All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

crunchy fennel, celery, and parsley salad with balsamic dressing

A week under the covers (and under the weather), nursing a headache and ringing ears.  Enforced resting is hard for me  - I'd much rather be taking walks in the fresh air, so by the third day I was bored.  I re-read all my Ann Patchett books, then John Irving's Cider House Rules, which led me to several of Lee Bailey's cook/travel books, which were stuffed into the same shelf.  I've forgotten how much I love his straightforward, unfussy recipes, and how pretty the photographs are of his travels.  I browsed through his Cooking for Friends, and came across a fennel salad I haven't made in years.  My daughter looked at the photograph and mentioned she still remembered when I used to make that salad, and how much she loved it - that was many, many years ago.

Walking to the store today, what did I find in the produce section but fresh fennel bulbs, waving their fronds at me, so of course, I came home and made that salad again.  Crunchy, delicious, with a warm, mellow afterglow, it was as good as I remembered.  A few times I also threw in some fresh orange pieces, I recall, and just might do that tomorrow, inspired by his other fennel salad recipe, with olives and oranges.

Crunchy Fennel Salad (with parsley and celery)

1 medium fresh fennel bulb
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 to 1 cup minced Italian parsley
Shaved good Parmesan cheese

Halve the fennel bulb.  If the stems are wide, cut them lengthwise in half.   Slice the fennel stems across into manageable pieces, like you do with celery.  Cut out the little core at the bottom of the bulb, which is too hard to chew.

Balsamic dressing:

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
two pinches kosher salt
5 tablespoons good olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Whisk the dressing well in your salad bowl, then add the fennel, celery, and parsley and toss.   Spoon onto plates and garnish with the parmesan shavings.

This makes about four servings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

quick lentil salsa soup

My bedtime reading last night was a cookbook I picked up at the Hancock book sale (along with 12 others) by Marion Cunningham.  I was enchanted by the simple title " The Supper Book", and love browsing through it, but this was the first recipe I actually made from it.

It had an intriguing name - "Sharon's Lentil Salsa soup", but what got me excited was the very short list of ingredients, and an equally short cooking time.  When I had all the ingredients lined up, followed the recipe, and put down the first bowl on the table, I was surprised to see it had only taken 40 minutes, start to finish!  And best of all, the ingredients are usually staples in your fridge or pantry.

It was very good, though I feel the need to tinker with it a little, of course:)  But when my friend Kevin came by to taste test - and he instantly asked for the recipe so he could make it immediately.  My vegetarian daughter tasted it, then packed some up for her dinner at work. Well, salsa will do that, won't it?  I made half a recipe, since I wasn't sure how much it would make - next time I'll double it.

Lentil Salsa soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves peeled and sliced garlic
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup Green Mountain Gringo Salsa (medium heat) or your favorite salsa
3 cups water - more if necessary
bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole thyme leaf
kosher salt to taste

Place olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat on medium-low, then add the garlic, onions, and carrots.  Cook, until the vegetables are softened, stirring with a wooden spoon so they don't burn.  Add the water,bay leaf,thyme, lentils, and salsa, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Cover the pot, making sure the soup is gently simmering, not boiling.  Simmer 30 minutes, stirring once in a while to make sure the lentils aren't sticking - if that happens, just add a little chicken or vegetable stock or water.  I had no problem with scorching or sticking.  Taste and salt before serving.

Happy eating!

Friday, January 15, 2016

sweet potato, butternut squash, and egg saute

Living in a household of busy Moms and three smallish children is quite the change from my solitary New Hampshire mornings.  Breakfasts to be made, school lunches to pack, eye on the clock, a quick trip outside to gauge the weather so no one saunters outside unbundled.  But today, a leisurely walk and brunch when the house is quiet and still.  

Several inches of snow still on the ground as I walked around the neighborhood.  The Fence of Doors adds a cheery pop of color to the landscape, and a noisy tiff between two crows and what looked like an eagle high in the trees ended with a looping chase toward the Mississippi river not far from here.

Since today is food shopping day, the fruit platter was down to a kiwi and four bananas, and the glass bowl held a giant sweet potato and a nicely sized butternut squash.  Easy choice when you want a rib-sticking breakfast/lunch!  Peeled and chopped the squash and potato, sauteed just til soft, added spices and herbs, sesame oil, a shake of hot sauce on top of the egg and voila - a lovely January brunch.

Sweet Potato, Egg, and Butternut Squash saute:

2 cups peeled and large diced butternut squash and sweet potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon whole leaf thyme

Saute the squash and sweet potato in the herbs and oils for ten minutes medium heat in a large skillet, then cover and continue to cook until the squash and potato are tender.  Remove to a platter and cover with foil to keep it warm.

Scrape the skillet and add a little more oil if needed, then carefully slide an egg into the skillet.  Let cook for five minutes, turn heat down a little lower, and cover and cook until the egg is still soft, but firm.  Spoon the sweet potato and butternut onto a plate, then slide the egg on top and sprinkle with parsley or scallions.  Top with a splash of hot sauce and dig in.  (Note to self:  thick cut bacon crumbles would be a wonderful addition)

Wishing you a Happy January and Martin Luther King Day!

Monday, January 4, 2016

salads & sides: wilted rainbow chard with red wine vinegar

Christmas break is finally over - the grands headed back to school today.  It's been a noisy, happy vacation with the three of them around, but hard to find time to experiment in the kitchen without interruptions.  We got five inches of snow and plunging temperatures, but they are hardy little souls, enjoying cross-country skiing and sledding even with the chilly air.  The kitchen got a good workout, especially when my daughter got a hankering for Indian food :  she cooked up a dizzying array of unfamiliar dishes;  some I liked, some not as much, but always interesting, and the scent of curry and cumin and Indian bay was far more exotic than my usual thyme and garlic.

