All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

warm chocolate cakes with gooey centers - the recipe

Blame it on another snowstorm. Wandering around the kitchen watching the snow come down, I suddenly thought of these popular "lava" cakes and how I'd always wanted to make them. I rummaged through my pile of torn out recipes, and found this one from the Boston Globe. It's old and tattered, and doesn't have a date, but the recipe is credited to Joanne Weir. I adapted some of the original recipe ( different chocolate, rum instead of cognac, additional cocoa powder). The biggest glitch was at the end - you have to gently shake these very warm cakes onto two plates, flipping them down, then back up, while they are still hot and soft. And they need to be served immediately. Still, these are pretty little cakes, and would be charming with raspberries and mint leaves.
Set oven to 400.
Butter and dust with cocoa powder 6 individual souffle pots
You will need:
9 ounces mixed semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate
6 T. unsalted butter
2 T. rum
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar
3 T. flour
Whipped cream for garnish
In a pot set in a skillet of simmering water, melt the chocolate, butter, and rum.
Stir til smooth, remove from heat and set aside.
In mixer bowl, beat egg whites til stiff. Scoop into another bowl and set aside.
Beat yolks in same mixer bowl and add sugar. Beat until the yolks are pale yellow and thick.
Fold the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture. Sprinkle the flour on top and fold in. Finally, add the chocolate mixture and fold very gently until mixed in well.
Scoop the batter into the souffle dishes and place on a baking sheet. Place in oven and bake for 12 minutes. The cakes will rise and crack a little.
Set out 12 dessert plates. Remove cakes from oven, run a knife around the edge, and gently shake each cake onto a plate. Cover with another plate and flip cake so the cakes are right side up again.
Garnish with whipped cream and serve immediately. Whew.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

on shallots - beurre bercy

I woke up to a sunny and cold morning here in New Hampshire. The delight of the pink tulips I got yesterday led me to longing for the opening of the Farmer's Market in Keene. From April to October, I shopped there twice a week, and the rhythm of those Tuesdays and Saturdays still sticks in my mind. I hope you will search out your local CSA's and Farmer's Markets and make it a habit to shop there. It's such a joy to get to know the growers, and see the subtle shifting of the seasons through the market vegetables and fruits - and flowers.
My favorite use for shallots is a beurre bercy - used on top of fish or chicken or steak, or stuffed into mushroom caps and broiled. Just a tablespoon transforms whatever it is you're serving - yum! - it is that good!
sauce bercy:
In a small pot, place about 2 cloves of crushed garlic, about 2 T. minced shallots, 1/2 t. chervil, and 1 T. minced parsley. Add dry vermouth to the mix and simmer until no liquid is left. Add salt, freshly cracked pepper, and thyme ( substitute tarragon if you're serving fish) and stir. Take off heat and , tablespoon by tablespoon, add room temperature unsalted butter until it melts into the sauce. I usually use about 6 tablespoons of butter to get the right consistancy.
Serve with meats, chicken, fish , or mushrooms - or as a sandwich spread for a wicked tangy treat.

Friday, February 22, 2008

bread pudding with orange and vanilla on a snowy evening

Egad, it's snowing again. Too much snow already to get to the store for ice cream - but wait! I rummage through the fridge and cupboard for the ingredients for a nice, soothing bread pudding, which is even nicer than ice cream. Better yet, it makes a truly wonderful breakfast. And yes - I do have all the ingredients! Off we go.
You will need:
3 cups milk
4 T. unsalted butter
4 cups dry bread cubes ( I used Pepperidge Farm white bread)
1/2 c. sugar
seeds from a vanilla bean (optional)
zest from an orange
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
2 eggs plus one egg yolk, beaten
1/2 t. vanilla
2 T. brown sugar, to sprinkle on top
Other optionals: about a tablespoon of Grand Marnier, or rum, as a flavoring
Preheat oven to 350.
Put milk and butter into a pan and heat to hot. Turn off heat and add vanilla seeds, vanilla and other flavorings as wished, and the orange zest. Add the sugar and spices and beat with a wisk. Add a little of the hot milk mixture to the beaten eggs and beat, then slowly pour eggs into hot mixture, beating the whole time with a wisk. If you don't beat constantly, you might end up with scrambled eggs!
Place bread cubes into a casserole dish and pour the hot milk and egg mixture over. Allow to sit for ten minutes, then stir gently. Sprinkle top with brown sugar.
Place casserole in oven and bake for an hour.
Serve warm bread pudding with maple syrup or cream, or a caramel drizzle and a little ice cream. This is even better cold, for breakfast.

