Zucchini Soup

A simple and delicious zucchini soup made with potatoes, sautéed onions, and bolstered with spinach. Add a bit of chopped chile for heat if you like. It’s light and healthful, and at the same time creamy textured and plenty tasty.

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This is a straight-forward zucchini soup with a couple twists and tricks to make it ever-so-slightly special and unique. You might not think that a soup with zucchini as the primary ingredient would be worth cooking, but this soup attempts to win you over!
zucchini soup in a bowl with a spoon and toppings

Zucchini Soup: The Inspiration

The inspiration for this soup is simple: peak summer paired with too much zucchini. One option is to use it in a soup. But pale, watery zucchini flesh is a bit sad, and not much to look at. No worries, we have a plan. The potatoes in this recipe provide a good amount of body. And to boost the color and visual appeal, fresh spinach is the secret weapon. By giving spinach a supporting role a vibrant cilantro-flecked zucchini soup in an eye-popping shade of green is created. With a nicely boosted nutritional profile as a bonus.
zucchini soup in a bowl with a spoon and toppings

Creamy without Cream

The goal here is a smooth, pureed soup. I wanted a creamy consistency without relying on copious amounts of heavy cream. I ended up using potato in the soup base which gives the soup a bit of heft and thickness, something people often mistake for a fully cream-based soup. You could finish this soup lwith a tiny splash of cream, or a dollop of creme fraiche, but quite honestly it’s not necessary. Delicious either way!

Week-night Friendly

This soup is great if you like to meal-prep. The bulk of the time commitment here is in the chopping. Beyond that the soup only takes about 15 minutes to make once the ingredients start hitting the pot. It’s a great make-ahead option and keeps well in a jar, refrigerated, for 4-5 days.

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Berry Pie

When you have an abundance of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or huckleberries, this is the berry pie to make. It’s classic, with a juicy, sugar-kissed, mixed berry filling. Pair it with a flaky, all-butter crust and you have the ideal berry pie on your hands.

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A good berry pie is one of those baking skills to conquer first. I love this berry pie for its simplicity, but there are some details to fixate on to make it extra special.
berry pie with a lattice top in a pie plate

Why I love This Pie:

A great berry pie is classic, and there are two components to get right: the crust, and the filling. The filling for this pie is sweet enough to accent the flavors in good fruit, but not so sweet the fruit is overpowered. I’m encouraging you to make your own homemade pie crust here. It’s a complete game changer, and absolutely doable! A structured, golden, all-butter crust is the ideal contrast to a jammy, unstructured fruit pie filling like this one. I sprinkle the top pie crust with big grains of sugar just before baking to add a layer of crunch and sweetness. A detail that really takes the whole thing over the top.
berry pie filling in a mixing bowl with spoon

What Kind of Berries are Best for Berry Pie?

You have latitude when it comes to choosing berries for berry pie. Use whatever great tasting berries you have on hand. It’s okay if they’re not “perfect” as long as the flavor is good. My rare (but absolute favorite) berry pie version is made entirely with wild huckleberries. Raspberries plus huckleberries is a winning combo. And the pie pictured here is a blend of (roughly) equal parts blueberries and blackberries. The formula is to use 2 pounds of berries total. Pick through the berries to remove any stems or molded berries.

Can I Use Frozen Berries?

Yes, you can use fruit that has been frozen in pies. Thaw to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Berry Pie: Pro-tips

Here are a few pro-tips for this pie.

  • Glass pie dish: Number one tip, but don’t let this hold you back from baking a pie today. If you love pie, eventually you’re going to want to score a glass pie dish. It allows you to see the base of your pie take on color as it is baking. It’s a helpful confidence builder as you’re dialing in your pie baking skills.
  • Work with confidence: People are often intimidate by pie baking. I’m here to tell you that even when it is bad it is good. Just keep moving forward when you’re making a pie. Don’t give up. If you’re fighting the crust, take a minute, put it back in the refrigerator to cool, regroup, then try again.
    crimping the edges of a berry pie crust with thumb and fingers
  • Fully Bake Your Pie: An underbaked pie will cause a number of problems including a doughy, unstructured crust, and undeveloped filling. If using a glass baking dish, look for the pie bottom to get golden brown and toasted color. The top should be similar. You can see that I love a deeply golden and rustic crust, and can sometimes push it a bit too far, but you get the idea! Go super toasty and golden, pale flour is no good here.

berry pie with a lattice top in a pie plate

Berry Pie: Variations

My goal here is to deliver the kind of berry pie recipe that becomes a staple in your baking repertoire – delicious, reliable, and thick with bubbling berry juices. You’ll find the base recipe down below, but here are a few little tweaks I’ve noted in my notebooks over the years.

