All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

rainbow chard, baby tomatoes and sorrel with red wine vinaigrette

Oh, my, life has been busy!  For months I've been searching for a place back in beloved New Hampshire, then, when that turned up nothing affordable, the Minneapolis area.  I move at the end of the month , yet again rooms filled with boxes.  But plenty of walks to take in the beauty of the season here, the flowering trees are truly stunningly beautiful.  A visit to Lake Nokomis, to watch the ducks and ducklings.  A visit to a community garden, picking rhubarb for stewing and sorrel for this light supper one night.  Oh, the colors and tastes of May!  Many walks with the new puppy, Maisie, take me outside more than usual - she has yet to get the whole potty training down pat. It reminds me of those days with my then-toddler children:)  And all those new friends I've made out here have made my days busier and full of good conversation and rambles - and good food.

Rainbow chard, tomatoes, and sorrel with red wine vinaigrette :

5 leaves (stems included) rainbow chard, roughly cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1-2 heaping cups baby yellow and red tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh sorrel, thinly sliced
about 1/2 cup water - more if needed
kosher salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

Place the olive oil and water in a stainless steel frying pan and heat.
Add the chard and tomatoes and cook, covered, until wilted.
Uncover and add the sorrel, cook until the chard stems are a little soft, and the tomatoes are just about to burst.
Drain, if necessary (I had no water left, but you might)

The vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon good olive oil

Mix well and pour over the vegetables, toss gently.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, then the sorrel leaves and serve.
Serves two.

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

leek greens and sweet potato frittata

After making that creamy, oh-so-delicious vichyssoise the other day, the leftover leek greens greeted me every time I opened the fridge door.  Yes, I am one of those people who tries not to waste food and feels guilty every time I throw away yet another icky bag of old arugula or fresh spinach.

Wait a minute - what about a frittata? I poked through the fridge to see what might go with sauteed leek greens and found the fresh chives and a sweet potato.  The light green middle part of the leeks I washed carefully, then cut into 2 inch pieces and tossed in the food processor for a quick blitz - just enough to mince them - then did a quick saute in olive oil to soften them before adding them to the egg mixture.  It was so good I'm sorry there are no leftovers today  - it was last night's supper and it went very quickly!

Leek and sweet potato frittata

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut off the light green leaves from the leftover leek greens and wash well. 
Cut into 2 inch pieces and briefly pulse in the food processor.  I ended up with 1 1/2 cups - if you have more, you can keep it in a container in the freezer to add to soups.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter in a skillet and add the leek greens.  Saute on medium-low until the greens are soft.  Take off heat and scrape into a bowl.  

The frittata:

Oil a 9 or 10 inch glass pie plate and set aside.

Mix together:

6 extra-large eggs
1 heaping cup of the cooked leek greens
kosher salt or Spike vegetable salt to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 cup grated, peeled sweet potato (I used a box grater - it was surprisingly easy)
lots of freshly grated pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Scrape mixture into the prepared pie pan and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the frittata is firm and golden on top.  Remove to cool before cutting into slices.

Monday, April 25, 2016

vichyssoise with fresh chives and thyme

What a wonderful way to celebrate my blog getting fixed (thank you, Kelci) - four distressing days I never want to go through again, when my account was suspended due to a questionable email I had gotten.  I was out for a walk two days ago, worrying and hyperventilating, when I saw my neighbor's two enormous chive plants and admired them.  She handed me some scissors and a plastic bag and told me to help myself, which I did -  then promptly celebrated with a pot of delicious vichyssoise.

This is the classic vichyssoise that you can also find in Julia's books:  when it's cold, it's vichyssoise, when it's served warm, it's potage parmentier - a smooth, creamy soup (though it only has 3 tablespoons of cream) that I sprinkle with fresh chives and thyme leaves - thyme being my favorite herb of all.  Served with a fresh green salad, it's a fine welcome to Spring.

To make:

3 cups sliced leeks (white only)
3 cups diced potatoes (I used small yellow potatoes)
3 cups light chicken broth
1 teaspoon or more kosher salt
a few thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream

Simmer the leeks, potatoes, broth, salt and thyme sprigs in a large pot for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.
Remove thyme twigs from pot and toss.
Puree soup in blender or Cuisinart and return to cooking pot.
Swirl in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 4 tablespoons heavy cream and stir well.
Serve cold in mugs or bowls, sprinkled with minced chives and a few thyme leaves picked from their stems.

Happy Spring to you all!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

chocolate-chip snack muffins on a blustery day

 What a blustery, chilly, few days!  I should be grateful it's not snow - which I see on my Facebook feed from my New England friends, but something about the gusty winds sends me straight to the kitchen to make something a little sweet, a little chocolatey, a little nibble to brighten up the day.  These chocolate chip snack muffins came to mind - perfect when you want a little something, but not overwhelmingly sweet or complicated.  I found the recipe years ago on Two Peas and their Pod, and loved it instantly.

Chocolate Chip Snack Muffins

2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar ( I used dark brown)
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch or two of kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (8 tablespoons)
2 extra large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk (you can also use plain yogurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.  
Line a regular (not Texas size) 12 muffin tin with paper liners.
Place the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl:  the flour, sugars, baking powder and salt in mixer bowl.
In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla, stir well, then add to the flour mixture, then add in the chocolate chips.  Mix briefly but thoroughly, then use an ice cream scoop to fill the paper liners.  I had just enough batter to make one more bigish muffin, so I buttered a souffle cup for the 13th muffin.

