All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016

freezing basil and a little vacation

I am back from a splendid "vacation" visiting my daughter and three grandchildren (and the cats and doggie) in their lovely house in Minneapolis. It was truly a wonderful visit, in spite of the alarming moment when the puppy Maisie ran away (found a few blocks away hanging out with a little brewfest party:), and the sigh when I realized, yes.  The three year old still bellows his rising and shining at 4 or 5 am.  I was thrilled to find the lavender turtleheads flowering in the side yard, right on schedule as it is in New Hampshire.

Now back at my place, and checking on my basil in my little garden, I saw the first golden leaf beside the bush.   First an inhaling of that wonderful scent, and then snipping away to fill a bowlful of those gorgeous, fragrant leaves.  It rained last night, but by afternoon the leaves were dry - perfect for freezing.

This is a trick I learned some time ago - that if you clip basil when it's perfectly dry and place in a clean, dry, freezer container and stick in your freezer, the basil will stay green and fragrant - and that is such a treat in February!  As I'm not familiar with the frost date in St. Paul, I decided to stash that beautiful basil while it was on my mind. Just remember, it has to be completely dry before clipping.  Simply snip off the very dry leaves and layer in the container, discarding the stems.

Happy September!

Two years ago:  Buttery Cabbage Slices(steaks)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

buttermilk lemon cake

How can it be the last day of August already?  The last few months flew by, with me hobbling around with what I was told was gout, but tests confirmed it was not.  Still limping, but slowly able to walk further - to the store to buy ingredients for my daughter's favorite birthday cake!

Buttermilk Lemon cake is a combination of two recipes -  a sticky, lemony cake with a lemon glaze, and a creamy cream cheese and lemon frosting I usually top my carrot cakes with, and it is delicious!  I forgot to take a picture of the big cakes, but there was a tiny "extra" cake with the last of the batter.  I did a hasty piping and dollops of frosting, not so pretty, but it would have to do as an after picture.

Buttermilk Lemon cake

You can use a sheet pan, or several round pans.  Grease the pans and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325F.

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3 cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons

Beat in mixer until blended and creamy, then add:

5 eggs
4 1/2 cups King Arthur flour, all purpose
1 teaspoon baking soa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Scrape the batter into the greased pans and bake - it usually takes an hour and ten minutes for mine.  The cake will be slightly brown on top and firm to the touch when you press the center gently.  Remove to wire racks to cool.  While cooling, make the lemon glaze:

1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Place lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring the whole time, then take off heat to cool. 
If using a rectangular pan for the cake, cut the cake into equal rectangles or squares and let cool on a rack.  If using round pans, cool, run a knife around the edge, and very carefully unmold cake onto a wire rack.  Brush the lemon glaze on the cakes .

The Cream Cheese frosting:

In mixer bowl, place:

1 large package cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
juice of one lemon (about2-3 tablespoons)

Cream the ingredients, then slowly add:

1 box confectioner's sugar (or 3 1/2 cups loose confectioners sugar)

Pipe or spread on cooled cake, or cake pieces.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

polenta cakes with fresh tomatoes, scallions and basil

Hooray for tomato season!  Such a glorious assortment of sizes and shapes everywhere, from farmers markets to home gardens, to co-ops and grocery stores  - and because I'm without a garden this year, it's all the more thrilling.  I was hoping to make a tomato tart, but got blindsided with a gimpy ankle for a few days which kept me off my feet and away from the markets.  But I did have a stash of fresh herbs and baby tomatoes - and remembered those polenta cakes I used to make soooo......  I gave it a whirl, and was actually stunned when I unmolded the polenta cakes - they were so PRETTY!

This is such an easy, simple recipe, I'm sure you'll come up with some beautiful ideas of your own.  And don't forget, they're gluten free.

Polenta cakes with fresh tomatoes, scallions, and basil

First, you will need 6 of those little white souffle/dessert cups.  Drip a little olive oil in each one, and rub the oil on the bottoms and sides.  Set aside.

Tomato/herb mixture:

About 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of chopped basil
2-3 tablespoons sliced scallion greens

Mix together the herbs and tomatoes and and sprinkle equal amounts on the bottoms of the souffle cups.  Set aside.

The polenta:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup cold water
1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)

Whisk the cornmeal into the cold water and set aside.

In a separate saucepan:

3 cups water, brought to a boil in a medium sauce pan

When the water is boiling, scrape the cold water and cornmeal into the hot water and whisk briskly.  If you want to, you can add 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan to the mixture.

Whisk the mixture until it makes plopping noises and bubbles.  Remove from heat.
Using a large spoon or a spring loaded ice cream scoop, fill the oiled cups right up to the top and smooth with another spoon.  Let cool for 25 minutes, run a knife around the lip of each cup, and unmold very carefully onto a platter or individual plates.

