All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2017

Thursday, December 19, 2013

sugar-roasted walnuts and almonds for giving





I can't believe I first made this recipe from Two Peas and their Pod in 2009 - it feels like such a Christmas tradition that dates back to gingerbread cookies, meaning forever.

Everyone likes these sugar-roasted walnuts ( and I do use more walnuts than almonds, but that's just my preference) - wonderful for parties, stockings - and friends and family.  I usually package them in cello bags ( I found some nice clear ones at Michael's craft store) with curly gold ribbon.  Did I mention they're gluten-free?  Izzie is back on a GF diet, so I do try to have some of these around for snacking, even when it isn't December.

Preheat oven to 250F.

Line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2 egg whites
2 teaspoons cold water
4 cups walnut halves and whole almonds - not too small
6 tablespoons white sugar
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the egg whites and water in a large bowl and beat until frothy, then add the nuts and stir to coat well.
Mix the sugars, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl then sprinkle over the nuts.  Use a large spoon to again coat the nuts evenly,

Spread out on the parchment fairly evenly and bake on upper third of oven for one hour.  After 30 minutes, use a large spoon to stir up the nuts a little, then continue baking.

After an hour, turn off heat, but leave the nuts in the oven for another 20 minutes or so, just to make sure they're crunchy.

Cool completely before packaging.

Hope you have time for a walk in the snow !  We have had two snowstorms in the last week, about 1 1/2 to 2 feet altogether. 



And make sure you save a handful for yourself - while you make lists for next Christmas:)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

creamy brussels sprouts and arugula soup and 10 inches of snow





Well, we knew it was coming and the weather people were right on the mark - 10 inches of pretty snow, and thankfully no sleet or freezing rain.  I don't know - winter isn't ringing my jingle bells much these days, but it's lovely to look out on.

I am recovering from a little accident with my hatchet, so hunting and pecking on the computer without my speediest finger, which is firmly wrapped to protect the stitches.  The doctor gave me a scolding for not using a glove while splitting off some kindling  - and holding the piece of pine board with my bare fingers. Oops.

Today was another perfect day for my newest soup - made with just cooked brussels sprouts and arugula, cumin, hot pepper flakes, thyme, and fresh lemon juice, quickly pureed.  A few days ago I made it with spinach, and that was just as wonderful.  On the really cold days (10 degrees) a cup of  hot soup warms me up faster than coffee,  - another reason I like to keep at least one container of soup in the fridge.   AND I'm wearing my new Santa hat, which keeps me toasty and smiling.  Hope you're enjoying the season!


Brussels Sprouts and Arugula soup

This makes four servings in medium sized cups.

3 1/2-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or half water, half stock
1 medium onion, sliced
1 smallish potato, peeled and sliced
1 large clove garlic sliced
hefty pinch of thyme
1 T. unsalted butter OR olive oil
kosher salt
pinch hot pepper flakes, or dash of hot sauce
1 rounded teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cups trimmed brussels sprouts, cut in half
2 cups packed arugula or spinach
1-2 lemons, quartered

Drizzle oil or melt butter in large saucepan.  Add the onion, garlic, and cumin and cook five minutes, stirring.
Add the stock or water, the potatoes, salt, hot pepper flakes, and thyme, bring to a simmer, then add the halved brussels sprouts, cover and cook for ten minutes.  

After ten minutes, uncover the pot and add the arugula or spinach.  Stir, then cover and cook another 10  minutes - no more than ten minutes!

Remove from heat, uncover, and let cool for ten minutes.

Using an immersion blender, carefully puree until smooth.  If it's too thick, and a little water, then taste and correct seasonings.  I find it always needs salt.  Squeeze in about 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and taste again.  Serve with extra lemon quarters on the side.

I love this along with a chunk of warm bread and Vermont cheddar cheese.

Hope you're staying warm and cozy ~



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

spicy gingerbread stars




I seem to have been uninspired lately as far as muddling around in the kitchen, preferring instead to go on one of my reading jags.  I have had company though, and for the last two lunches I've tucked away a nice disc of this gingerbread in the fridge, ready to be pulled out and rolled into spicy cookies.  My cardboard box full of all kinds and seasons of cookie cutters has taken up permanent residency in a corner in the kitchen - I just pull it out, put it on a table, and let people pick their favorites.  It may be December, but if you're hankering for a cactus cookie, that's just fine.  And if you're a 3 year old, you'll choose the gnome - and then carefully eat only the hat.  Remember that?  I do - and I distinctly remember the agony of wanting a whole cookie, but afraid to decapitate a ginger man.  So maybe a cactus is safer.