perfect fish chowder - the recipe

Someone asked me to post the recipe for this lovely, scent-of-the-sea chowder, so here it is. Only make this when you have a good source for very fresh fish. I use fresh cod or pollock, because it makes such fat "flakes" of meaty fish when you poach it.
1 pound very fresh cod or pollock
1 onion, rough dice
2 stalks celery, washed and roughly chopped
2 leek whites, diced ( optional)
4 red skinned potatoes, medium dice
2 bay leaves
clam juice - this is optional for the stock. I can't eat clams, so I don't use it.
pinch tarragon or fennel seed
3 T. unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 T. fresh dill, chopped
In skillet or pot, place onions, leeks, potatoes, bay leaves, celery and the tarragon or fennel seed. Cover with water ( and clam juice, if you're using it)- not too much, but just enough to cover the vegetables. Simmer until just soft.
Take the fish and gently place in the simmering broth and vegetables. Simmer until the fish "flakes" when you prod it with a fork - no more than 10 minutes, usually.
Break up fish with fork, then swirl in the dill and butter.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

the coconut-orange cake....with flowers

Seeing this cake again on FoodieView's recipe roundup for Valentine's Day treats was a huge surprise - and I thank Susan Thomas of Farmgirl Fare for making note of it. Since this was the sort of cake my stepmother loved to make, and it's her birthday, I thought I'd show it to you. We think of the people in our lives, every once in a while, who encouraged that little sparkle of interest in food and cooking - well, she was one of them in my life. She was a marvelous, self-taught cook, but I think she loved parties more than cooking. To get to the party, you had to prepare the feast. So she learned one recipe that involved a cake mix from a box, with an addition of Jello instant pudding - and made this cake happily over and over. She made delightful bouquets from my father's garden, and placed a lovely bunch right in the middle of the Bundt cake.

I use an adapted pound cake recipe using orange extract and toasted coconut - but I still make those little bouquets to place in the middle.

To make:

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup for the egg whites

3 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups King Arthur flour

1/2 cup warm milk

zest of an orange, grated

1 1/2 cups toasted coconut, sweetened

1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 t. orange extract

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325'.

Grease a small Bundt cake pan, and set aside. Whip egg whites til stiff, gradually adding the 1/4 cup of sugar. Scoop into a bowl and set aside ( you'll fold them into the batter at the very end - so DON'T FORGET THEM!)

Toast coconut in toaster oven til just barely toasted.

In the same mixing bowl, cream the butter and add the 1 1/4 cups of sugar gradually. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat til fluffy.

Alternately add the flour and warm milk, then the orange and vanilla extracts, orange zest, coconut, and salt, and mix briefly. Fold into the beaten egg whites.

Scoop batter into the Bundt pan, smoothing the top. Place in a 325 oven for one hour.

Remove pan to cooling rack. After a half hour, use a dull knife to loosen cake from center tube and edge. After another 15 minutes, turn cake upside down on rack, and knock pan all over with rolling pin. The cake should drop out.

When cool, insert a small glass vase in the center hole, and drop a small bouquet in of flowers or herbs.