  • Rye Crust: Use this all-butter flaky pie crust, but swap in 25% dark rye flour. You’ll end up with a gorgeous, rustic crust that works brilliantly in combination with berries.
  • Lemon Zest Crust: Grate the zest of a lemon or two into your flour and butter as you’re making your pie crust. I don’t always have time for these little touches when making a pie, but love a little wink of lemon to level up just about any pie crust.
  • Rose Geranium Sugar: A bit of a wildcard suggestion here, but I happen to have a vigorous rose geranium plant on my patio, and it pairs incredibly well with berries. The night before making your pie filling use your hands to work a few fragrant rose geranium leaves into the sugar. Kind of smash and smear it, seal it in a jar overnight, and remove the leaves before making the filling with the scented sugar the next day.
  • Herb & Spice Rye Berry Pie: A version of pie I had on the site for a long time (before this update!) used the rye crust suggested above, and 2 sprigs of thyme leaves plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in the filling.

pie crust being rolled out with wood rolling pin

To Make a Lattice Pie Crust

You don’t have to make a latticed top for this pie, but you can if you like. Here’s how:pie crust dough cut into strips to make a lattice crust
Step one: Roll the pie dough top crust out into a 12 x 12  shape and cut into 1-inch thick strips (pictured above). Go for more of a square shape if possible.
pie crust dough strips being woven into a lattice pie crust
Step two: Arrange 6-7 strips horizontally on a piece of parchment paper. Then, starting in the middle, working quickly with a single strip, make your strips look like this. (above) Under two, over two, under two, at 45 degree angle.
complete lattice pie crust top ready to be placed on pie before baking
Step three: Grab another single strip and do the opposite next door. So – over two, under two, over two. Keep going working outward, alternating. When you’ve used all your strips transfer the crust to the refrigerator for 5 minutes or so to set a bit. You’ll be able to slide it off the parchment paper into place on the pie. Trim just beyond the edge of the pie dish, crimp or seal, and proceed with the recipe.

berry pie after baking

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Lemon Gigante Beans

If you’ve never cooked with giant beans, now is the time. In this dish baby fennel, plump Greek gigante beans, and sliced lemon tangle with a honey-kissed white wine sauce, all finished with a shower of chopped dill. A perfect side.

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This is baby fennel, giant beans (Greek gigante beans), sliced lemon, a honey-kissed, in-pan, white wine sauce, all finished with a shower of chopped dill. If any of you are in a side-dish rut, I’m going to lobby for trying this. It’s fast, it’s good, and as a base idea, it’s flexible. You can make the beans as instructed below, or use the recipe as a jumping off point.
gigante beans cooked with fennel and herbs in a serving dish

Lemon Gigante Beans: Variations

There are a lot of ways to tweak this recipe idea. There are also a bunch of great suggestions down in the comments as well!

  • When made in an oven-proof skillet, top it with feta, chopped olives, and breadcrumbs, and bake into a crunchy-topped gratin.
  • Add a poached egg on top of each serving to make a complete one bowl meal.
  • Add a few cups of water (or herby broth), season well, and you have a bright, substantial stew.

Giant Beans: Favorite Sources

Greek gigante beans can be challenging to source in local stores. I tend to stock up ( with a few bags) when finding them, or order, in bulk, on line.

  • Arosis Gigante Beans: Keep an eye out for the organic version of these as well.
  • Rancho Gordo Royal Corona Beans: These are a fantastic substitute for Greek gigandes. Comparable in size, they’re often a bit creamier.

cooked gigante beans in a serving dish on a table

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Salt and Pepper Tofu

A special ingredient in the coating of this salt and pepper tofu is what makes it extra good. You’re going to want to have it over cold noodles, salads, or as a straight-up snack.

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This salt and pepper tofu is something you can use as a component in all sorts of meals. It’s great in salads, tossed with noodles, or served over grain bowls. Bonus: it’s simple to prepare, here’s how. Toss crumbled, extra-firm tofu with seasoned nutritional yeast to create a nice coating. Then pan-fry until deeply golden. You can enjoy it hot, but a long cool-down in the refrigerator really dials in the texture and flavor. There are a lot of Chinese-inspired salt and pepper tofu recipes out there. Just know, this is not that. This is something different – more like a tasty health store hippie tofu, or a delicious tofu-based chicken alternative. Can’t get enough of it over here.
salt and pepper tofu in a bowl

Salt and Pepper Tofu: Tips & Tricks

There are a few things to pay attention if you want the best results for this recipe:

  • Tofu: Seek out extra-firm tofu. You’re going to freeze it overnight, or for at least 5 hours, so plan ahead. After thawing you press as much liquid as possible from the tofu. This is going to be the key to getting the dense, substantial texture in the end.
  • Black Pepper:  Black pepper steps up in this recipe, so it’s worth it to use the good stuff. The difference between old, dusty, pre-ground black pepper, and good, well-sourced freshly ground peppercorns is WILD. If you’re not excited about black pepper, it’s time to turn things around. I really love Yupanqui Black Imperial peppercorns from Ecuador, and consequently go through a lot of it. But there are many, many other amazing, interesting black peppers to explore as well:  Diaspora, SOS Chefs, Burlap & Barrel. And if you’re ready to geek out on the pepper front even more, Andrea Nguyen wrote about Vietnamese peppercorns here.

salt and pepper tofu in a large bowl with salad ingredients like ramen noodles, shredded lettuce and carrots

Salt and Pepper Tofu: How to Serve It

Salt and pepper tofu is great for snacking. I never make it with that as the intention, but I can’t help but grab a few bites here and there. It is good for a few days, refrigerated, after cooking. Here are a few favorite ways to enjoy it.

