All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dorie's custardy apple cake

Yesterday morning I was circling the kitchen, trying to decide what to do with the bowl of apples from the orchard up the hill.  Pie?  I like apple pie, but I usually end up leaving most of the pie crust on the plate.  As I blankly looked at my idea board on the wall, I suddenly saw the ripped out Wednesday Boston Globe food section from last week, and there it was: an interview with Dorie Greenspan and a recipe for her Custardy apple squares.  I checked the ingredient list and I had everything but a square pan.  I pulled out one of my professional grade 8 inch cake pans - the one with the nice rolled rim and 2 inch height.  That would have to do.

It came together like a dream - it was almost too easy to make.  I shared half the cake with my friendly taste-testers, but over the course of the day regretted that, as I wistfully polished off the last slice.  Today I made it again for my neighbor , and I'm thinking after a run to the store for more vanilla, I may just make a third one.  And I'm also thinking this could easily be made gluten-free, since it only uses 1/2 cup of flour.  If you do make a GF version, please let me know what you used, so I can pass it along to Izzie, my GF granddaughter.

Dorie's Custardy Apple Cake

Preheat oven to 375F.

Butter or vegetable shortening for the pan.
Parchment circle for the bottom of the pan (I just trace and cut from a roll)
3 medium fresh apples - enough to make 2 cups apple slices
A mandoline for slicing the apples, or a sharp knife and lots of patience
1/2 cup all purpose King Arthur flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 extra large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 or 2 pinches of kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioner's sugar for sprinkling on top of the cake

Butter the cake tin, trace a circle on parchment and cut out and press into bottom of pan.
Peel and slice the apples very thinly, using a mandoline .  Set aside.
Measure the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.
In mixer bowl, add the eggs,sugar and salt and beat for two minutes, then add the milk and vanilla and the melted butter.  Mix briefly.
Add the flour and baking powder to the egg mixture and mix briefly.
Add the apples to the batter, and gently fold in the apple slices with a rubber spatula until they are coated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean, and the top of the cake is golden.  It will continue to bake as it cools in the tin.
Let cake cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake.  Quickly flip cake onto another cooling rack, place another rack on top, and flip over so cake is right side up.
Cut the cake into 6 or 8 triangles, and dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving.

Adapted from Dorie's book:  Baking Chez Moi

Monday, October 20, 2014

egg timbales with chopped herbs

I have finally torn myself away from walking in this autumn wonderland - what a beautiful Fall it's been , every day glowing with bright oranges and golden yellows - and for once the lack of rain has lengthened leaf-peeking season.

To celebrate Monday, I decided to again make Craig Claiborne's egg timbales, which are  creamy, custardy unsweetened puddings with a generous amount of finely chopped herbs.  It's been years since I've looked up that recipe!  The only thing I was wishing I had added was a tablespoon of good Swiss cheese, but that's an indulgence  - I do love cheese. The timbales are very mild and soothing, and elegant enough for a brunch.

Here's the recipe I made today:

1 cup whole milk or light cream, scalded (which means heated to just under simmering or boiling)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten with a fork
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced scallions, greens included
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill (you can also use parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Swiss cheese, grated, 1 tablespoon (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F.
Heat a kettle of water to just boiling.
Butter 3 standard ramekins or small ovenproof cups.
Add the scalded milk or cream to the eggs, whisking, then add the salt, herbs, scallions and the cheese, if desired.
Ladle the mixture into the ramekins.  Since they do not puff up, you can fill to just under the top of the ramekins.
Place the cups into a deep sided pan (I used a small cake pan with 2 inch sides), then pour the simmering water into the pan no higher than 3/4ths up the sides of the ramekins.
Set in oven for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the ramekin comes out clean and the mixture is firm.

Serve with toast, English muffins, or a thick slice of buttered French bread.
Makes 3 servings.

Today I am sealing my bedroom floor, which is beautiful old wood - but after 150 years or so, has shrunk, leaving large cracks that let the cold air (and the mold) straight into my bedroom.  After that can I put down a rug or carpeting so no more cold feet in the winter:)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

busy day chicken soup with greens and pasta

What a wild morning!  When I woke up, the rain was pouring, a soft wind blowing, trees shaking and waving, the dark clouds racing across the sky towards the coast.  Two hours later the sun came out and all that is left of the storm is a pretty carpet of leaves in the front yard.

Busy day, busy day!  Articles to write, pictures to take, recipes to double check.  As I was making one dough, and wrapping another for the fridge, I saw the leftover chicken, the lovely fresh kale, the herbs in the drawer still (surprisingly) firm and green. Which gave me an idea.

I pulled out a pot, and, in between mixing and measuring the tart and pie dough, quickly washed and trimmed and cut and tore the vegetables and the chicken, into the pot.  In with the stock, the sprig of rosemary, and last of all the pasta bubbling away.  This was the easiest lunch to pull together in some chaos of sorts, and I'm grateful to sit down to a big bowl of it in a half hour.

Busy Day Chicken soup with greens and pasta

2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sliced scallions (green onions)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, rough chop
1 cup sliced celery
1 teaspoon thyme
pinch hot pepper flakes if desired
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 or 2 cups leftover cooked chicken, cut in chunks
3/4 cup macaroni or small pasta.  I used large ditali from Italy

1 cup packed torn kale greens, set aside to add at the very end

bring the water and stock to a rolling simmer and add everything but the pasta/macaroni and the kale.
Simmer fifteen minutes, then add the pasta.  Cook until pasta is soft, take off heat, and stir in the torn kale.  Taste for seasoning and serve with bread and curls of parmesan cheese, if you want. (which I definitely wanted!)