We've had a little snow, thankfully not much - but chilly, and perfect walking weather, which I manage to fit in in between work and reading.  Let's hope I feel a little more inspired next week.

As I said, I keep some of this dough in the fridge, ready to be rolled out at a minute's notice.  It rarely lasts more than a week:  because I know it's there, I'll bake up some cookies for the neighbors or the grandchildren , and sometimes bake a batch and stick them in the freezer, because I know there are days when I suddenly want one - just one.

The recipe is from Craig Claiborne, from the New York Times cookbook, and the cookies are delightfully spicy and soft, but firm enough for mailing.

To make:

Line two baking sheets with foil or parchment.


1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 large egg
3/4 cup molasses
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and spices.
Add the egg and mix, then add the molasses.  Sift the flour, soda, and baking powder together, then add to the molasses mixture and mix until completely blended.

Pat the dough into an oval, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out half the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut out shapes as you wish, placing the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven, for 10 minutes.  If your cookies are very thin, they will obviously need less time.
Let cool a few minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to a cooling rack.

Let the baking begin!






Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Morning, 8 am







I had a beautiful day and night with my daughter and a quick visit from my son and his fiancee (who had to manage four family visits) - a quiet but peaceful day.  Hope your day was wonderful as well!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

the best fresh orange and cranberry scones






A second batch of those orange and cranberry scones this morning,  as I wanted to make some fresh ones up for my neighbors, and for a chef friend who wanted the recipe, as well as a taste.  As I pulled the new batch out of the oven, I realized I had overbaked yesterday's scones.  These were gorgeous!  They were both tender and full of that fresh orange and cranberry burst of tangy, but this mornings batch were much prettier.  

I also remembered a trick I had seen somewhere - grating the cold butter on a cheese grater to make it thinner and easier to incorporate with the flour mixture.  I liked that method a lot, so will use it in the future.

The recipe:

Preheat oven to 380F.
Line a baking sheet with clean foil or parchment.

2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
good pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons orange zest, freshly grated
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, grated on a cheese grater
1 small egg, slightly beaten with a fork
1/4 cup sour cream (I used Hood's full-fat)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 large orange)
Optional:  1/4 cup water if mixture is too dry
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
sparkling sugar for the tops of the scones

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixer bowl.
Toss in the shaved butter and orange zest and mix briefly with a spoon.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and whisk in the sour cream and orange juice.  Add to the flour mixture and briefly turn on the mixer paddle.  Stop the mixture and add the dried and fresh cranberries and mix briefly until dough forms a ball.  Do not over mix.  If the dough seems dry, or there is still flour at the bottom of the bowl, add the 1/4 cup water and mix until cranberries are blended into the dough.

Turn out dough onto a floured board or counter.  Roll into a 7 inch circle, then slice into 8 triangles, and place on baking sheet.  

Sprinkle scones with sugar and bake for 19 minutes.

These are wonderful for your pre-Thanksgiving dinner company, and would be very pretty wrapped in cello and nestled in a basket or bowl for Christmas giving.  Very Martha:)

We've had brief flurries of snow, oddly mostly at night or very early in the morning, when it's barely light.  My hummingbird bird bath is frozen, and I imagine my little winter birds with tiny skates, taking a twirl....  have a Happy Thanksgiving!



Sunday, November 24, 2013

tender cranberry-orange scones




I've been a little disappointed in my favorite scone recipes lately, so when I saw this recipe in  The Boston Globe on Wednesday, I leaped at the chance to try it.  One unusual ingredient was a little sour cream, but the rest was fairly close to my usual scone recipes.  I did mull over what might be the cause of less-fluffy scones the last few batches, and wondered if it was my very old KitchenAid mixer.