  • In Salads: You can see in the photos here, salt and pepper tofu is an ideal salad component. You can serve it on top, or toss it with other ingredients and dressing. Here we had it in a big ol’ lunch salad with just about everything I could grab – shredded red cabbage and carrots, lettuces, pistachios, avocado, toasted ramen noodles, cherry tomatoes, celery, kidney beans, and a spicy sesame dressing. An all kale salad version is also A-plus.
    salt and pepper tofu in a large bowl with salad ingredients like ramen noodles, shredded lettuce and carrots
  • In a bento: As part of my feel-good lunch ideas, this fits right in. Some salt & pepper tofu alongside a tangle of noodles, plus one or two of the salad or veg options on that page is ideal.
  • Rice Bowl: It’s a great rice (or other grain) bowl component. A brown rice base topped with the tofu, some creamy avocado, and some sort of shredded salad, veg, or slaw component is the way to go. Paired with a favorite thin sauce or dressing. Something not far from this rice bowl or this sushi bowl.

salt and pepper tofu in a large bowl with other ingredients

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Niçoise Salad 

Everyone can find ingredients to love In this vegetarian take on Niçoise Salad! Beans and artichokes take the place of tuna (or anchovies) here alongside tender potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and green beans.

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Let’s talk about Niçoise Salad. It’s an arrangement traditionally made with ingredients local to the Provencal city of Nice. Purists often argue that a proper salad Niçoise has a long list of hard nos. No lettuces, no boiled potatoes, green beans are out, avocados (lol), no vinaigrette, and on and on. The list is extensive and if you want a deeper dive into the history, read this. What is allowed? Olive oil-packed anchovies and raw tomatoes, and salt. Many versions have evolved from this including the one I make most.
Nicoise salad on a large serving platter

Nicoise Salad: The Inspiration

In recent years Niçoise salad has become a frequent “go-to” when we have friends or family over. This is because arranged on a platter it is a gorgeous, abundant, queen of a salad. More important, in this modern age, it can accommodate nearly everyone’s dietary preferences. This is no small feat here in Los Angeles and a huge win-win in my book. This version works for vegans and vegetarians, people avoiding dairy, as well as anyone gluten-free. We’re vegetarian, but not every one is. If you want to shift things toward a more traditional Niçoise salad, you can retain the fish component. We all have a friend who is passionate about tinned fish – have them bring a favorite to serve on the side.
ingredients for a Nicoise arranged on a counter including hard-boiled eggs, green beans, potatoes, olives, lettuces

Niçoise Salad Ingredients

  • Beans or lentils: For a vegetarian version (as pictured) replace the traditional fish component – tuna or anchovies – with beans or lentils. You see freshly shelled cranberry beans in the photos here (boiled until tender), but French lentils are another great option. Chickpeas or cannelloni beans also work well.
  • Potatoes: Small, waxy potatoes are ideal here.
  • Lettuces: Some camps embrace lettuces as a component here, others, not so much. I love to include pockets of perfect little gem lettuces. They’re great for scooping and wrapping other ingredients and lend a fresh bolt of green to the whole scene.
  • Tomatoes: Ripe, seasonal, fresh tomatoes are the goal here. If you include cherry tomatoes, halve them. Larger tomatoes? Slice into quarters.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Eggs bring the protein to this salad along with any beans or lentils you might include. I include my favorite way to hard-boil eggs, no grey yolks, bright yellow yolks in the recipe below.
  • String Beans: Tender, green beans (or yellow beans) are a key component. Getting their texture right is the challenge. Build for a flash, until they relax a shade and brighten a bit. Then shock them in cold water.
  • Olives: Niçoise olives are the traditional choice, of course, but if you have other olive varietals on hand, do let that deter you from making Niçoise salad, or Niçoise-ish Salad.
  • Artichokes: If I know I’m going to make a Niçoise salad, I’ll cook a bit skillet of artichoke hearts the night prior. Eat some with dinner, and save some in the refrigerator for the Niçoise the next day. Here’s how to cook artichokes along with some tips because I love them so much. 
  • Vinaigrette: A strong vinaigrette is my preference here, and I include mine in the recipe below. Be sure to make it with good tasting vinegar.
  • Lemons: If you have a grill going, grilled halves of lemon are a nice addition.

ingredients for a Nicoise arranged on a kitchen island including hard-boiled eggs, green beans, potatoes, olives, lettuces
Salad: How To Make Ahead

One of the things to love about Niçoise salad is that many of the components can be made ahead.

  • Vinaigrette: Make the vinaigrette up to 4 days in advance.
  • Artichokes can be cooked a day or two ahead.
  • Potatoes, green beans, and hard-boiled eggs can be boiled a day ahead.
  • Lettuces can be washed and dried a day or two ahead of time.
  • Beans can been cooked from dried up to 2-3 days ahead.

Nicoise salad on a large serving platter
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Peach Salsa

Peach salsa, with its confetti color and big flavor, is a summer favorite. A short ingredient list that allows for early preparation equals perfection on everything from chips to tacos and more.

