This is a mouthful

I finally came up with a smoked salmon pizza that makes sense.  I love the idea but have been stuck on a Nova salmon approach for so long, I missed the obvious.

I had to get beyond the New York Nova style salmon,  the cold smoked process that we think of with bagels and lox. In my mind, this equated to adding salmon after baking the pizza to preserve its delicate smoked essence.

Well, of course. Here in the Pacific Northwest, hot smoked salmon is king. That smoking process delivers a bolder, firmer, deeply smoked salmon that’s unflinchingly good, whether hot or cold.

Once out of that box, a concept finally emerged,  a hot smoked salmon pizza with a buckwheat crust topped with toasted onion rings.

Smoked Salmon Pizza, Buckwheat Crust, Toasted Onion Rings

I’d retain some elements associated with traditional Nova, but for this pizza I’d veer off with a buckwheat infused crust.  I’d keep it simple with a light white sauce and bites of the hot smoked salmon graced with toasted sweet onion rings, capers, dill and rosemary.

There’s nothing complicated with any of these moving parts, but they do require a little advance work.

The buckwheat crust brings a toasted nuttiness which is lovely with the salmon.  I often use buckwheat in baking as an alternative to whole wheat and stock a small amount of the flour purchased in bulk for occasional use.

Buckwheat Pizza Dough

The crust is the usual pizza dough here, substituting ½ cup buckwheat flour for ½ cup AP, if no buckwheat go with wheat flour if you have it.  Since the dough only needs a few minutes to rise and pats out like a dream, I tend to continue on and prebake 2 medium crusts (or 1 large) because they freeze so well. This way, finishing a pizza can be done at my own speed rather than futzing with dough at the last minute.

For the onion, I opt for sliced sweet onion which is not caramelized in the true sense. Rather, the rings are kept as intact slices and laid onto a flat skillet with a light coating of butter and evoo. The slices are left to toast undisturbed, then flipped over and browned a little longer for a total of 10-12 minutes.

Toasted Onion Rings

The sauce is essentially a light Mornay enriched with a little Asiago cheese and a dollop of thick yogurt. It’s flour base provides stability for the yogurt— which holds beautifully and supplies a creamy bright edge rather than richness.

The pizza makes a superb dinner with salad. As you would expect, it is delish the next day for breakfast.

Smoked Salmon Pizza with Buckwheat Crust & Toasted Onion Rings

1-2 tsp evoo for pan
1 recipe Quick & Easy Pizza Dough
½ cup buckwheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
5 oz hot smoked salmon
Toasted Onion Rings
2 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, slices
Cheese Sauce
2 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp AP flour
¼ tsp each salt, ⅛ tsp white pepper
2 Tbsp Asiago or Parmesan cheese
½ cup liquid: stock, water, etc.
½ cup milk
⅓ cup thick yogurt
½ cup Asiago or Parmesan, grated
¼ tsp or more coarse ground pepper
2 tsp capers, drain
2 tsp mixed fresh herbs: rosemary and dill


  1. Prepare dough, substitute ½ cup AP Flour with ½ buckwheat flour. Let rise 10-20 minutes. For medium pizza, use ½ recipe. For large pizza, use entire recipe.
  2. To toast onion, heat butter and olive oil over medium/low heat in wide skillet or on a griddle. Lay sliced rounds of onion into pan and toast until golden; carefully turn and toast second side, for a total of 10-15 minutes. Remove rings, cool on plate and set aside.
  3. For Cheese Sauce, in small saucepan heat butter and oil over medium/low heat. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the cheese to melt and then stir in ½ cup liquid to dissolve flour, then add the milk, stirring to create a sauce. Stir in the yogurt, combine and heat briefly. Adjust seasoning and set aside.
  4. Shape ½ the dough with oiled hands onto oiled 9-10” pizza pan or pat out all for 1 large crust. It can be prebaked at this point, see dough recipe.
  5. Spread the dough with Cheese Sauce.
  6. Divide the salmon into chunks and arrange evenly oven the sauce. Drape with onion rings.
  7. Sprinkle with ground pepper, grated cheese, capers and herbs.
  8. Bake 425-450°F until bubbly and top begins to color, 18-25 minutes. Makes 1 medium/large pizza

An Honest Loaf

Playing with my tiny slow cooker is much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.

