all toppings ready. Like, right next to the grill. Once you slide your pizza dough onto the grill, the next steps come in rapid succession. This means, whether you’re ready or not. Brush one side of the pizza dough with olive oil and cook that side first, flip it, brush the grilled side with sauce and toppings. Then finish cooking. If you’re a bit on the slow side arranging toppings, you’ll want to pull the pizza off the grill for this step. This helps to avoid the potential for burning. Return the topped pizza to the grill for final cooking. Happens in a flash!

Grilled Pizza topped with Kale, Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella” border=

General Grilled Pizza Tips

  • Start with a good pizza dough foundation. This is my go-to homemade pizza dough, and it works well on the grill.
  • Similar to baking pizza in an oven, you want to achieve medium-high to high heat here. Pre-heat the grill as long as possible and check the temperature before starting the pizza. I aim for 450-500F-ish. You can go hotter if you’re baking your pizza on an upper grill rack, but run the risk of scorchy (burnt) grill marks if it’s in a more direct spot. If you’re using a pizza stone, ignore this and get your grill hot hot hot.
  • Pizza on the grill differs from baking pizza in the oven in that with grilled pizza you generally flip the dough once before adding toppings.
  • Consider pre-cooking any veggies or other toppings if needed. They won’t have much time to cook on the grill. Arrange each in an individual bowl along with the rest of your toppings bar.  
  • Use a bit of olive oil on the pizza dough to prevent the first side from sticking to the grill.

Close-up photo of a white pizza topped with corn, chiles, and mozzarella” border=

Grilled Pizza: The Dough

Start with the right dough: As I mentioned up above, you need to start with a pizza dough that is on your team. I love this pizza dough. It’s the one you see in the pictures here. You can read all about why I like it, in short: the flavor is great, it’s easy to work with, you don’t need a mixer, and there is no need to proof the yeast you’re using. Great in an oven or on a grill. It’s super flex and adaptable. Alternately, you can experiment with doughs purchased from local pizza spots or stores.

Grill Temperature

Temperature: This is the second pillar after good dough. Controlling the grill temperature is key to your success – and, I’ll be honest, there can be a bit of a leaning curve. If you’re having trouble with pizza dough sticking to the grill, dial up the heat. And when using a gas grill, the lid is your friend. Use the lid to control the heat, and to get the hot air circulating all the way around the dough. If you need your toppings to cook/melt more quickly – slap the lid on for a bit. Keep in mind, you have to be particularly vigilant with pizzas you’ve pulled parchment thin – they’ll burn through in a flash. If you’re worried about burning pizzas, you can move them to the upper rack if your grill has one.

Broadly speaking, whatever type of outdoor oven/grill I’m using I obsessively check the bottom and top of the dough and let it tell me what it needs – more time, more heat, a flip, etc. If you have a grill with dual burners, or a way to set up a hot zone, and a not-so-hot zone, moving the dough around can also be helpful.

Grilled pizza dough arranged on sheets of parchment paper before baking” border=

The Parchment Technique

When grilling pizzas this is the approach I like. First, pull the dough out and shape it on a sheet of parchment paper that has been spritzed with a bit of olive oil. Unlike oven-baked pizza you skip the flour here. You can then gently flip the dough onto the grill with the parchment providing a nice amount of structure (see below). Peel the parchment paper away and proceed.

Placing dough on hot grill

Do you need a Pizza Stone to Grill Pizza?

If you have and use a pizza stone in your oven, you can use it on the grill. That said, you don’t need a pizza stone to grill pizza.

Pizza toppings arranged on a baking sheet

Best Toppings for Grilled Pizza

This is the fun part. The rule of thumb here is to use toppings that really sing after a just a couple minutes on the grill. This means you might want to pre-cook (or pre-grill) any toppings that would take longer than that. Use flavor-packed, fast cooking ingredients that have a tendency to melt (or cook) quickly for your toppings. Don’t go overboard, thoughtfully curate each pizza so the flavors of each ingredient have room to speak. Some favorites include:

  • Vegetables: corn, thin asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes, peas, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, olives, fava beans, citrus zests, grilled artichoke hearts, sautéed thinly sliced potatoes.
  • Cheeses: ricotta, fresh mozzarella, gruyere, feta, freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino
  • Finishing touches: lemon olive oil, tangerine olive oil, makrut lime oil, chives and chive flowers, hot honey
  • Herbs: a sprinkle of fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, fresh basil, minced chives, lemon verbena

Spreading tomato sauce on pizza dough” border=

  • Topping Combinations:
    – tomato sauce, mozzarella, crushed kale chips, lemon oil (pictured)
    – mozzarella, roasted corn, pickled serrano chiles, chive flowers, pine nuts (pictured)
    – caramelized fennel & olives
    – spinach/pea & ricotta pesto, potatoes & smoke chile sauce
    – tomato & roasted red peppers with goat cheese
    – a while back I also compiled this page of A+ grilled pizza topping ideas
    – And, here’s a page where I’ve listed a lot of recent favorite pizza combinations

Pizza dough on grill prior to adding toppings” border=

Thick or Thin Pizzas?