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Peach salsa at its best is both sweet and acidic. It delivers green chile spiciness that punches through the peaches alongside a lemon undercurrent that perfumes the whole creation. You make peach salsa, preferably by hand, when peaches are perfectly in season, and then use it to improve a long list of summer culinary creations – tacos, quesadillas, a quinoa bowl, or baked potatoes over a campfire. It’s a perfect summer salsa.
peach salsa in a serving bowl

Peach Salsa: The Ingredients

With confetti color and explosive flavor, this seasonal salsa is universally beloved. The ingredient list is short, so sourcing ingredients at their peak is key.

  • Peaches: Seek out sweet, ripe peaches without any soft spots. Alternately, nectarines can be used in this recipe. Peaches or nectarines, they should taste amazing, that’s the goal. Go for flavor first, with an eye toward texture, and take into account the color of the peach or nectarine flash as well. Different varieties range in color from white through deep yellow.
  • Tomatoes: Look for just-picked, ripe tomatoes with vibrant color and great flavor. Use whatever tomatoes are best, it can be a mix! Cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, yellow tomatoes, orange ones, etc.
  • Serrano chiles: Serrano chiles deliver a kick of spicy green flavor in this salsa. It also plays an important roll in balancing out the sweetness of the peaches. Start with one, then add another if you like your salsa a bit spicier. If you have jalapeño on hand instead, use those (to taste), no problem.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary delivers an unexpected earthiness to this salsa. You don’t need much, but it’s worth cutting a few sprigs if you have rosemary in your yard or garden.

ingredients to make peach salsa and a cutting board including peach, tomatoes, chile pepper, lemon

Chop by Hand or Food Processor?

You can either hand chop the ingredients in salsa. Or use a food processor. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

  • Chop by Hand: When making a fresh salsa, like this one, hand chopping each of the ingredients is my preference. The structure and separation between ingredients is retained, and you can control the shape and uniformity of how each ingredients is chopped. It takes a lot longer, but the resulting salsa is arguably better.
  • Use a Food Processor: If you use a food processor to pulse salsa ingredients, your salsa will come together in a flash, a few minutes maximum. It’s a compelling reason to automate the process. But you can end up with a less defined salsa, and a salsa like this peach salsa benefits from being well defined.

To retain the best aspects of each approach, a happy medium might be this: run each ingredient through the food processor individually. You can control the chop of each one, and stir them together at the end before seasoning.

How To Serve Peach Salsa

This salsa is bright and fantastic on many things beyond tacos, quesadilla, and the like. Some ideas:

  • Spoon onto a veggie burger or tofu burger.
  • Serve under or over grilled veggie kebabs.
  • Peach Salsa & Chickpea Salad: Toss with lots of chickpeas (or kidney beans), cucumbers, chopped carrots, etc. and salad for an easy feel-good lunch idea.
  • Accent an omelette along with a bit of sour cream or creme fraiche.
  • Corn Salad: Switch it up from this corn salad to one made with grilled corn tossed with a few big scoops of this peach salsa.
  • Bruschetta – slather grilled bread with a good, soft cheese, and top with peach salsa.
  • Grated Carrot and Peach Salad: Stir this salsa into a bowl of grated carrots. Season and top with lots of toasted sesame for a twist on grated carrot salad. This another thing I would put in the category of feel-good lunch ideas.

Peach Salsa Variations

There are a lot of ways to tweak this recipe. Here are a few ideas I’ve noted over the years.

  • Ginger: add grated fresh ginger to the salsa (to your liking). Start with a couple teaspoons and go from there. Peel the ginger before grating.
  • Lime leaf: Makrut lime leaves are found in many Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese markets in my area. They are also abundant in my yard. I love cooking with lime leaves, and this peach salsa is no exception. Finely sliver 2-3 makrut lime leave and add with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Grilled peaches: Grill the peaches prior to chopping, and add to the rest of the salsa ingredients.
  • Pluots: A favorite stone fruit, pluots are special. Follow the recipe below, swapping in pluots for the peaches called for. It’s the same recipe, using pluots.

peach salsa in a serving bowl on a marble counter

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An Amazing Vegetarian Paella

A much-loved vegetarian paella recipe. And, for this veg-centric, California-inspired take on the Spanish classic, you don’t need a special pan.

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Let’s make paella! You can absolutely do it, and for this veg-centric, California-inspired take on the Spanish classic, you don’t need a special pan. Many paellas feature various meats and seafoods, but vegetarian paella can be a revelation. This version is fully loaded with a rainbow of seasonal vegetables cooked into a saffron and paprika-scented rice based dream.

Once you have the technique down, the adaptations can be endless. Paella is a great way to use up random seasonal vegetables in your crisper, and leftovers are A-plus. And I’m going to tell you how it can be week-night friendly. Really!

Ingredients for Vegetarian Paella

You Don’t Need a Special Paella Pan

If you have a traditional paella pan, great! Use it. That said, don’t let the lack of a special pan foil your paella endeavors. I’ve successfully cooked paella in copper pans (a favorite), as well as stainless steel, and cast iron. Use what you have, the wider the better. I’m including instructions for two different sized pans in the recipe, please reference the head notes.

