Kneading Conference West (long)

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd annual Kneading Conference West, which happened to be right here in Mount Vernon at the WSU Research and Extension Center. I was thrilled to get a press pass for it, as the conference sold out some time ago. This is an amazing event!

naan samples

The remarkable thing about this conference was how happy everyone was. It was more like a music festival than a professional conference. Everyone there was equally obsessed with bread and grains and ready to talk with everyone else about it.

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lovely oatmeal


When I was a kid, oatmeal always meant rolled oats. Not instant, just the regular oats that need some cooking but don’t take very long. I liked it all right but was never wild about it – the texture was a little slimy, the flavor dull. Then we discovered steel-cut oats.

Because they take longer to cook, they require a bit of planning ahead to be able to do them on a work morning, but a bowl of good oats is well worth a little trouble. I like to set out my pans, measure my water and oats, and generally have everything ready to go the night before, which lets me get them ready in about half an hour after we get up.

toasting oats

We learned this great way of cooking them from Cook’s Illustrated (which we’ve simplified a bit to be slightly less rich) – you toast the oats before you add them to your boiling water.  It speeds up the cooking process a bit, and gives the oatmeal a lovely warmth and depth. If you want to go the whole hog, Cook’s has you saute the oats in butter, then cook them in part water, part milk – it’s very tasty but makes it unnecessary to add cream, which for us is sort of the whole point of oatmeal.

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a new bulgur pilaf


This has been a great season for cabbage. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much cabbage as I have this winter. This is partly due to an influx of wonderful new recipes, but also just an increased appreciation for the flavor of properly cooked cabbage. Plus, it’s way cheap.

tonight's cabbage
ground allspice

The latest installment of “cabbage — it’s what’s for dinner” takes the form of a bulgur pilaf. I love bulgur, for its chewiness, nuttiness, and most importantly, easy-to-cookness. This pilaf accents the sweet earthy flavors of bulgur and cabbage with sumac, allspice, green onion and pine nuts. The sumac provides a cool sour note that makes this a little different than your (meaning my) usual workaday bulgur pilaf. And freshly ground allspice just makes your kitchen smell wonderful. Continue reading

farro risotto with sage and orange


The way I decided to make this was typical: I had found a new (to me) cookbook at the local used bookstore, and bought it partly because it included a number of recipes for farro. I decided I would make one of the recipes this week, but as I was scanning them I was suddenly reminded of a dish in The Italian Country Table that I had been intrigued by. So I made that instead. I’m easily derailed when it comes to menu planning.

herbs and onions

I thought this was a cool recipe, pairing the sweet taste of farro with bright orange zest and fresh herbs, and chickpeas for added flavor and texture. It made a nice change from the cream and mushrooms often used in farro dishes. We had it alongside a roast chicken and a chunky beet salad (which went great with the orange in the farro).

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farro & mushrooms

oyster mushrooms

I’ve eaten farro three times this week, and I’m still excited about it – not bad. I’d only eaten it a couple times before, and thought it was really swell, but only recently bought some at the Spanish Table in Seattle. Last weekend at the farmer’s market we got a bunch more fresh oyster mushrooms, which I thought would go splendidly with the farro – I was right.


I followed the basic cooking instructions for farro in The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper – very simple, just rinsing a cup of farro and throwing it in a saucepan with three cups of water and a little salt, then simmering it for 40 minutes or so. Continue reading

summer for a day


Our much-anticipated heat wave hit this weekend, much to the delight of all of us here in gray and mossy Skagit County. It’s been a long, dark, irritating wet season, and everyone was very ready to get out the summer clothes and try being too hot for a change. We celebrated by hauling out the patio furniture, opening a bottle of rosé and eating dinner out by the grill. The air was warm, the wisteria was blooming, and I had put the tabouli together earlier, so I got to sit back and watch my husband cook.


Dinner was grilled lamb chops, grilled eggplant, tabouli, grilled bread and a Graham Beck pinotage rosé. What can I say, but mmmmmm. It’s summer. Continue reading