Play around with how thick or thin you pull your pizza dough. You’ll get widely varying results. As far as the thick or thin debate goes, I tend to lean into thin. That being said, leaving the dough a bit thicker yields a pizza with a different personality, still delicious – try both to see what you like.

Make-Ahead Crusts

You can pre-grill pizza crusts up to a few hours ahead of time. For example, if you’re feeding a crowd and want to get a bit of a jump start. Lightly grill both sides and then allow to cool on a rack. The key is to go light, knowing they will be going back on the grill later. When you’re ready for prime time, sauce and top each pizza and do the final grilling.

If you’ve never tried this, give it a go! It’s fun to set up for a small crowd because everyone can take a turn making their own custom pizza. Let me know your favorite topping combos in the comments.

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Compound Butters – Adding Things to Butter to Make it Extra Awesome

Compound butters are a lazy cook’s secret weapon. They’re a way to add intense flavor to preparations without a whole lot of extra effort. I’ve included a list of favorites here.

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I thought we could do a dive into compound butters today. Compound butters are a lazy cook’s secret weapon. They’re a way to add intense flavor to preparations without a whole lot of extra effort. They also freeze really well, earning them bonus points as far as I’m concerned. Thaw, stir, and you’ve got a powerful flavor accent at your disposal. To make a compound butter you incorporate ingredients into a butter base. As much as I love good butter, I also can’t help but constantly ask myself – what can I add to this butter to make it extra awesome? I’ve included a few recent favorites here, and I’ll also mention a few things to think about for when you set out to try out your own ideas.
An assortment of compound butters on a counter

Compound Butter Ideas & Variations

The range of possible compound butters is limited only by your imagination. Here are a few past favorites to get you thinking, but please think of them as jumping off points! Have fun and experiment.
Roasted Strawberry Ginger Compound Butter in a small bowl
Roasted Strawberry Ginger Compound Butter

Roasted Strawberry Ginger Compound Butter:
Let’s kick things off with a sweet compound butter. I make it on occasion during strawberry season using strawberries I’ve roasted and cooled. Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Transfer to a bowl and old in 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, 3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, 15 chopped candied pecans, and a couple teaspoons of runny honey. Stir until everything comes together and then loosely fold in about 1/4 cup roasted strawberries. Great with: brunch.

Lemon Miso Bowl in a small serving bowl
Lemon Miso Compound Butter

Lemon Miso Compound Butter
:
Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in 1 tablespoon miso, zest of one lemon (or yuzu), 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Taste and adjust if needed. Fold in 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. Great on: brown rice bowls, roasted delicate squash, sautéed vegetables, baked potatoes, roasted tomatoes.

Saffron Date Compound Butter in a small serving bowl
Saffron Date Compound Butter

Saffron Date Compound Butter:
Add 1 pinch of saffron threads in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, allow to sit for five minutes. Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt. Add the saffron-almond extract mixture, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl regularly. Pulse in five plump dates, leaving them a bit chunky. Great on: hot oatmeal, flatbreads, sautéed greens.

Garlic Green Olive Compound Butter in a Small Serving Bowl
Green Garlic Olive Compound Butter

Garlic Green Olive Compound Butter:
Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in 1 large clove of peeled garlic, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Start with 1/8 teaspoon, but add more if you like. Pulse in a dozen plump green olives that you have pitted, rinsed, and dried in a clean towel. I like to squeeze the olives between my palms to rid them of as much olive water as possible before pulsing them in. Great on: pasta, polenta, a wide range of vegetables, it’s easy magic.

callion Dill Compound Butter in a small serving bowlScallion Dill Compound Butter

Scallion Dill Compound Butter:
Use a food processor to whip 1 stick (4 oz.) of room temperature unsalted butter until fluffy. Pulse in a scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, a large clove of garlic (or 1 head of trimmed green garlic), 2 scallions, and a handful of fresh dill you’ve de-stemmed. Pulse well here, until everything blends together into a vibrant, electric green butter. Great on: just about everything – grilled asparagus, to finish sautéed mushrooms, perfect on corn later in the year, or cornbread. Also, biscuits, polenta, rice bowls, potatoes, egg salad. It’s incredibly versatile.
An assortment of compound butters on a counter

More Compound Butter Recipes!