How to Make Paella Weeknight Friendly

Paella can be a great, realistic go-to weeknight recipe if you do one thing. Keep this sofrito on hand. Have some ready in the refrigerator, keep back up in the freezer. If you have a bit of saffron and paprika around, with some broth, rice, and seasonal vegetables, you’re ready to make paella. And it’s quite simple.

An Amazing Vegetarian Paella Served in Skillet

The Best Rice For Paella

Choosing the right rice for paella is key. Ideally, you want a short-grain, stubby paella rice, something like this, or this. Look for Bomba. Paella rices are celebrated for being able to absorb more water (or broth) than other rices, while maintaining structure. This translates to a paella with definition between grains – no mushy rice. I also love this article about choosing rice for paella with Russ Moore (of Camino in Oakland, CA). He uses a well-rinsed, local, Japanese short-grain varietal, and his paella is beautiful. If you do experiment with non-paella rice varietals, you’ll need to play around a bit and adjust the liquids.

Can I Use Brown Rice?

I’ve tried. I’ve tested 100% brown rice paella, and blends. Here’s the problem. Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook comparatively. So, the way paella comes together is the following. You get all your ingredients in the pan, stir once, and then leave it alone. This is half the battle when it comes to achieving a golden-crusted bottom (desirable!), see below. When you use brown rice, you end up with overcooked vegetables, because you need to cook it so long. My advice? Stick with tradition and use a short-grain paella rice.

The Trick to Achieving Socarrat Magic

Today’s recipe focuses on paella made indoors, in a modern kitchen. That said, many paella are cooked grilled, over open flame. One of the things you hope to achieve in either scenario is socarrat – that golden crusted rice bottom. The skill, of course, coming from just the right amount of toastiness – not too little, not burned. If you’re brave, give your paella a moment or so on a burner, after removing from the oven, to  increase your likelihood of some good socarrat! Takes some practice.

How to Make Vegetarian Paella Awesome

Here’s the deal, you need to load up on seasonal vegetables. Experiment! There are so many ingredients that are fair game here. I like ingredients with a bit of structure, that can handle some cooking time. Asparagus (thicker stem vs. skinny), baby artichokes, summer squash, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, peas, etc.

Paella Verde Variation

A green version of the vegetarian paella you see pictured here is fantastic. Simply stir in 1/4 pound of well chopped spinach or kale with the other vegetables.

Recent paella enthusiasm was inspired by a beautiful paella birthday dinner cooked by my friend Bonni Evensen. You can see pics in my Instagram feed.

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Mushroom Scallops

To make mushroom “scallops” keep your eyes peeled for big mushrooms! So worth it. Slice king oyster mushrooms into scallop-shaped rounds and saute until tender and golden. Toss with a flavor-packed mixture of onions, cherry tomatoes, ginger, garlic, lime and a a special sauce.

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Mushroom “scallops” are simply gigantic mushroom stems sliced into rounds that resemble sea scallops. They’re a great veg option, and anytime I spot heavy-duty king oyster mushrooms with their chunky, bulbous stems, I buy a pound. They’re fantastic grilled, sautéed, and broiled. Today’s recipe is one I jotted down in my recipe notebook a while back and have revisited over (and over!) in the year since.
notebook with mushroom scallops recipe written out in pencil
Here are the details. King oyster mushroom stems are sliced into thick scallop-shaped rounds and sautéed until golden. They’re tossed with a mixture of onions, cherry tomatoes, chiles, ginger, garlic and a good amount of lemon-boosted coco aminos (or soy sauce). The whole situation is fantastic over your favorite noodles, ravioli, rice or other grains – soba noodles are a favorite here.
mushroom scallops on a plate

King Oyster Mushrooms

Beloved for their size and nutty umami flavor when cooked, these mushrooms are wildly fun to experiment with. When you slice a king oyster mushroom stem into thick rounds, you end up with a scallop shape. But don’t waste the caps! The mild, nutty caps are the most tender part, Slice those into thick slabs as well and treat them like the stems. You can cook them in a small splash of oil in a hot pan. You can grill them. You can bake them. They’re wonderful sautéed. I made this version in the pan, but I also like to pre-make the tomato-ginger-garlic component and grill the mushrooms if it’s that kind of a day (or gathering).
ingredients to cook mushroom scallops on a counter including garlic, ginger, onions

Where to Buy King Oyster Mushrooms

I tend to find king oyster mushrooms at local farmers’ markets. There are an increasing number of mushroom growers around it seems. Japanese markets can be a reliable source as well. You might also see them labelled as king trumpet mushrooms. Select your mushrooms carefully, they can be pricey. For this recipe, look for mushrooms with thick, wide stems. They should be firm and free of discoloration. Brush any dirt and debris from them with a mushroom brush or damp towel, and avoid dunking in water to clean.
mushroom scallops cooking in a hot skillet

