Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

We had the rare weekend with almost nothing on the calendar. An out-of-town soccer game was cancelled, no birthday parties or commitments popped up on the calendar leaving; it was just our little family of five for the entire weekend.

We did the regular weekend things: worked in the yard, ran to the grocery store, watched a little football but it was all done at a gloriously slower pace than usual and I could feel us all take a collective breath as we shrugged off a busy and stressful week. We need these quiet weekends sometimes. I forget so easily how good rest is. As our weekend wrapped up and we hadn’t left the house all day, I knew I wanted a meal as quintessentially slow and relaxed as our weekend had been.

This isn’t a fancy meal; just good, simple food for a cozy evening. The humble pot roast is jazzed up with a big glug of red wine and herbs resulting in tender flavorful meat. Slow cooked in the oven or your crockpot, the meat literally falls apart as you lift it from the pot. Drizzle some of the juices from the pot over the meat once you slice it for extra flavor and tenderness. Mashed potatoes or polenta are excellent side dishes to go with this recipe but you could also halve a pound of red potatoes and throw them in with the roast and you have an easy one-pot meal.

Pot Roast with Tomatoes, Wine and Herbs de Provence

• 4-5 pound bone-in chuck roast

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 tablespoon butter

• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

• 3 carrots, chopped

• 3 stalks celery, chopped

• 4 cloves garlic, chopped

• 28 ounces can organic tomatoes

• 1 cup beef stock

• 1 1/2 cups red wine

• 1 bay leaf

• 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

• 2 teaspoons black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat.

Liberally salt and pepper chuck roast on all side (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper on each side). Sear the chuck roast on both sides, cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side. Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery in the pot, adding an additional tablespoon olive oil to the pan if necessary, scraping up the little brown bits. Salt and pepper the veggies, cooking for 5-8 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add chuck roast back into the pot. Add the tomatoes, wine bay leaf and herbs de Provence to the pot. The liquid should cover the veggies and about half the meat. Cover the pot with the lid and put in the oven. Cook for about 4 to 5 hours until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone.

To serve, pull the meat off the bone, and serve with a generous spoonful of the pan drippings and vegetables from the pot.

Harvest Salad with Caramelized Onions

Years ago, I was invited to join a book club. We started with the lovely narrative cookbook Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. Our little group, who hardly knew each other in the beginning, formed an intense bond over all those nights cooking and eating, sharing life at the table.

Fast forward, and one of those dear friends, who I met by joining that book club, had a birthday. My house filled up with new and old friends, kids running everywhere, wine glasses clinking, and the table jam-packed with platters of food. We laughed until our sides hurt and stayed up way too late. I had to run my dishwasher three times to wash all the dishes we used, but it was absolutely worth it, for the time around the table together.

This salad is the epitome of how I love to cook and eat. Fresh, simple and easy but a little surprising too. The caramelized onions give the salad a rich hearty flavor and balances out the tang of the goat cheese and tart crisp apple. Sweet blackberries and crunchy almonds add just the right flavor and texture.

The salad and the vinaigrette are loosely inspired by Bread and Wine and seemed like the perfect thing to make for my friend. We grilled steaks to go alongside our salad and ate peach crisp with scoops of melting caramel ice cream for dessert.

I make a version of this salad year around, swapping out seasonal ingredients based on what’s fresh and available. In the spring I use blueberries and strawberries and in the winter, I pile the greens high with dried cranberries and roasted squash. The only things that don’t change are the caramelized onions and the balsamic dressing. Don’t hesitate to make this salad yours, experimenting with the flavors you prefer. Pears, dried cranberries, toasted pecans and gorgonzola cheese would be a lovely combination for fall. Go wild, you can’t go wrong.

Harvest Salad with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 8 oz. container organic baby spinach
  • 1 honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 6 oz. container fresh blackberries
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

Maple Balsamic Dressing

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Start by caramelizing the onion. In a medium saucepan, drizzle two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over thinly sliced onions. Give the onions a quick stir and sprinkle with kosher salt. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Stir every couple minutes until the onions are richly brown and condensed down by about half, usually about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, layer the honey crisp apple, blackberries, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds over baby spinach. Top everything with the caramelized onions. Drizzle with maple balsamic dressing and mix to combine all ingredients. Serve immediately.

To make the salad dressing, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper in a jar with a lid. Shake well until ingredients are well-combined. Drizzle dressing over salad. Store extras in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Tabbouleh Salad

School might be starting and Labor Day weekend is just days away but I’m not ready to give up on summer just yet. School or no school, I want to enjoy every drop of goodness summer has to offer. We drove up Chinook Pass and hiked the Naches Peak Loop trail. It’s been on my to-do list all summer long and even though it’s been smoky and hot, I convinced my family we should go anyway.