Dry Desert Lime Compound Butter: I’ve been playing around quite a bit lately using tea as a seasoning. Many times I’ll grind up tea leaves in a mortar and pestle and use it the way you might use a pepper. The fragrance that comes off the ground leaves is wonderful and brings an unexpected element to many preparations. Depending on the tea I am using this can range from smoky to floral to fresh and bright. In this case I choose a dried lime tisane (or herbal tea) instead. There is something haunting, vibrant and ancient in the taste of dried lime and I thought it might lend itself nicely to a compound butter for use on a range of foods like: sweet potatoes (mashed/roasted), grilled corn, or as a spread on sandwiches, etc. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 or 2 Numi Desert Lime tea bags (depending on how strong you want it), cut open and the contents ground in a mortar and pestle 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt. Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Freeze-Dried Strawberry Compound Butter: Freeze-dried fruit is quite common now. You can get strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pineapple. Crush and chop these strawberries, whip them into butter and you get a textured, color-flecked spread perfect for pancakes, toast, muffins and the like. The strawberries are on the very tart side of sweet so I sweetened this one up with a bit of sugar – I used Florida Crystals because I didn’t want a browner sugar to impact its bright color. To make:  4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar, 1/3 cup dehydrated organic strawberries, minced. Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Raw Serrano Compound Butter: This one is for the cornbreads of the world. It has a little heat and a lot of flavor. I used 2 medium serrano chiles, but you can scale up or down on the chile scale depending on your tastes. A pretty pale green butter flecked with dark green freckles I’m also love it on crepes, and grilled corn, and to toss fresh summer shell beans, and for pasta. I think a great variation on this one would be to add roasted garlic and pan-toast the chiles before blending them in. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 2 serrano chiles, deveined and seeded, loosely chopped plus 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt. Combine in a small bowl and puree with a hand blender until the chiles are fully incorporated. Refrigerate.

Smoked Paprika Compound Butter: Fragrant, delicious, and a stunning rusty-orange color a little of this butter goes the distance. It will lend itself nicely to brown rice, certain kabobs, sandwiches, corn soup, toasted artisan breads, and zucchini muffins. To make: 4 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, room temperature 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika plus 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt Combine in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Let me know if you come up with any special butters we should know about. Keep in mind, compound butters are a great way to use up smaller quantities of herbs, spices, the odd clove of garlic, the bottom of the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, or capers. Melted, many are great on your favorite pancakes or homemade popcorn. They also freeze really well. I recommend freezing in small quantities, so you can easily pull just enough for a couple of days use. One other tip – concentrated ingredients with little moisture work best. For example, roasted strawberries versus fresh strawberries. Orange zest versus orange segments. Have fun! -h

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Summer Corn Salad

A crunchy, sweet no-cook summer corn salad. The salad is a breeze, has a ton of toasted pepitas & sunflower seeds, tossed with a brown sugar lemonade vinaigrette.

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Summer is corn salad season. And this is a good one. I lugged a big sack of corn home from the market the other day thinking I would throw together a picnic salad to take on a hike out to the coast. The plan was to use raw corn kernels along with a vinaigrette I’ve been on hooked lately. If you can imagine a lemonade vinaigrette made with a bit of brown sugar, you’d be in the ballpark. The tart-sweet lemon dressing goes great with corn. Beyond that, the salad gets tossed with a ton of toasted seeds for crunch, and a generous showering of Mexican oregano to bring things back to Earth.
Summer Corn Salad on a Platter

Summer Corn Salad: The Key Ingredients

  • Corn: The key here is buying great corn. The sweeter the better. This corn salad has just a handful of ingredients, and the corn is the all-star. You’re not grilling it (although you could), and you’re not cooking it, so there’s really no where to hide if your corn is starchy. White corn or yellow corn is fine here. 
  • Oregano: I call for dried Mexican oregano, but whatever you have on hand (within reason) is fine. That said, if all you have is dusty, neglected oregano, consider using whatever other fresh herbs you might have.

Close-up of Yellow Corn on the Cob

Variations

Yes! You can absolutely do a grilled version of this salad if you like. It’s equally good, although I do make a couple little tweaks. After grilling your corn allow it to cool enough to handle, then shave the kernels from each ear. I like to add some minced serrano peppers to the grilled version on this salad for a little kick. Like the tiniest flecks. Really chop the chile(s) small and then season the salad to taste with those.