So I rummaged through my kitchen oddment basket and came up with the lovely pastry blender I bought as a flea market a long time ago.  This is a hand tool that insures the butter and flour or sugar don't get too warm if you're mixing with your hands;  or too over-beaten when using a stand mixer.  Whether it was the new recipe or the pastry blender, the scones came out light and fluffy and full of the tang of fresh orange juice, orange zest, and fresh and dried cranberries.  This is a keeper, and perfect for the holidays coming up, when hungry company arrives before the table is set  - or wrapped in cello and nestled in a basket for giving.  Just make sure the scones completely cool before packaging.


Tender Cranberry-Orange Scones:

Preheat oven to 380F.
Line a baking sheet with clean foil or parchment.


  • 2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • good pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces
  • 1 small egg, beaten slightly with a fork
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used Hood's full fat)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Optional:  1/4 cup water if mixture is too dry
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • sparkling sugar for sprinkling on top
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixer bowl.
Add the butter pieces and mix with the pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly.  Add the orange zest and mix in with a spoon.

In another bowl, beat the egg and whisk in the sour cream and orange juice.
Add to the flour mixture and use the mixer paddle to briefly mix.  Stop the mixer and add the fresh and dried cranberries, and stir with a spoon.  If the mixer is too dry, add 1/4 cup water.  Mix with the paddle very briefly, then turn dough onto a floured board.

Gently pat the dough into a 7 inch circle, then slice into 8 triangles.

Place the triangles on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sparkling sugar before baking.

Bake for approximately 19 minutes, or until scones are gently toasted on top.

Using a spatula, remove scones to a cooling rack for five or ten minutes before eating.


Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!






Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Frankie's turkey meatballs with herbs




We had a wonderful family and friends lunch yesterday, with a 7 month old baby (Noah) and a 3 year old (Frankie) in attendance as well.  Baby Noah is a hefty armload, but everyone loves a baby, so he got passed around in between spoonfuls of applesauce and soup.  And Frankie?  Knowing he was coming I made him his favorite meatball recipe, but streamlined it  after I looked at a clock and realized I was running late. 

A simple homemade lunch, but perfect for this chilly November day - homemade bread, butternut soup, gingerbread cookies, and these turkey meatballs, and , best of all, some time to catch up with my sister and our friend Dee (who washed ALL the dishes - thank you, Dee!)


Turkey Meatballs

I think this made about 24 smallish meatballs, but I forgot to count them before we started eating them.

  • 1 package ground turkey (mine was 1.3 lbs)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large piece soft bread, torn into small pieces
  • 1 t. thyme
  • half a red onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • 3 scallions (green onions) thinly sliced
  • about 2 T. Italian parsley and fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 cups packaged organic greens, loosely packed and briefly whizzed in a food processor until finely chopped.  I used an organic spinach and beet green mixture.


Wash your hands.
Place turkey and egg in a large bowl and mix with a spoon, then add the bread, the minced greens and herbs, the sliced scallions, the onion if using, the thyme, salt and pepper.  Use your hands to toss the mixture well.  

Form into small meatballs and cook in a skillet coated with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Cook the meatballs, covered, for about 10 minutes , then shake the pan or turn meatballs with a spoon and cook another 10 minutes on medium heat, half covered.  Cut into a meatball to make sure the inside isn't pink before serving, serve with a side of salsa.






Wednesday, November 6, 2013

plump little pumpkin buns





I woke up this morning thinking of pumpkin something.  Something soft and spicy - not my pumpkin scones, which I adore, studded with crystallized ginger, not my apricot scones, but something....different.  I found a recipe by a familiar and loved food blogger, Joy the Baker and went ahead, changing the recipe ( we all change recipes at the drop of a hat), discarding pecans in the batter, because I don't like nuts unless in-hand, but adding in plump raisins instead., Dropping the allspice, because I couldn't find it.  Mulling over adding crystallized ginger, and dropping that as well, because I wanted something plain.  As if.  It was brilliant.

A soft, palm sized little bun that sat in your hand - delicious and tantalizing.  A bun for breakfast, or brunch, or the 3 o'clock hunger pangs.  And loveliest of all, it came from a bakery called The Hummingbird Bakery.  Who could resist that history?  When I dropped some off at the library this afternoon, they flew off the platter.  I dropped off a second platter, results unknown, but I'm sure the platter was empty in no time.  Everyone's hungry at 3 pm:)

I'm sure these freeze well - pumpkin adds a wonderful density and moisture to any recipe, so you won't have to deal with dryness.  As I mentioned, there are no leftovers, so you'll have to take my word on it.