Mushroom Scallops: Tips & Tricks

First tip: avoid crowding your pan with too many mushrooms. For this recipe, either cook them in two batches, use two pans, or use a griddle. They will shrink down a lot as the mushrooms release moisture. You don’t want steamed, soggy mushrooms. Cook for 5-6 minutes, along with a good sprinkling of salt, on each side or until, they release moisture and turn golden brown. Second tip? Score a shallow grid pattern into the cut sides of your mushrooms. See photo below. This results in better texture, and sauce and minced ingredients are able to get up in there a bit.
raw king trumpet mushrooms before cooking
You can see the grid-scoring in the mushrooms above. You can also see how I like to cut the caps, so nothing goes to waste. They’re not scallop shaped, but if that doesn’t bother you, they’re arguably the best part. Alternately, you can save the caps for another meal.
mushroom scallops on a plate served over rice

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Zucchini Gratin

A decadent, crunchy-topped zucchini gratin made from thinly sliced summer squash, potatoes, oregano pesto, and brown-buttered breadcrumbs. It’s all baked at high-temperature until the squash is tender and the top is crunchy. So good!

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Today’s recipe highlights a decadent, crunchy-topped zucchini gratin. It was inspired by a mountain of summer squash I encountered at the farmers’ market – yellow squash, green zucchini, patty pans, globes, and others. If you’re looking for ways to use up zucchini, you’re in the right place. This gratin recipe features lots it, thinly sliced, with new potatoes, an oregano pesto, and brown-buttered breadcrumbs. It’s all baked at high-temperature until the squash is tender and the top is crunchy. I used a mix of yellow and green zucchini but you can certainly experiment with whatever you have on hand, or whatever your garden might be producing.

zucchini gratin in a baking dish

Zucchini Gratin: The Basics

The main thing to know about this recipe is that it’s wildly adaptable. You can experiment with different cheeses. Play around with the herb component. Although I love oregano, don’t feel tied to the herby sauce I call for here, if you have an alternate sauce or pesto on hand. And if you love a bit more spice, work in some chile pepper paste. If you feel like the recipe if a bit indulgent for a weeknight, dial back the olive oil and butter a bit.

zucchini gratin in a baking dish

Zucchini Gratin: Variations

You’ve cooked and noted a bunch of variations on this recipe in the comments over the years. I wanted to call out a few that jumped out to me in case you’re looking to mix things up a bit.  A number of people recommend making double the sauce for using on the gratin and other things throughout the week.

  • Kate says, ”…used basil and feta, and only had some panko on hand, but it all worked!”
  • Sarah, “…parmesan and goat cheddar in place of gruyere and no potatoes. Yum, will definitely be a belly-filling summer favorite.”
  • Rachel, “…didn’t realize I’d run out of gruyere. I substituted with parmesan and it was great. Also, I didn’t have fresh oregano or parsley and used fresh rosemary instead. This all turned out really well!”
  • Suzanna made a vegan version, “…for those interested in doing a vegan version, I used a vegan soy cheese, the only one I’ve found that actually melts well, called Follow Your Heart (available at Whole Foods). I used 1/2 cup of that, plus 1/4 cup of regular parmesan – but I could have easily used a soy/vegan parmesan instead. Oh, and I used Earth Balance margarine with the breadcrumbs. Wonderful!”
  • Along similar lines, Nori notes, “ I also used a vegan “cheese” recipe from The Voluptuous Vegan instead of the cheese you call for here, which, while I’m sure it made it less creamy, really held it together well.”
  • Heather also skipped the potatoes, “I made this the other night and WOW. I didn’t have any potatoes so I used a red bell pepper and a small onion, I didn’t have any fresh parsley and oregano so I used half a red bell pepper and 8 basil leaves, and I used raw sheep’s milk cheese because that’s what I had on hand…and it was amazing!”

sliced zucchini tossed with cheese and bread crumbs

I hope you enjoy the gratin! Lastly, a bit off topic, but someone was asking me in the comments the other day about my food routines. They were curious about how often I shop, my favorite stores here in SF, when I cook – that sort of thing. I’m also curious about your food routines, so I thought I’d share mine in the hope that you would share a bit about yours as well in the comments.

Generally speaking, I’m mindful of what I buy, I shop close to home, and (stating the obvious) I cook quite a bit. When I was in San Francisco, a weekly trip to the farmers’ market was the cornerstone of my food shopping- either the Ferry Building Market, or the Marin Market – both amazing. I’d round things out with trips to Bi-Rite Market and Rainbow Grocery along with a few other specialty stores in SF as well as the East bay. Now that I’m in Southern California I tend to rotate through a few different farmers’ markets – Long Beach, Santa Monica, Irvine, Hollywood and I love finding and exploring the endless number of Japanese, Persian, Indian, Thai, and other grocers (and bakers) in the region.
zucchini gratin with lots of breadcrumbs in a baking dish

More Zucchini Recipes

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12+ Camping Recipes to Make Camping Meals No Big Deal

If you’re looking for quick, easy and inspired camping recipes to deploy on your next camping trip, you’re in the right place.