We ended up having the best day. We were able to see patches of blue sky through the haze and Mt. Rainier loomed large through the clouds. Huckleberry bushes lined the trail and we couldn’t resist snacking on a few as we walked along. The trail is a little over three miles and absolutely worth the drive up the pass. The wildflowers alone were worth the trip.

As we drove back down into the Valley, we cooled off in the Naches river, finding the perfect swimming hole to splash around in. We ended our day at Braun Yr Aur Brewery in Naches for pizza and cold beer. The kids threw the frisbee in the grass while we waited for our pies and we happily devoured them when they arrived, absolutely starving from a day well-spent.

And while I wouldn’t even try and compare this couscous salad to the amazingness of the Naches Loop Trail, I will say this: it is every good thing about summer in one bright, zesty, healthful bite. Couscous is mixed together with cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onion, olives and artichokes. Dressed very simply with lemon juice, a big handful of chopped herbs and salt and pepper it is the perfect side dish to bring to a barbecue over the Labor Day weekend or whip it up this weekend and enjoy as lunch all week long.

Tabbouleh Salad

• 1 ½ cups couscous, cooked

• ½ english cucumber, diced into ½ inch pieces

• ½ cup shredded carrots

• ½ red bell pepper, diced

• ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved

• 1 shallot, diced

• ½ cup Kalamata olives, halved

• ½ cup marinated artichoke hearts, diced

• 2 lemons, juice and zest

• 2 tablespoons chives, minced

• 2 tablespoons basil, minced

• 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced

• Salt and Pepper

Cook couscous according to package instructions. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, use a fork to fluff the couscous. In the meantime, chop vegetables. Combine the vegetables and couscous in a large bowl. Zest one lemon and set aside. Juice both lemons over the mixture and add the lemon zest. Stir gently. Chop herbs and add to salad. Liberally salt and pepper. Cover salad with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

*One little tip: Use a teaspoon or two of the oil from the marinated artichokes and add it to the salad when you stir in the lemon juice. You don’t HAVE to add it, but it adds flavor to the salad.

Grilled Corn with Avocado Cilantro Sauce

When summer heats up, the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven. So let’s not. There’s plenty of delicious food to make without ever going near the oven.

This avocado cilantro sauce is my new go-to dressing for everything. And when I say everything, I really mean everything. I use it to make pasta salad with fresh corn, peppers, onions and feta cheese. We use it as a marinade and then later drizzle it on grilled chicken and flank steak, I even used it as a dip for quesadillas for my kids.

The sauce is an easy salad dressing and a little extra olive oil thins it into a nice vinaigrette. Just load up a bowl with some rotisserie chicken, greens, veggies, a hard-boiled egg, sliced avocado and a hearty drizzle of this dressing and you have an awesome cobb salad. Bright and fresh with a touch of heat and acidity; this avocado cilantro sauce is exactly what you need to make it through the dog days of summer.

I typically make a big batch of sauce at the beginning of the week and store it in my fridge in an air-tight container for at least a couple of days. I use it as needed and try and always make sure to have the ingredients on hand to make more when I run out.

Avocado Cilantro Sauce

• 1 small walla walla sweet onion

• 2 cups tightly packed cilantro leaves (about two bunches)

• 2 cloves garlic, peeled

• 1 jalapeno, seeded

• ½ cup olive oil

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

• 1 avocado

• Juice of 2 limes

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

Give the onion, garlic and jalapeno a rough chop. In a food processor, combine the onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and avocado. Pulse the ingredients a few times so they begin to break down. Add the red wine vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Turn the food processor back on and while it runs, slowly pour the olive oil in until the ingredients are well-combined, and you get to your desired consistency. I like my sauce on the thinner side, so I use the full half cup of oil but if you like a thicker sauce you can use less.

I’ve tried to grow corn in my garden for years now but somehow every year the bugs win and I am left with a couple ears of sad half-eaten corn. This year, I threw in the towel, corn is four for a dollar at my favorite fruit stand and I’ve never once found a bug. Problem solved.

I needed an easy side dish to go with grilled burgers and this recipe for a riff on street corn ended up being a family favorite. If you don’t feel like grilling your corn on the barbecue, you can always boil the corn cobs in a big pot of salted water for a couple minutes.