I think this made 14 buns, more or less, but they are gone, so I hope I'm right.

Pumpkin Buns

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix your dry ingredients into mixer bowl.

3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
1/8 t. cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut up:
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter.  I learned ages ago to slice lengthwise, then cut into 3rds, then dice across with a chef's knife.  Toss into mixer bowl and mix until the butter is in small flakes and well incorporated.

The wet ingredients:

In a bowl, mix:

1 cup buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin, One Pie preferred ( this is not a pumpkin pie mixture)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup raisins

Add the wet mixture, plus the raisins, to the dry mixture, and mix until blended.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop pumpkin mixture onto baking sheets that have been fitted with clean foil, 6 scoops to a sheet.

Bake for 22 minutes and remove to cooling rack.  As it cools, add the second sheet and bake as above.  I did have a third sheet with two buns, the last of the batter, which I promptly ate.

For a little icing, if you wish, you can make a brown butter frosting:

4 T. melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 t. vanilla
3 T. milk

Mix well and drizzle over buns with a fork or whisk.

Hope you enjoy as much as I have!







Saturday, November 2, 2013

roasted vegetable tian with thyme and olive oil





If you google images for tian, you most likely will see a ceramic tart dish, with a colorful pattern of , say, zucchini rounds and tomatoes, maybe a little cheese melted on top.

A tian to me means two or three layers of sliced or diced vegetables, carefully arranged with the thought of long roasting in the oven:  a marvelous patchwork quilt of leeks and onions, mushrooms and thyme sprigs, a handful of small halved tomatoes, a generous two cupfuls of halved radishes,  the brightness of butternut , scent of garlic and sea salt, melting into a delicious hot vegetarian dinner, which can be served alone, or with warm hunks of fresh baguettes, to sop up the amazing juices.  I dice the vegetables, rather than slice, so the vegetables remain intact, rather than break apart as they tend to do, when sliced.

Consider this the emptying out of the vegetable drawer ( those thrifty Frenchwomen!), but oh, so elegant and fragrant.

My shallow ceramic dish has gone missing, but I had a lovely brown earthenware oval dish that worked just fine.  I made three layers of vegetables, sprinkling each layer with thyme and  a sprig of rosemary, sea salt, and olive oil.  Cover and roast at 350 degrees for an hour, and there's dinner.

While there is no real recipe, here are my guidelines for vegetables you might chose to use.  I would probably include 3/4ths of the vegetables, depending on what's in the vegetable drawer - but the onions, leeks, garlic, mushrooms, and radishes are always included.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef's knife
sea salt to sprinkle on each layer
1 large onion, peeled and sliced or diced
3 leeks, sliced across or lengthwise, in 5 inch pieces
2 heaping cups of mushrooms, stems intact, sliced in half
4 stalks celery, washed and sliced in 4 inch lengths, include leaves if you wish
1 package radishes ( or about 2 handfuls), washed and trimmed, cut in half
Thyme sprigs and rosemary sprigs 
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 cups sliced fresh kale
2 cups peeled and sliced carrots, about 2 inch chunks
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed of stems, left whole
1-2 cups parsnips, if you have them, peeled and cut into rounds or spears
2 red skinned potatoes, sliced or cut into large dice
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, left whole
2 sweet red peppers, trimmed, seeded, cut into strips
brussels sprouts, a handful, trimmed and halved
zucchini chunks if wished
a drizzle of wine, if desired

Drizzle the olive oil, add the butter and garlic on the bottom of the dish.  The first layer should include the radishes, garlic, onions, half the leeks, thyme sprigs or whole thyme,  and mushrooms, which add such wonderful flavor. As the dish cooks, it will make a lovely juice.
For the second and third layers, add the vegetables as you wish, sprinkling each layer with thyme and salt and a little pepper.  I used two cups of kale for the top layer, and it disappeared during the cooking, leaving only a few little green bits in the casserole.
For the top, drizzle a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, and more thyme and a sprig of rosemary.
Cover with foil and roast at 350 degrees for one to one and a half hours.    I've found it depends on the temperature and size of the vegetables you use.