But my heart is really happy with simple dishes, so when I found the gorgeous but small bunch of rainbow chard in the vegetable drawer ( bought on the spur of the moment simply because it was so pretty and fresh) I was delighted.  Checking on Pinterest, I found this terrific simple chard recipe that was perfect for a late lunch.  And best of all, it took maybe 20 minutes from start to finish!  

Wilted Rainbow Chard with red wine vinegar

6 leaves fresh rainbow chard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled and cut into slivers
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
1/2 yellow pepper, cut into strips or dice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
a little water - about 2 tablespoons
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Cut the stems off the chard , gather them together, and slice across no more than 1 inch.
Slice the leaves lengthwise, then across into 2 inch wide pieces.

Place olive oil in saucepan or skillet and add the sliced stems, garlic, onions, and pepper cooking for about 5 minutes, then add the red wine vinegar and water, then finally, the chopped leaves.  Keep the heat on medium, and gently toss the mixture until the leaves are wilted.  Add the salt and pepper and serve while hot.

This made 2 small servings - next time I'll buy twice as much chard because it was SO good!     Happy January!

Monday, December 28, 2015

waiting for snow (and chunky apples and oats)

I have no idea where the time has gone, but keeping up with three small (grand) children on their Christmas breaks might have a little something to do with it.  And the scourge of strep, which my daughter has had five times now, the children several times .  I'd forgotten how exhausting it can be to have most of the family in bed, with the covers over their heads.

One thing 9 year old Isadora wanted asap was the chunky apples and oats for breakfast, as soon as her appetite came back.   I've now made it almost every morning for someone, but mostly for me.  And I've clarified a few directions from the original recipe ages ago, so that soon Izzie can make it herself, with adult supervision.  You will have to copy and paste, but I hope soon to have a clickable print and pin button from some talented blogger person:  that is NOT me, alas.

This oatmeal is so far from instant or gloppy oatmeal they are just barely related:  I simmer it for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, cover it, and let it slowly plump up the oats and gently cook the apple chunks.  It has definition and is delicious to savor with drizzles of honey or maple syrup, then topped with cream.  If you don't have fresh apples, you can use raisins or dried cranberries, which will plump up as the oats cook. SO good.

Chunky apples and oatmeal:

Makes about 4 servings.

2 medium apples, peeled and cut into dice or chunks
2  1/2 cups water 
1  1/2 cups rolled oats ( I use Quaker oats)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons unsalted butter

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place the apples, oats, water, cinnamon, and butter.

Bring the water to a simmer and let cook on medium low for 10 minutes, uncovered.

Remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for at least another 10 minutes, stirring gently once or twice, before serving with cream, syrup, or honey.  The oats will be delightfully chunky, not sticky.

Snow expected here tonight - up to 9 inches!  It's been comfortable weather, a little cold, a dusting of snow, so this is my very first storm in Minnesota.  Below is the street our 5th floor apartment looks down on, with the trolley/train tracks in the middle, and the little hobbit houses looking over the green where my friend Mark plays bocce in the summer - so different a view from the forests and mountains of New Hampshire I was used to.  Be well, and onward to the New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

winter detox soup

Colds and strep have been cycling around the family for weeks, and today when my daughter asked for a spicy green soup for her third bout with strep, I reached for all those familiar herbs and spices we use so often in winter:  fresh ginger root, garlic, thyme (but then, I put thyme in EVERYTHING), sea salt, and dill.  Sometimes a few splashes of hot sauce find their way into a soup, but not today.

We always have bags and bunches of kale and arugula, scallions and potatoes, onions and frozen stocks, but lacking a vegetarian stock, I used the seasoned vegetable base she had from Better than Bouillon, then added a little chicken stock after I ladled out her portion.

SO good!  On my second cup as I look out the window at the freezing sleet blanketing the sidewalk, happy to be warm and inside today, then a smile as I see Stuart Little at the top of the Christmas tree in his wee little canoe - and far from the reaches of two year old Noah.  

winter detox soup

2 heaping cups of russet or red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 large peeled garlic clove, cut in half
several sliced scallions, greens included
a small chunk (about an inch) of fresh ginger, unpeeled

Place the potatoes, onion, thyme, garlic, scallions, and ginger in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a low boil and cook until the potatoes are soft when poked with a fork.

When potatoes are soft, remove pot from heat and add:

a large tablespoon Better than Bouillon vegetable paste or chicken base
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt to taste- I added two little pinches
2 handfuls of arugula.  If they have stiff stems, remove them before tossing into the pot.
2 large handfuls of packaged kale - mine was already de-stemmed and torn
1 teaspoon dried dill

Cook until the greens are soft, then puree in a blender, adding more stock or water if it seems too thick.  Taste carefully before serving.  
Enjoy - and stay healthy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving - and welcome, December!

My first Thanksgiving in Minnesota was a joyously delicious one : I used Ina's recipe for her make-ahead turkey (don't ask why, because it was completely spontaneous) - it was perfectly cooked, tender, and moist , though my daughter missed the traditional stuffed turkey.  My daughter made those beautiful apple flowers, which I would love to learn how to make, AND a cranberry pie.  Mashed potatoes, and I'm quite sure we had salad and a green vegetable, but I've forgotten.   Almost as soon as we had cleaned up after Thanksgiving, we woke up to five inches of beautiful fluffy snow - the first snow I've seen out here.  I hope your Thanksgiving was delicious and warming, with friends and family, or thoughts of family.  And now - onto getting supplies to make these reindeer cookies with the grandchildren- and looking for a few sleds and a hill to race down!  Happy December 1st!