Grilled Corn with Avocado Cilantro Sauce

• 6 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned

• 2 tablespoons butter, melted

• Avocado cilantro sauce

• 2 tablespoons Cotija cheese, crumbled

• Cilantro leaves

• Salt and pepper

Lightly brush corn with melted butter. Over medium heat, grill corn on the barbecue until the corn is lightly charred on all sides. Remove from heat immediately.

On a tray lined with parchment paper, drizzle or generously brush corn with avocado cilantro sauce. Sprinkle the corn with cotija cheese, cilantro leaves and a dash of salt and pepper.

Whole Chicken on the Barbecue

One of my favorite things to do on a hot summer night is walk the perimeter of our property, along the orchard easement road next to the tall cool grass that grows along the fence. The faint smell of the fruit trees in the neighboring orchard floats by and usually our farm animals, suddenly interested to see if they are getting fed, amble towards me curious, following along on their side of the fence. When I walk past the corral and their feeding station, they lose interest, turning their attention back to the grass they were eating.

The wind rustles the Poplar trees and brings the shouts and laughter from my kids jumping on the trampoline. They are wild and loud and burning off what feels like a never-ending well of energy and endurance.

As I loop the pasture and head back towards the house, I turn west and look at Mt. Adams peeking out from behind the rolling desert hills. The sky tonight is streaked with pink and orange, lighting up the sky and casting its warm glow on everything I see.

I’ve called Yakima home for 13 years now. When I moved here in my early twenties, I had no idea this place would capture my attention the way it has. It is more than the town I live in or where my children were born or where we work. These desert hills, the pink sky, that glorious mountain has become the backdrop to my creative endeavors. This Valley inspires the flavors in my kitchen, the words that tumble out onto the screen, my steps planted firmly in the dirt.

This recipe for a whole roasted chicken, barbecued to a crispy golden brown, served hot off the grill, directly to hungry bellies waiting patiently at the patio table is my ode to summer nights. The recipe itself is simple, adapted from a wonderful cookbook called What’s Gaby Cooking. It’s the kind of easy summer dinner that you go to again and again. I recommend an ice cold hoppy Yakima Valley beer or a lovely glass of Yakima Valley rose (might I recommend Gilbert Cellars, it’s one of my favorites) to enjoy while you supervise the grill.

Here’s the only tip I have to offer for the actual barbecuing: low and slow is your friend. This recipe works particularly well if you have a charcoal barbecue or a Traegar grill. It’s certainly not impossible on a gas grill, but you’ll need to make sure the heat doesn’t go to high. You want to shoot for around 350 degrees.

A big salad with corn fresh off the cob, crunchy bell peppers and lots of fresh herbs to go with the chicken make for an excellent and easy dinner. A ripe cantaloupe and a pint of raspberries picked up at your local fruit stand finishes the meal.

For the BBQ Chicken

• 1 ½ tablespoons paprika

• 1 ½ tablespoons garlic powder

• 2 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 teaspoon black pepper

• 2 whole chickens, giblets removed

• Cooking spray or vegetable oil for the grill

For the BBQ Chicken Baste

• 6 tablespoons butter, melted

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon dried parsley

• Juice of 1 lemon

• ½ teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, combine paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix to combine. Put chickens on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use paper towels to pat the meat dry. Sprinkle the rub over the chickens, massaging the spices into the skin on both sides of the bird. Allow the birds to rest on the counter while the grill heats.

Preheat your grill to about 350 degrees or a medium-low heat. Lightly oil the grill rack. Place chickens directly on the grill over indirect heat, breast side up to start. Cover the grill and cook for 30 minutes. Flip the chicken over, and using a basting brush, liberally coat the chicken with butter mixture.

Cook for 15 more minutes with the grill covered. Flip the chicken again, baste again and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Continue to cook, flipping the birds and basting the meat with butter mixture every 15 minutes for a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes cooking time OR a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, reads 165 degrees.

To serve, transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Carve the chicken and serve immediately. For an extra burst of flavor, serve with lemon wedges. Squeeze lemon juice over the chicken.

The Best Summer Salads

It’s hot this week. And I don’t know about you but when it gets hot like this, the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven or even the barbecue. I want meals to be simple and fresh. And as much as I would like to eat ice cream for every meal, I grudgingly accept that’s probably not the healthiest choice, even on the hottest days.

This week I’ve got three salads to share with you. These are my go-to summer salads. Chances are if you invite me to a barbecue at your house I’ll show up with one of these recipes. All three salads are light and delicious. They use the best of the produce that’s available locally right now and chances are, you probably have almost all the ingredients at your house right now.