Serve with warm slices of french bread and butter.






Did you know before the hurricane of 1938 you could take a train from this little town in New Hampshire to Boston - every day?  I walk the old railroad bed almost daily, thinking of the fresh milk and apples and eggs that were picked up every day, heading to Boston.  And now?  We have no way to get to Boston, except by private car.  


Hope you have a glorious day!




Friday, November 1, 2013

martha's sugar cookies





I will never forget the first time I saw Martha Stewart's first book, Entertaining.  It was published in 1982, but I cannot remember the year my older sister showed it to me, could it have been that long ago?  I don't even remember if she bought it for me, or if I got it for myself, but it was like a bolt of lightning.  Beautiful photographs, perfect recipes - that worked!    I was blindsided and in love.  

I've made these cookies over and over - I make pale pink ruffled hearts for Valentine's Day.  Christmas reindeer and stars .  Teddy bears and one year, a group of cactus.  It is an easy dough to work with, and very forgiving - you can roll out the dough two more times using the scraps, without much difference in a splendid butter cookie, as long as you chill the dough in between.

I find her icing also easy - here I used one drop of blue to make this pretty Tiffany blue, then rolled the edges in sparkling sugar, which I found at Your Kitchen Store in Keene, NH.

Today I made these classic rounds for a friend who called at the last minute, in need of a few little treats for a book talk.


Martha's Iced Sugar Cookies

2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 cup ( 1 stick) room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 T. brandy ( I used Courvoisier)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the icing:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 egg white
few drops of lemon juice
1 drop blue liquid food coloring

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Cream butter and sugar, then add the egg, brandy and vanilla and mix well.
Add dry ingredients a bit at a time and mix well.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in fridge 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. ( PS:  She specifies 400F, but I use 350F)

Slice the dough in half, and roll out each half to about 1/8 inch thick.
Use cookie cutters of your choosing and place on a baking sheet lined with clean foil.
Bake for 10 minutes - do not allow to brown!  Remove cookies to cooling rack until completely cool. If you are making several batches, turn down the heat by 5 degrees after the first two batches.

Mix icing ingredients well in a mixer bowl,  brush cookies once or twice (letting the cookies dry in between), then roll edges in sparkling sugar.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on how thinly you roll the dough.

What I'm doing:

Lots of lazy walks under a bower of still-brilliant yellow leaves,  bouncing on spongy beds of bright green mosses, watching the water in the pond, which will be all-too-soon frozen, and loving those little children in my life.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

rich chicken-vegetable soup with parsley dumplings





As the temperature tumbled the last few nights (24 degrees this morning), my appetite zeroed in on a deeply-flavored, herby, non-vegetarian dinner.  In this case, it was a double-rich chicken-vegetable soup, deep colors of butternut squash, the last green and red tomatoes, a few brussels sprouts, the dark meat of chicken thighs and legs, the sweetness of carrots, the flavor of my favorite herb, thyme - and a pinch or two of oregano and basil, along with a leaf of bay. I love the fall vegetables, and would have included parsnips if I'd had them.  But not turnips:)  Not a fan.

First I simmered a few bone-in chicken thighs or legs with an onion and herbs, then strained and gently simmered again with vegetables and pasta, and finally, poached parsley-flecked dumplings in the rich broth to make a delightfully satisfying meal.  Heaven.

What a way to welcome Fall!

You'll be pleasantly surprised to find that skin on, bone-in chicken, especially the dark meat thighs and legs, are more economical than skinless and boneless chicken breasts, which always puzzles me, as they have so much more flavor.  

First, make the stock:

3 chicken thighs or legs, bone-in, skin on
2 large carrots, trimmed and sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon thyme leaf
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, sliced

Place all into pot, cover with water, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain the stock into a large pot and let the chicken cool, then discard the skin, bones, and odds and ends of of rubbery bits, cutting up the meat into a dice.

In the stockpot place:

4-5 cups stock ( add water if needed)
1 cup sliced celery
the diced chicken meat
1 cup sliced, peeled carrots
1 cup kale or brussels sprouts, sliced
1 1/2 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden, sliced in half
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup bow tie pasta
1 T. butter 
pinch of thyme, basil, and oregano
salt and pepper

Simmer the soup on medium low- it will smell heavenly!