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Northern bean soup with kale, tomatoes, oregano and cumin

While Sunday was what we call "that holy moment" - that day when the temperature is still warm, but the leaves are turning bright orange in the sunshine - Monday was chilly and damp, and that brilliant light was gone.  No matter, it was a perfect day for this hearty soup.  

In the past, I've made this with lentils, but that bag of Great Northern beans (similar to cannellini beans, but larger) was too enticing to ignore.  Instead of soaking the beans overnight, I put them in a pot covered with water, bring just to a simmer, then take off the heat to soak several hours.  Then I drain the beans, rinse cold water over them, and put them back in the pot to proceed with the recipe.  They do seem to keep their shape well using this method, instead of turning mushy too quickly.  I also avoid adding salt to the beans until they're cooked, which can toughen the beans.

Prepare 2 cups dry Great Northern beans as above.  Place the plumped beans in a stockpot and cover with half water, half chicken or vegetable stock.

Add to the plumped beans:

1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up, with the juices
1 clove garlic, minced

5-6 cups torn kale greens, no stems.  The kale is added just before serving, so set aside.

Simmer the herbs, onion, olive oil/butter, garlic, beans and tomatoes until the beans are soft, adding more water or stock if needed to keep the beans covered.

Taste the soup for seasonings and add kosher salt to taste.

Just before serving, turn off the heat and stir in the torn kale. Cover the pot for a few minutes, then serve the soup in big bowls, with a nice crusty bread and some sweet butter.

Enjoy these beautiful days!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

last of the green beans with dijon vinaigrette

Yesterday I cleaned up my sad little plot of a garden  - it was a cool, damp summer, and the only vegetable to thrive was the little row of green beans.  Of course.  I had 8 different kinds of tomato plants and got perhaps two handfuls of cherry tomatoes  - the rest withered away.  

To be honest, I'm not that crazy about green beans, so I ignored the bushy corner of the garden until it came time yesterday to pull out the plants.  I dutifully picked the big beans, which were still firm, and brought them in to the kitchen counter, where they sat for several hours, until I suddenly remembered the dijon vinaigrette I used to make years ago, often on top of sliced potatoes or cooked greens.  I found the recipe in the first Silver Palate cookbook,, exactly the same recipe I used.

What I discovered this morning when I made this dish, is that I don't like those slender, spidery green beans we served in the restaurant - you know, the French ones.  I love the hefty mature green beans, though, and the vinaigrette was perfect .  Just make sure the beans are very firm.

Green Beans with dijon vinaigrette:

Make the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar ( I used a little less)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grindings of fresh pepper
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley (or chives, if you have them)
1/2 cup good olive oil

Place the mustard in a bowl and whisk.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and parsley and whisk.
Continue to whisk while slowly dribbling in the olive oil until it thickens.  Taste for seasonings and set aside.

Rinse the green beans and drain - I had about three big handfuls of beans.  Trim off the tops of the beans, but you can leave the tails.  I had two piles of beans:  one whole and the other pile sliced in half.

Bring a pot of water to a slow boil, throw in half the beans and cook 4 minutes, scoop up and quickly run cold water over them, then set aside.  Repeat with the rest of the beans, making sure you're not crowding the pan.  Again, rinse with cold water and drain.

You can put all the beans in a serving dish, but I did individual platings.  Drizzle a tablespoon of the vinaigrette on the plate or bowl, add a handful of cooked beans, then add a tiny bit more vinaigrette on top of the beans.   Delicious!

How did YOUR garden grow this summer?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

little appetizers with crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs, and homemade boursin

The other day I made a few trays of appetizers for a meeting, nothing complicated.  Thinly sliced fresh and crunchy radishes and mild yellow peppers, just- ripe tomatoes, fresh snippings of Italian parsley and dill, oregano, and basil from the garden, gently placed on top of homemade bread and a layer of homemade boursin herb cheese.  Sometimes simple is best!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

buttery cabbage slices

When I made supper one night for the grandchildren last winter, I was telling them about some bloggers calling these "cabbage steaks" and how ridiculous it sounded - to me a steak is a steak, right?  Wrong.  The kids and Anni were thrilled with that name, and kept asking for another "cabbage steak".  

I was just happy they loved these gently simmered cabbage slices, topped with a simple olive oil and melted butter sauce.  Quickly cooked green cabbage is sweet and fresh, but overcook it and it either dissolves or scents the air with a somewhat pungent aroma.


Choose a very firm, fresh green cabbage, not too big.
If the outside leaves are ragged or yellowing, just remove them.
Using a large knife, cut the cabbage across into 3/4 inch circles.

In a large stainless steel skillet, heat an inch, inch and a half of water, just until it simmers.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to the water, then use a spatula to move the slices into the skillet.

Sprinkle the cabbage slices with a little thyme and salt, cover, and cook until the cabbage is just tender when pierced with a fork - about 10 to 12 minutes.

Gently remove the cabbage to plates or a platter.  There are usually stray ribbons of cabbage that come apart from the slices - just put them into a serving dish and top with a little more butter/olive oil and thyme and toss.  Continue with the rest of the cabbage slices, adding more water if necessary.

Serve with a little extra melted butter/olive oil if desired (the kids actually were fine without any extra - but I love mine buttery:)

Chilly and damp here in New Hampshire - and everyone I talk to admits to turning on the heat for at least a half hour:)    Hope you all have a lovely week!