Yes, it’s definitely the surprises that keep me coming back.  If you are a fan of the English muffin loaf style of bread or New England brown bread, then take a look at this chewy, highly nutritious, richly flavored brown bread.  Did I mention easy?brown-bread-slice

Its unusual approach begins by soaking rolled oats in yogurt for several hours. Once the baking soda and flour mixture is combined with the yogurt mixture the batter goes wild. Random baby bubble emerge during the baking process to create a moist and fascinating texture.

The brown bread element comes chiefly from a hint of buckwheat flour. I keep a small stash on hand for its dark robust characteristics that make everything taste better—from noodles to crepes and breads. Of course, whole wheat or rye flour will work, too.  An addition of egg helps to stabilize and provide a hint of richness to a seemingly bland composition. oat-brown-breadThere’s enough sweetness from the brown sugar to tie it all the together, admirably offset the tang of the yogurt, and complement the oats, buckwheat, and whole wheat flours. Once ingredients are combined, the results are somewhere between a dough and a batter: there is no shaping, just carefully spoon it into the pot.

It may seem silly to be ‘baking’ in a crock pot, but I love the idea of using a mere 95 watts of power to create a substantial loaf in only two hours. Since this is not a firm dough, I butter my 2-quart crockery pot and run two folded strips of parchment crisscrossing in the bottom and up the sides to act as handles for lifting out the bread.

A common problem with bread baking in the slow cooker is that the top does not brown. One solution is a quick toasting under the broiler, which seems at odds with the whole premise. Instead, for an inviting crunch here, I opt for a light dusting of grainy cornmeal in the bottom of the pot and a sprinkling across the top before baking.

Oat Brown Bread

Inspired by Fix-It and Forget-It, Baking with your Slow Cooker by Phyllis Good

1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup mixture of buckwheat and whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons coarse cornmeal for dusting


  1. Combine yogurt, milk, and oats; cover and chill for 6 to 8 hours.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine egg, oil, and sugar with yogurt; blend and mix well.
  3. Combine the flours, baking soda, and salt and stir into the liquid.
  4. Preheat 2-quart crock pot set to high; butter the crockery liner and fit it with 2 strips of parchment crisscrossed and running up the sides. Dust the bottom with cornmeal.
  5. Pour batter into the crockery pot liner and sprinkle top lightly with cornmeal. Cover the top with 3 layers of paper towels tucked under the lid to absorb moisture.
  6. Bake for about 2 hours rotating liner every 30 minutes to brown evenly, until bread pulls away from sides and tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Lift out with parchment straps onto cooling rack. If it sticks, run a knife around edges. Let cool before slicing.  Yield: 1 small loaf.

Buckwheat: Big, Bad, Beautiful

Even the Italians agree there are times when their beloved semolina pasta just doesn’t cut it.  On those rare occasions, buckwheat pasta is one such alternative.  No meek stand-in, buckwheat pasta has attained its own cult status in the far northern region of Lombardy―where one-pot Pizzocheri is celebrated annually at a flurry of fêtes. Here, buckwheat is serious business. This robust stick-to-the-ribs concoction is made with buckwheat pasta, hearty greens, potatoes, and local cheeses.

Buckwheat may be an acquired taste for some―it certainly came later for me.  When I was growing up, I recall my mom making buckwheat pancakes for my father.  I was a pretty good eater, but even then they were harsh tasting and heavy. The big, strong flavors did not fit into my youthful expectations of bland, fluffy pancakes.

Buckwheat Groats
Buckwheat Groats

Somewhere along the line, I made peace with buckwheat and now thoroughly enjoy it.  I actually look forward to my morning muesli blend, which currently includes enough toasted buckwheat groats to provide the pronounced nutty, tobacco nuances I’ve grown to appreciate.  No question, roasting intensifies buckwheat’s bold flavors.  For those still on the fence, consider untoasted groats, a milder version.