While the soup is simmering, make the parsley dumplings:

In mixer bowl, place:

1 1/2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
scant teaspoon of cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons butter, diced
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup of milk

Mix well until the mixture forms a somewhat sticky ball.  Either use your hands or use a small ice cream scoop to make balls.

Just as the vegetables seem tender in the soup, place the balls of dough on top of the soup.  If the soup needs more liquid, add a cup or so so there is liquid just covering the soup.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes - fish out a dumpling to make sure it is completely cooked and tender.  If not, cover and cook five minutes more.

Makes a generous 4 servings.





Two days ago, I was out hiking and saw this beautiful little plant flowering.  I thought it was odd that a plant would flower so late in the season - and today, with below freezing temps, I went back to check on it.  The plant was still green, but the flower was gone.  Nature is a wonder!

Friday, October 25, 2013

creamy black bean soup with cumin and oregano







The first frosty morning.  The thermometer shows 24 degrees - can that be?  We have been very lucky to have such a long and beautiful autumn so far, but I'm never quite ready for that first below freezing day.

Also lucky to have made a wonderful black bean soup (which I found on Fine Cooking) in the fridge and ready for a toasty lunch today.  It's more creamy than chunky, but thick enough to qualify as a hearty soup.  I streamlined the original recipe by using my stick processor after a 20 minute simmer to meld the herbs and spices , a couple of dashes of hot sauce, then a quick puree.  Looking at the bowl of the last garden harvest, a quick chopping of green and red tomatoes and that beautiful Italian parsley for a last minute salsa sprinkled on top, with a little dish of sour cream on the side.  So perfect for this day.


Creamy Black Bean Soup

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed

In a small, heavy bottomed stockpot, saute the onions and garlic in the butter and oil on low until soft, about ten minutes.

Add:

2 cans drained black beans (the 15 oz size)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste or good salsa
2 t. cumin
1 t. thyme
1 1/2 t. oregano
dash of hot sauce

Cook on low for 20 minutes, watching to make sure the soup isn't scorching.  If it seems too thick, add a cup of water.

Take off heat , cool a few minutes, then use a stick processor to puree.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, or some chunks of goat cheese.

Enjoy!




Saturday, October 19, 2013

rapini and rigatoni pasta with lemon juice, olive oil, and hot pepper flakes









Another stunningly beautiful Autumn day here .  Sun shining, filtering through the high branches of mostly yellow leaves (not many sugar maples in these woods anymore), clear air, perfect temperatures for walking and hiking.  But then I remembered that fresh bunch of rapini (also known as broccoli rabe and my favorite green next to spinach) in the fridge. With my first cup of coffee I checked my bookmarks menu, remembering two recipes I'd filed there.  One was from Smitten Kitchen, the other from The Kitchn .

One a soup, one a very garlicky dinner dish. Both used red pepper flakes, one used fresh lemon juice, as I always do with any pasta dish.

The soup is a must-try for later, when the real cold weather arrives, but the rapini and pasta dish I made got slightly tweaked from the original recipe :  a tiny sliver of garlic because I can no longer tolerate a lot of garlic, a little less olive oil, more rapini, lemon juice, and those pepper flakes, and I took her advice to match the size of the pasta to the size of the greens, something I'd never really thought about before.   Best of all, you only need one pot to make this - though I did warm the olive oil in a small saucepan.


Rapini and rigatoni pasta with lemon juice, olive oil, and hot pepper flakes

Set a large pot of water on the burner, bring to a boil.

Set out your ingredients:

2 cups rigatoni pasta
4 packed cups of washed rapini, cut into 2 inch lengths ( I used most of the stems)

Juice of half a large lemon
1 clove of garlic, sliced ( more if you want)
generous pinch red pepper flakes
kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

When the water comes to a boil, toss in the pasta and set your timer for 6 minutes on high boil.
Add the rapini when the timer dings, and set timer for 3 minutes.
After 3 minutes, take pot off the heat and drain, then place back in the pot, and stir the lemon juice into the rapini and rigatoni.

In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil briefly, along with the garlic, and hot pepper flakes.
Drizzle over the rapini/pasta, add salt to taste, and spoon into a serving dish.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of more olive oil.

This serves 2 or 3 very happy people.