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Pepper & Salt delivers fresh, local soups and more

When is a bowl of soup more than just a bowl of soup? If that soup comes from Pepper & Salt, then it can be lunch, dinner, a snack, or an entree.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Tre Seibert, a classically trained French-pastry chef, stirs up a batch of green-garlic, thyme and millet biscuits.In fact, one of the things owner Josie Rankin-Lary likes best about her customers is that they tell her how they use the freshly made soups she delivers to them.

“They will stretch the soup by using it like a sauce, putting it over rice or over chicken,” she said.

Jody Schreffler, one of Rankin-Lary’s customers, prepares an after-school snack for her daughter by heating up a small bowl of soup and giving her daughter a bit of fruit to go with it.

“One container of soup can last all week. It’s a way for entire families to have healthy snacks,” Schreffler said.

Nutritious, convenient

The company does not have a brick-and-mortar space. Instead Rankin-Lary and her two fellow chefs, Tre Seibert and Vanessa Lombard-Hunter, prepare small batches of soup, salads and biscuits using the commercial kitchen at Oregon City United Methodist Church, and deliver the goods to customers.

“Our goal is to provide nutritious food using local produce. It is all about convenience and nutrition, and I love that we make the soups freezer-friendly,” Rankin-Lary said.

Because she collaborates with Schoolyard Farms and The Urban Farm Center, both in the Milwaukie area, Rankin-Lary can get almost all her farm-fresh ingredients locally.

She gets some onions from Idaho, and when she makes her Thai Tom Khaa soup, she buys ingredients from Asian grocery stores, but otherwise she can tell customers exactly where the produce is sourced.

That includes vegetables and herbs from her own garden. Last year she harvested 800 pounds of tomatoes and 300 butternut squashes to put in soups.

Rankin-Lary encourages customers who work together or live near one another to form “soup groups” of at least six, so she can deliver her product for free.

“People can sign up at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , and I will send them next week’s menu on Thursday. They have a couple of days to think about it, and then they place their orders. We spend six hours on Wednesdays delivering,” she said.

Currently, her customer base is 75 percent teachers in the North Clackamas and Oregon City school districts, but about 40 people pick up their orders from Rankin-Lary’s front porch, near Schoolyard Farms.

“We target a broad customer base of teachers, working people, single people, and busy heads of families,” she said, adding that meals range in price from $10 to $12 and typically serve two to four people.

In addition to delivering to schools and other businesses, Pepper & Salt has four pick-up sites: Eastham Community Center and the Marylhurst School in Oregon City; the Warrior Room kettlebell studio in Milwaukie; and Mix ‘n’ Match Creamery in Oak Grove.

The individually labeled soups and salads go into refrigerators at those sites and the secretaries collect the money, Rankin-Lary said.

Pepper & Salt

Although her background is as a culinary marketing consultant, Rankin-Lary has never been a chef, but she has always been around a kitchen.

She came up with the concept for her business several years ago, and found a good test group for her product among her fellow kettlebellers at the Warrior Room in Milwaukie.

In September of 2012, Rankin-Lary began making soup in the commercial kitchen at the Eastham Community Center, but in July of 2013 moved to the much larger kitchen at the church in Oregon City.

She and Schreffler came up with the name Pepper & Salt in a brainstorming session, she said, adding that the first year she made 40 different soups.

“Now we make well over 130 soups, with 30 that are particularly well-received. During our peak season we make 150 to 200 quarts of soup,” she said. Now with the school year coming to an end, and with warm weather in the forecast, Rankin-Lary is adding freshly made, layered salads and biscuits to the mix.

Last week, Rankin-Lary made a huge batch of Mellow Yellow soup, while Seibert, a trained French-pastry chef, put together green-garlic, thyme and millet biscuits.

Mellow Yellow is one of Pepper & Salt’s most requested soups. It is a mild curry soup, made with yellow curry, organic yellow lentils, organic yellow squash, fresh ginger, onions, garlic, lime, turmeric, coconut milk and organic vegetable stock.

Meanwhile, Lombard-Hunter was filling the kitchen with the aroma of a fresh lemon-basil vinaigrette dressing, made to accompany the salad that Rankin-Lary was creating.

The salad is made with black rice, wheat berries, organic fingerling potatoes, organic asparagus, organic cherry tomatoes, organic carrots, a variety of freshly harvested greens from Candy Lane Farms, and multicolored radishes as a garnish. Customers also may request that chunks of roasted chicken be added to the salad.

Recipes

One of the secrets to Rankin-Lary’s soup recipes is that “each ingredient is cooked separately, so each has its own flavor profile.”

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Josie Rankin-Lary, owner of Pepper & Salt, shows off a layered salad, with many local, organic ingredients.All her soup stocks are made from scratch, and she always has vegetarian options and often a vegan one; all the soups are gluten-free since there is never any flour used in them.

In addition to Mellow Yellow and Tom Khaa soup, a rotating menu of soup choices might include chicken tortilla, lemon tarragon chicken with wild rice, roasted pepper bisque with smoked chicken and quinoa, Moroccan lentil soup with curry turkey meatballs, and smoked salmon chowder.

Other sides available include Asian lettuce wraps and spinach or roasted red pepper hummus with pita bread.

Rankin-Lary hand-labels each product. She wants customers to know specific nutrition information, what the ingredients are, and where they are sourced because she wants them to almost be able to taste the dish, just from reading the label.

Speaking of tasting, Pepper & Salt and Schoolyard Farms will be offering tastes of their made-from-scratch foods on June 6 at First Friday in downtown Milwaukie.

To find out more, send an email to Josie Rankin-Lary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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