Roasted Buckwheat
Roasted Buckwheat

Most of us are familiar with kasha varnishkes the Eastern European dish containing kasha, or toasted buckwheat, mushrooms, and bowtie pasta―a hearty combo with both buckwheat groats and pasta! The clever Ashkenazi Jews also realized that in preparing the toasted kasha, the addition of egg whites would keep the groats from sticking together.

Did you know that buckwheat is not related to wheat nor is it a grain?  Rather, it is the seed of a flowering plant in the rhubarb family.   Used much like rice, it is quick cooking, extremely versatile, and it has an affinity for onions!  It is a nutritional powerhouse for women: high in protein and lysine, it contains iron, phosphorus, potassium, and substantial amounts of vitamins B and E.


This summer I’ve been dabbling in soba buckwheat noodles and especially love the brown-speckled strands in cool salad laced with plenty of crunchy vegetables.

Soba Noodle Salad
      Soba Noodle Salad

Accented with light, clean, Asian flavors, buckwheat’s boldness offers both balance and richness.  The shared nuttiness of sesame and buckwheat is a stellar example of how simpatico companions can blend beautifully together, creating an even better end result.

From a nutritional perspective, soba noodles are far superior to semolina pasta.  Although they both have a similar 73 grams of carbohydrates, buckwheat contains 10 grams of dietary fiber, compared to semolina’s 4 grams per serving.  Buckwheat’s high fiber content is a boon to appetite appeasement with a slow-release carbohydrate that provides a long lasting energy source.

When considering soba noodles, not all are the same. Read the label ingredients carefully to clarify the amount of buckwheat content as well as other ingredients included; avoid those with excessive filler and additives. The following Soba Noodle Salad only gets better with time.Soba Noodles with fork and spoon 2The noodles do not break down and the vegetables tend to take on a slight tangy pickle as they sit.  I change it up by topping it with whatever I have on hand:  shredded roast chicken, a fine-quality canned tuna, or generous slices of ripe avocado.  It’s all good!

Soba Noodle Salad

8 oz         soba, dried buckwheat noodles

Sesame-Soy Dressing
3 tbsp      soy sauce
3 tbsp      rice vinegar, or mild vinegar: apple cider or sherry vinegar diluted with 1 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsps    peanut oil
2 tsp       sesame oil
1 clove   garlic, grated or crushed
1 tsp       fresh ginger, grated
pinch      red pepper flakes or dash tabasco, to taste
pinch      sugar, or a dash agave or honey to taste

Assorted Vegetables
1            carrot, peeled, julienned or shredded
1/2         red pepper, seeded, julienned
1/2         medium-hot green pepper, Hungarian, poblano or other, seeded, julienned
1            small English cucumber, seeded, julienned or shredded
1            green onion, thin slivers

Optional Accompaniments
roast chicken shredded, fresh seared or canned tuna, arugula or other spicy lettuce
Garnishes:  sliced avocado, cilantro, sliced lime


  1. For Sesame-Soy Dressing combine all ingredients, adjust seasoning and set aside.
  2. To cook noodles, bring large pan of water to a boil, add the noodles and simmer about 7 minutes.  Test after 4 minutes, they should be firm and not mushy.    Drain, rinse with cold water to cool.  Drain well, transfer to large bowl, drizzle with a little of the dressing to lightly coat, and set aside while preparing the vegetables.
  3. Add the julienned vegetables as prepped to the bowl of soba noodles.  Gently toss the noodles and vegetables together with a bit more of the dressing.  Reserve a little dressing for salad assembly.   Can be made ahead at this point and chilled.
  4. To assemble:   Line a large platter, or individual bowls or plates with lettuce; pile the noodles and vegetables in the center.  Arrange the chicken or tuna on top.  If desired garnish with avocado and cilantro.  Drizzle a little more of the dressing over the top.  Serves 4 or more.