The fresh corn salad is a crunchy, slightly sweet salad that just gets better and better the longer it sits. Use this recipe as a guide but make it your own. The watermelon feta salad is one of my favorites. I make a riff on this recipe probably once a week and even my kids have started eating it. I love to swap the fresh red onion for pickled red onions if I happen to have a batch in my refrigerator. And finally, the cucumber salad is one of my husband’s favorites. I keep a batch in the fridge for him and he snacks on it all week. It’s cold and refreshing and easy to throw together in just a couple minutes.

Fresh Corn Salad

• 6 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob

• 1 red pepper, diced

• ½ walla walla onion, diced

• ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

• ¼ cup olive oil

• 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

• Salt and pepper to taste

Shuck the corn and using a sharp knife, cut the corn from the cob. No need to cook the corn, if you buy it at the farm stand it’s so fresh and sweet, it doesn’t need to be cooked. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients, stirring well. Leave on the counter or cover and put in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to intensify. This salad tastes best when made a few hours ahead of time. Cherry tomatoes are an easy swap for the red pepper and a sprinkle of feta cheese is delicious with this salad.

Watermelon Feta Salad

• 3 cups seedless watermelon, diced into bite size pieces

• 8 cups spring greens or arugula

• ½ cup crumbled feta

• ¼ red onion, sliced thinly

• 2 tablespoons fresh mint

• Juice and zest of two limes

• ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

• ½ cup olive oil

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl layer the watermelon, feta and red onion over the greens. In a separate bowl combine the lime juice, zest, vinegar and olive oil. Dress the salad, sprinkle with fresh mint and salt and pepper. Serve immediately. I’ve made this salad many many times and sometimes I add avocado and crumbled bacon as well. Adding fresh basil along with the mint and swapping the feta for goat cheese is lovely too.

Quick Cucumber Salad

• 2 english cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

• ½ yellow bell pepper, diced

• ½ red onion, diced

• ½ cup rice wine vinegar

• 1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

• Dash of red pepper flakes

• Salt and pepper

In a bowl toss the cucumbers, bell pepper and red onion together. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables, sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the toasted sesame oil and gently mix the vegetables with a spoon. The oil has a very strong flavor and can quickly overpower the dish. Consider adding the oil a teaspoon to get the flavor just right for your taste buds.

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Summertime in Yakima is easily my favorite time of year; between weekly trips to the Farmers Market to outdoor concerts at Gilbert Cellar’s Hackett Ranch, hiking in White Pass under crystal blue skies and the many impromptu dinners with friends; summer is all of my favorite things: food, friends, sunshine, and fun.

My husband built a huge farm table for our back-patio years ago. These days it’s getting little rickety but nothing makes me happier than to see family and friends gathered around it. Summer just makes it all a bit sweeter, the days stretching out long, making it possible to linger around the table.

Flank steak marinated in soy sauce, lemon juice and fresh herbs grilled on the barbecue to medium rare and sliced over a bed of crunchy greens is probably my favorite go-to summer dinner party meal. It’s easy and fast and doesn’t break the budget. Marinate the steak for a few hours or up to a full day before grilling it for the most flavor.

Inspired by my favorite salad at Cowiche Canyon Kitchen restaurant, I played around with a chimichurri dressing. Full of fresh parsley and oregano with a hint of heat from a splash of hot sauce, it makes the perfect steak sauce or salad dressing.

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri

• 2-pound flank steak

• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

• Juice of a lemon

• 1 tablespoon Worchester sauce

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt

• 1 tablespoon black pepper

In a large baking dish combine all the ingredients except the flank steak, salt and pepper. Mix until combined and then place steak into mixture, turning several times to coat the entire piece of meat. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper making sure both sides are covered. Cover dish in foil and set aside for several hours or even overnight. The longer the meat marinates, the better it will taste.

Heat the barbecue to medium heat and grill each side for about 8 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly to serve.

Chimichurri Dressing

• 1 large bunch flat leaf Italian parsley

• 2 tablespoons fresh oregano

• 3 garlic cloves, peeled

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ¼ cup red wine vinegar

• 1 teaspoon hot sauce

• Juice of one lemon

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse the ingredients together until smooth. Taste and salt and pepper if necessary. To thin the sauce to make salad dressing, add additional olive oil.

To make the steak salad combine organic greens, cucumber, red bell pepper, mango slices, crumbled goat cheese and pickled onions.

For pickled onions slice a red onion thinly. In a bowl combine ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 ½ teaspoons salt with 1 cup water. Pour mixture over onions and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Top the salad with slices of flank steak and drizzle the entire dish in chimichurri sauce.