Seed Mixture for Summer Corn Salad

One More Corn Salad – Cooked + Coconut

If one corn salad isn’t enough this summer, or if you’re looking to switch it up a bit. This is another of my all-time favorite corn salad recipes. It uses a skillet approach and five ears of corn shaved in quick fashion, then sautéed in a bit of butter or olive oil. I trick it out with thyme, red onions, toasted almonds and coconut. Simple. Delicious. or if you’re on the the quest for salad inspiration in general, here’s where you can browse all the salad recipes

Summer Corn Salad on a Platter with a Serving Spoon

I hope you enjoy the corn salad if you try it. It’s a breeze to throw together, and it travels well in an over-sized jar. You can toss the corn and shallots ahead of time, just leave enough room to throw the seeds and oregano in just before serving/eating. Enjoy & happy summer! -h

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Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

From The Miller’s Daughter cookbook, these chocolate-flecked cookies are made with chickpea flour, tahini, and brown sugar for a brilliant twist on peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. The texture is crisp at the edges and soft-centered with oozy puddles of chocolate throughout.

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When a cookbook author uses a headnote to tell you to bookmark a page, I’ve learned to do it. That’s exactly how I found myself baking these brilliant Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies. Emma Zimmerman enthusiastically included the recipe in her new cookbook, The Miller’s Daughter: Unusual Flours & Heritage Grains: Stories and Recipes from Hayden Flour Mills. The cookies are made with chickpea flour, tahini, and brown sugar for a brilliant twist on peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. The texture is crisp at the edges and soft-centered with oozy puddles of chocolate throughout.
Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies on a Baking Sheet

The Miller’s Daughter

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Emma’s new book before it was released. Emma and her father run Hayden Flour Mills on the outskirts of rural Phoenix, Arizona where they champion rare, near-extinct heritage flours and ancient grains. If you’ve only ever baked with all-purpose white flour, exploring the world of grains and flours like the ones Emma and her father grow and mill can be a complete game-changer. Creatively, it opens up a world of flavor and depth. Environmentally, growing these grains improves crop diversification and reduces mono crops. And, eating a diverse range of grains and pulses helps to keep your microbiome happy. So, big wins on many fronts.

The Miller’s Daughter cookbook has chapters on: White Sonora, Heritage Bread Wheat, Farro, Barley, Einkorn, Corn, Durum, Chickpeas, Oats, and Rye.
The Miller's Daughter Cookbook
We were heading east last month with the Airstream and my hope was that maybe we could visit Emma and the mill as we would be in the general vicinity of Phoenix. But the winds were SO BAD the whole time we were towing that we had to drive extra early in the mornings when the winds were calm and stayed parked as much as possible aside from that. It made “winging-it” with our schedule difficult. And although I didn’t get to congratulate Emma in person, she was kind enough to send me the book which arrived shortly after we got home. If you love baking and cooking with unusual flours, whole grains, and the like as much as I do, I suspect you’ll love this book. The story of how their mill came to be is an inspiration for anyone thinking about starting a passion-driven business in the food space. Also, Emma’s dress game is exceptionally strong.
Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies on a Marble Counter with Drinking Glass and White Plate

Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies sit in the chickpea chapter, and rival some of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve had. They’re sophisticated on the flavor front, and when baked to golden-edged perfection, the texture is a journey in itself. You get a bit of snap at the edges once the cookies have cooled, and dense chewiness as you work toward the center of the cookie. If you love a good chocolate chip cookie, I have to second Emma’s sentiment and encourage you to give these a go.
Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies on a Parchment-lined Baking Sheet

A Couple Tips

  • Chocolate: Use a good dark chocolate chip here, or chunks. I used Guittard 63% extra dark chocolate baking chips, and they were just right. I don’t love “perfect” chips in my cookies, so I gave them a quick chop before folding into the batter. Bingo.
  • Freezing: These cookies freeze well. So, if you end up wanting to bake a bunch and save some for later just set them out on a counter to come back up to room temperature. They also bake beautifully from frozen dough, just tack on a few extra minutes to your baking time.
  • Size: Emma bakes these bite-sized, using 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie. After a few batches, I’ve landed on 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie as my preferred size for this recipe. It’s the size of my favorite cookie scoop, and gives me the texture I like in a cookie like this. Play around & experiment!

Cookie Ingredients Arranged on Counter

Links and Inspiration

If you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas of how to explore these amazing flours and grains, here are a few links to point you in the right direction.

Freshly Baked Cookies on a Plate

Please let me know if you make these! Or if you try any other recipes from Emma’s book. The next recipe I’m going to make is the Saffron Strawberry Galette with Messy Rye Crust, and then I plan to jump into a few of the savory recipes. If you’re looking for more after baking these, here’s where all the cookie recipes live. Happy baking!

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