Continue reading 12+ Camping Recipes to Make Camping Meals No Big Deal on 101 Cookbooks

If you’re looking for camping meal ideas and camping recipes to deploy on your next camping trip, you’re in the right place. Over the years we’ve done plenty of camping in tents, in cars, and in our Airstream. On the food front the goal is always the same – delicious camping meals without a lot of fuss, gear, or clean up. Quick and easy is the name of the game. Bonus points are earned for being able to prep components ahead of time. I went through the archives to select all my favorite camping recipes. Most can be cooked with a single piece of cookware – favorites include a pot, a skillet, or a griddle. Let’s start by talking about your camp cooking gear.

Camp Cooking Equipment on a Picnic Table Next to an Airstream

Essential Camp Cooking Gear

Whether car camping or traveling with the Airstream, the bones of our basic culinary camping kit is generally the same. Camping gear on the cooking front can get out of hand fast, so I’ve tried to wrangle what we bring down to a reasonable amount that still allows a range of deliciousness while we are out enjoying new places! This is ever-evolving, I’m always experimenting with difference camp-friendly combinations, but here’s how it stands now.

  • A good cooler: Great for loading bricks of frozen sauces, marinades, and other ingredients along with perishables.
  • A propane burner: Even when we have the trailer I prefer to cook outdoors. I tend to use a single burner and swap in whatever pot, pan, griddle, tava, or comal on top of that. It’s super flexible and enables a lot of options.
  • A large pot: Crucial for one-pot soups, stews, curries, and chili.
  • Grill: If the weather is nice when you’re camping, you’re going to want to grill. Many campsites have charcoal grills permanently built into each site, but we often bring a small grill with us.
  • A griddle of some sort: This is a highly personal choice. I talk to a lot of campers about their cooking set-up and in the past few years the Blackstone has really taken camp cooking by storm. My sister has one, they camp a lot, and she says they basically cook every meal on it – from pancakes to stir-fries. I still like to use a cast iron skillet for pancakes and an Indian tava for stir-fries, they are items I already use at home and they work with a basic propane burner. Basically, either way, you’re after a large, flat, hot metal expanse that you can cook a range of recipes on. The skottle systems (like this and this) are similar to my current set-up. 
  • A knife & cutting board: I like a good-sized cutting board.
  • Ooni Pizza Oven: This is a real wildcard, and a bit of a pain if I’m being honest. On occasion, we load up the Ooni and bring it camping, especially if the weather is set to be beautiful. We have the Ooni 16, the one powered by propane, so it collapses down flat-ish. It’s great for cooking camp pizzas, roasting veggies, bean dishes, a range of flat breads, and I love it for paneer veggie kebabs (down below). It takes some time to get to know, but it’s pretty amazing once you stop burning things in it. If you bring the pizza oven, you also need to bring a peel, tongs, extra flour/cornmeal, and a plan for dough (here’s my go-to pizza dough recipe). Pro-tip: if you bring a large enough cutting board you can use it as a second peel.

Foil-wrapped Baked Potatoes in a Campfire

Best Camping Recipes to Make Camping Meals No Big Deal

I’ve organized these recipes based on the type of cooking you might be doing. One of the things we’ve noticed over the years is the prohibition of campfires allowed at campsites. It might be different in other regions, but on the West Coast of the United States, because of the fire danger, open campfires are becoming increasingly rare. So cooking meals in foil packets (and the like) isn’t an option in many of the places we’ve been recently. I’ll add a bunch of links and resources down below related to campfire cooking and hopefully we’ll be able to revisit open-fire cooking more reliable in future years. I’ll add and photograph a dutch oven section at that point!

Airstream Trailer Parked at Campsite in New Mexico

Grill Camping Recipes

On the grill front, we often prep a few components in advance. For example, I’ll pre-make the mixture for the tofu burgers, or any special sauces. If at all possible I love to hit up local farmers markets to find more grill-friendly ingredients.

Grilled Veggie Kebabs

1. Grilled Veggie Kebabs

You can marinade the ingredients for these kebabs before leaving on a camping trip. Kept cold they can be used up to 4-5 days later. Spicy grilled veggie kebabs made with a flavor-packed yogurt marinade and mix of vegetables with paneer cheese. A favorite that you can make ahead, and grill or bake year-round. We most often make these on the grill, but they’re great in the pizza oven as well.

Grillable Tofu Burger

2. Grillable Tofu Burgers

Seasoned with a good amount of cumin, cayenne and mustard, these are hearty, filling, easy to make, dump-everything-in-the-food processor grillable tofu burgers. Pre-make the burger mixture and flat-pack in a baggie, then shape at the campsite prior to grilling. Kept cool, the mixture is good for 4-5 days.

Wedge Salad with Ranch Dressing

3. Grilled Wedge Salad

With the best spicy ranch dressing! So easy, especially if you pre-make the dressing. A delicious, crisp grilled wedge salad topped with a spicy ranch dressing, chives, and nuts.

Simple Bruschetta

4. Simple Bruschetta

Bring a loaf of good sourdough and some olive oil on your camping adventures and you’re half way to amazing bruschetta. The ideas for toppings are vast, and can range from beautiful tomatoes to other vegetables you can toss on the grill -mushrooms, spring onions, grilled corn, artichokes hearts, etc. You can cook the toppings, if appropriate, on the grill along with the slabs of bread.