Serve at room temperature, along with a fresh green salad, some nice brie and rolls or good bread.  Yummers!

And that gimpy foot?  Turned out to be gout, of all things, which runs in my family.
No more sardines, chicken, hamburgers, tunafish, or mackerel - or gelato, either. Not for a while, anyway.   Hope you're having a glorious summer!


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

one jar of strawberry jam (recipe)

Oh, my, it is hot today - temperature heading to the 90's - not exactly jam-making weather, but when you're out of fresh jam, nothing gets in your way, right?  This is my quick recipe for a small amount of strawberry jam, which is pretty much the only jam I eat.  It takes maybe half an hour, start to finish.

Choose either a jam or jelly jar or glass that is somewhat heat proof (the jam will be poured into the jar/glass while still very hot), wash it well, dry, then pour hot water in halfway up the jar.  This is to temper the jar a little before you fill it with hot jam.  Set aside.

You will need:

1 heaping cup hulled and sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

Cut up clean strawberries into a one cup measure, then place berries in a saucepan on medium heat.  Cook them for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon all the while, then add the lemon juice and the sugar. 

Continue to stir for another 15 minutes or so, checking to see if the mixture is jelling.  You can use a candy thermometer , but it's such a small amount it's not always accurate.  I just stir, lift the spoon up sideways, and check the dripping jam - which coats the spoon and thickens very quickly.  If it seems watery, cook a little longer, but keep stirring and checking.

Pour the hot water out of the jar, and place a metal spoon in the jar or glass - an old wives tale is that it has to be silver, so who am I to challenge that?  

Scrape the jam into the glass or jar and set aside to cool.  Once cooled, you can either screw on a lid or cover with plastic wrap, if it's a glass.  Place in fridge and you're done!

Four days later - time to make another jar!

In the past, I've added cinnamon sticks, orange peel, slivers of ginger root, herbs from the garden (lemon balm and lemon verbena) - and sometimes just a handful or raspberries found on a walk.  Just don't add too much liquid/juice to the mixture or it won't jell.

Enjoy - and stay cool!

PS/  I'm a grandmother again!  A big welcome to Madelyn Skye, born 20 July in New Hampshire!  

One year ago :  Jamie's red pepper pasta sauce with lemon, parsley, and ham
Two years ago:  Fresh lemon scones with drizzle frosting

Monday, July 11, 2016

Italian turkey meatballs

Settling in finally, though I still look at that tiny gas stove warily.  But yesterday I was so hungry I finally made those turkey meatballs I love so much - perfect for snacks and/or an actual sit down supper.  They're super simple to make, quick to cook, and loaded with freshly chopped herbs.

To make you will need:

1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons sliced scallion tops (the green part)
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1 extra-large egg (the egg makes the meatballs very tender)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
lots of black pepper (lost my pepper grinder in the move) - I used boxed pepper
1 or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil (for the cooking)

First, wash your hands.
Place the turkey, parsley, egg, thyme, salt, pepper, and scallions in a medium bowl.
Stir the mixture until it is well combined.
Pinch off tablespoon sized pieces of the mixture and roll carefully into balls, setting the balls on a platter.  The mixture is quite sticky.

Wash your hands again, then pour the olive oil into a medium sized frying pan and heat on medium.
Using a large spoon, move all the meatballs into the frying pan, cover, and cook for ten minutes.  Uncover the pan, and use the spoon to roll the meatballs over, then cover again.  Cook another ten minutes.  Take a meatball out and cut in half to make sure the ground turkey is cooked and not pink.  Remove from heat and serve - or set aside to cool before placing in the fridge.  I like to serve it with salsa, but you can also use guacamole or hummus as a side.

This usually makes about 25 meatballs, depending on size.


A year ago : kale salad with breadcrumbs and garlic
2 years ago:  fresh cherry scones with lemon zest

Sunday, June 26, 2016

a new apartment

Ah, here I am - in a different city (Saint Paul, MN) and a new little apartment .  Moving again so soon meant lots and lots of naps, packing and unpacking, walking in a brand new neighborhood - and getting used to my very tiny (but cute!) city kitchen.  The stove is propane, which I'm very, very wary of, especially as the only smoke detector is entirely too close to the stove.  I have been making quick picnic food - grilling and sauteing will have to wait.  Ah, you noticed there is no counter?  I didn't realize it for THREE days:)  But all is well, and I look forward to slowly getting back to some new recipes.

                                                             the kitchen
                            kale with onions, peppers, blistered tomatoes, basil  
lovely June strawberries almost every day

sardines in olive oil and hot pepper sauce & lemon

Happy almost end of June!

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!