Bake for approximately 18 minutes (ovens do vary, so touch a muffin gently on the top to make sure it's slightly firm to touch - if it isn't ,just bake a few more minutes)

Voila!  Perfect after-school snack for the kids - and for you!  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

chunky ratatouille with rainbow peppers (and a little salsa)

When I was young, ratatouille was not an unknown - I ate it, but it often was made with too much olive oil, and the vegetables were limp and , to my eye, overcooked.  And then came Nouvelle Cuisine.  Somewhere I read a recipe for ratatouille during that time -  the vegetables were cooked quickly, and they stayed beautifully colorful.  From that time on I tinkered with the recipe, depending on the season.  Which brings me to my delight with those cello bags of small, colorful sweet peppers, which are almost always on hand.  Instead of using one large pepper , I thought it would be even prettier with a rainbow of color - orange, reds, yellows - the green of zucchini, the dusky skin of the eggplant.

And you see, I was right:

In under 45 minutes from start to finish I had at least 5 or 6 cups of ratatouille  - some into containers for the fridge, and some to give away to my neighbors, who are always interested in what I'm cooking.

The recipe:

Note:  I taste raw eggplant and usually can tell if it's going to be bitter.  Bitter eggplant is a disaster because there's no way to save it, you have to toss it.  That said, it's wise to slice the eggplant, sprinkle with kosher salt, and let sit 15 minutes.  Wash and pat dry before proceeding with the recipe.

1 medium firm eggplant, sliced (see above), cut into large dice
4 tablespoons good olive oil (I use California)
1 large white onion, chopped
4 smashed peeled garlic cloves
2 medium green zucchinis, washed, sliced into large dice
1/2 lb (which is half a bag) of rainbow mini peppers, trimmed of stems and seeded and sliced into fourths
1 medium can of diced tomatoes, include juices
1 cup small cherry tomatoes, whole
3 tablespoons Green Mountain Gringo salsa, medium heat
salt and pepper to taste
dried basil and oregano, or you can use fresh as well - I prefer dried.

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil until sizzling.  Add the onions and garlic and stir for a few minutes, then add the chopped peppers.  Let the peppers sear a little before stirring them - I like the little bit of charring they pick up.

Add the canned tomatoes, salsa, herbs, eggplant, and zucchini and stir well. Then add the whole cherry tomatoes and gently stir in.  Let cook, half covered, on medium heat 15-20 minutes, then stir and taste the ratatouille.  There should be no undercooked pieces in the pot.  Take the pot off the burner, cover, and let sit half an hour before eating.  You can plate it or just put it in a bowl or serving dish.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

kale, scallion and sharp cheddar frittata

I think the biggest change going from a solitary, rural living situation, to living in a city with a blended family of grown children and grandchildren is cooking.  Gluten-free and vegetarian, and sometimes vegan meals have to be considered, so I was overjoyed when I found this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen which, for now, everyone can eat.  She calls it an egg bake, I call it delicious, and the boys call it a frittata.  We primarily use Cabot's Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese, so I used that instead of mozzarella.  I added a few more eggs, because the egg mixture seemed a little scanty in the baking dish, but most of the recipe is Kalyn's.  (I also used a lower baking temperature because it's my habit when cooking eggs.)  And her addition of Spike as a seasoning was delicious, rather than my usual kosher salt, pepper, and dried or fresh herbs.  Total winner, all around.

kale, scallion, and cheddar frittata:

1 medium bunch fresh kale, stripped from stems and sliced - when I measured it came to      4 cups packed raw kale
2 tablespoons sweet olive oil or soft butter (for the dish)
1 1/2 - 2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 scallions (green onions) sliced
10 large eggs
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning
(optional: 2 teaspoons fresh minced dill)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Use your fingers to butter or oil a glass baking dish - mine was 9x13 inches.

Briefly cook the kale in a few inches of water until wilted.  Drain and set aside.

In a mixer bowl, add the eggs and beat briefly, then add the scallions, Spike seasoning, dill, and cheese.  Fold in the drained kale.

Pour the mixture into the dish, patting in evenly with your (clean) fingers or a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove to cool before cutting into squares.


One surprising thing about Minneapolis are the wild squirrels and bunny rabbits - they are everywhere, eating bushes and gardens.  I wondered why there were so many hostas here - it's one of the few things they don't eat.  I saw this little fellow leap up and cross to the house next door along the fence two feet away from me.  Bold little critters!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

quick tart and sweet cucumber pickles

A sunny, warm and windy day in Minneapolis - and mobs of people walking in the park and on the sidewalks with huge smiles and nods to each other - myself included.  It truly is a glorious day in early March, if you can believe it.

It put me in mind of picnic fare , and the tart-but-sweet Finnish "salad" I make with dill and cucumbers, more pickles than salad or side and a breeze to make. Minutes later, I was eating them fresh from the bowl, sweet and sour and a little puckery.  All I had to do was slice the cucumbers and measure out the marinade.

This will keep in the fridge (cover with plastic wrap), but we usually eat it all, so that rarely happens.

Quick tart and sweet cucumber pickles

2 large cucumbers, washed and sliced paper thin (not English cucumbers)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup plain white vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

You can either slice the cucumbers by hand , which is tedious but doesn't take very long, or you can use your mandoline or food slicer disc-  faster, but sometimes a little messy.

Pour the sugar and vinegar into a glass or non-reactive bowl (not metal) and stir well. Add the chopped dill and the salt and stir well, then add the cucumbers.

Mix well and place in the fridge to marinate for a a half an hour at least - if there's any left.  You should probably make a double batch, just in case.  I wish I'd thought of that because a third of it is already gone.  Just "tasting" to make sure it was perfect:)

Tonight is the very last episode of Downton Abbey, can you believe it?  I will miss it terribly after all these Sunday night years - did you hear they're making a movie with the same cast?  There's something to look forward to!