Skillet Camping Recipes

Few items in my camping kitchen get more use than my classic cast iron skillet. It can be used over a fire, over a burner, and in an oven. Camp Breakfast Hash

5. Camp Breakfast Hash

A favorite way to use up leftovers when camping. This Camp Breakfast Hash is peppered with plant-based hot dogs, potatoes, serrano chiles, and finished with salsa and a dusting of grated cheese. It’s a flexible, one-skillet go-to that can be made on a griddle, flat top, or in a skillet. Frittata in a Cast Iron Skillet

6. A Tasty Frittata

The tastiest, super adaptable frittata recipe. Made with potatoes, onions, and eggs drizzled with a cilantro chile sauce. You can flat-freeze the chile sauce and bring it in your cooler.

Stack of Pancakes topped with Butter and Maple Syrup

7. Pancakes

If you’re after classic pancakes, this is your recipe. For camping, I often pre-measure the pancake ingredients into a mason jar for easy packing. Add the liquid ingredients just before you’re ready to put them on the griddle. This is a pancake recipe that delivers a beautiful, classic stack with impossibly tender crumb and golden edges. The pancakes have lightness and lift (especially if you fold in the whipped egg whites), and good color. If you want the Adventure Pancake Mix recipe (loaded with chia, flax, whole grain flours – its SO good), it is part of this collection.

Flat-top, griddle, or Blackstone Camping Recipes

Many of the recipes in this category can also be made in a large skillet. A Favorite Stir-fry with Noodles and Lots of Vegetables

8. A Favorite Rice Noodle Stir-fry

I like to do a stir-fry when we’re out camping. Usually, some variation on a stir-fry like this. A favorite noodle-based stir fry with silky rice noodles, bright and crunchy broccoli, toasted cashews, quick-marinated crumbled tofu, and pan-seared onions tossed in a feisty chile-boosted soy sauce. It works on everything from a large skillet to a Blackstone.

Coconut Corn Salad

9. Coconut Corn Salad

Butter a griddle, skillet, or flattop and add corn, fresh thyme, red onions, toasted almonds and coconut. Finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. So simple, so tasty!

Meal in a Jar Tortellini Soup

Meal in a Jar Camping Recipes

Making a few of these “meals in a jar” is the best thing I do when preparing camping meals for a trip. I always make up 2-3 of these and then it’s simply just add water (and perhaps another common pantry item or two), and you’ve got a great meal. Perfect for travel days, or any camping days when you’re short on cooking time. Try some of the recipes I’ve linked to below and if you like them have a look at this – Recipes for the Road: A Small, Useful Collection of Meal-In-Jar & Just-Add-Water Recipes for Road Trips, Camping & Everyday Life.

Meal in a Jar Tortellini Soup

10. Meal in a Jar Tortellini Soup

Just add water and a can of crushed tomatoes. It’s so simple and so good! A one-pot lentil and tomato-based stew, dotted with plump, tender tortellini, spiked with a range of spices. Perfect for one-pot camping or weeknight meals.

Meal in a Jar Spicy Curry Noodles

11. Meal in a Jar Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles

Just add water and a splash of coconut milk to make this fragrant curry noodle pot. A dynamic and feisty broth is bolstered with cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric enveloping egg noodles and whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand.

Meal in a Jar Italian Barley Soup

12. Meal in a Jar Italian Barley Soup

This is a favorite flavor-packed meal in a jar – an herb-flecked, hearty, Italian Barley Soup with a bit of a hippie twist. Just add water and a can of crushed tomatoes and you’re on your way to a really great pot of soup.

Campsite in the Desert

Other Helpful Camping Recipe Links

If you are serious about open-flame cooking, seek out William Rubel’s The Magic of Fire: One Hundred Recipes for the Fireplace or Campfire. Published by Ten Speed Press in 2002, this is a beautiful, large-format, hardback volume I stumbled across years back while browsing the stacks at the San Francisco Library. It immediately sparked fantastic visions of fire-baked breads and ember-roasted Russets. Alternately, you can visit William’s website here. You’ll notice he mentions the Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition as having “the best introduction to hearth cooking of any book that I know of anywhere.” He contributed that section to the book.

– Wikipedia: Campfire Cooking. Check out the photo of the oven made from scraps!

This is Camino: This is another favorite cookbook focused on fire-based cooking by Russ Moore and Allison Hopelain. Camino was a brilliant Oakland-based restaurant centered around a beautiful open hearth and seasonal ingredients – the book will push your imagination in directions related to what’s possible with great ingredients, an open flame, and a bit of know-how.

Recipes for the Road: Meals in a Jar and Just Add Water Recipes Cover
Recipes For The Road: If you’d like more of these types of recipes, I’ve pulled together a collection of my favorites. It includes my favorite adventure pancake mix recipe, a bunch of soup mixes,  and an A+ recipe for packets of instant oatmeal. You can get a preview of it here.

Ok, that’s it for now. This will be a regularly updated page! Let me know your favorite camping recipes down in the comments!

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