Serve as is, or with a bowl of freshly whipped cream.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

summer dreams

February brings flu, my birthday, and dreams of summer and berry picking. After several days of fevers and coughing, and the usual flu complaints, I found these pictures to cheer me up. That is my wonderful cat, Miss Domino. And no, she doesn't eat berries, but she's curious............

Sunday, February 17, 2008

sunday morning scones

There's something about lazy Sunday mornings that call for the tender crumbs and buttery taste of these scones. Loaded with chewy bits of dried apricots, they have a little tang you don't usually get in the traditional scone.
As you see, I've made both the usual triangle shape, and a cookie cutter oval - the ovals I brushed with an egg wash, to show you the difference. Both are flaky and delicious.
To make:
Preheat oven to 370'.
Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment.
In mixer, place:
4 cups King Arthur flour
1/2 cup sugar
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 T. baking powder
Cut butter into small pieces, then mix above in bowl until it makes coarse crumbs.
Add: 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup dried apricots, snipped with scissors into small pieces
Mix until it forms a ball.
Place on lightly floured board, roll gently, and cut into either shapes with cookie cutters, or into triangles.
Brush with egg wash (optional) and place in hot oven for 20-25 minutes. If you used the egg wash, they will be a lovely golden brown on top.
These freeze beautifully - if you have any left over!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

scent of the sea : perfect fish chowder

I grew up just steps from the bay on Cape Cod - and so this dinner feels comforting and filled with the scent of the sea....................

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

snowed in with big banana muffins

We are not only snowed in, but rained in. Even the plowmen are having a hard time -
the more heavy, wet snow they manage to push into the walls of old snow, the more inches of water flow steadily across the road and driveway. The trees are coated with ice - which means power outages from snapping tree branches can't be too far away.
All this messy weather sends me straight into the kitchen to mix up some muffins for my plowman. All the plows have been going since two am, and while I'm stuck in the house - they're stuck with their routes. Plus - I figure it can't hurt to be known as "the lady who gives out warm cookies and muffins". And sure enough, as I handed my plowman a nice warm big banana muffin, he hopped out of his truck and gave me a hand with the shoveling.
Lowfat Big Banana Muffins
Preheat oven to 350'.
Grease 2 Texas sized muffin tins.
2 cups King Arthur flour
1/2 cup rolled oats, plus more to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 extra-large egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T. canola oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup lowfat milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
Mix egg, brown sugar, canola, bananas, milk, buttermilk, vanilla and cinnamon together in mixing bowl.
Add flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into bowl with egg mixture and stir until combined.
Using an ice cream scoop, place two scoops of batter into each muffin cup, then sprinkle tops with oats. Place in oven and bake about 25 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch.
Let cool on baking rack for at least five minutes before removing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Hot Thyme and Mushroom Soup

This is such a beautiful and delicious soup! No carbs, no cream, no nothing but beautiful, nutty mushrooms, herbs, and chicken stock - and the hot sauce, of course. It's great in the middle of winter, after you've dodged icicles at the front door, and feel cranky and on the verge of a cold. Or, simply, loving mushrooms and herbs, and in need of something warm, hot, and herby. And it only takes fifteen minutes!

You will need:

2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 T. unsalted butter
1 t. olive oil
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 T. fresh, chopped parsley
2 t. dried whole thyme
cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
hot sauce and a pinch of hot pepper flakes

Serves maybe 2? depending on portion size. I like a big bowl of soup, plus more for the next day.

In a skillet or saute pan, melt butter and olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook on medium-high, stirring every once in a while, until they smell nutty.

Pour in the chicken stock and herbs and hot sauce.

Let sit five minutes, then transfer to a blender (or use a blender stick).
Blend well. Serve with good bread and sweet butter. And a salad. I float a sprig of fresh dill on top of the soup because it looks so pretty.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

a valentine from California

A lovely packet of dried pears arrived a few weeks ago from my dear friend Peggy in Big Sur, California - she, the long blonde haired Amazon from Hawaii, who worked with me at Le Bocage in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 70's...............and look! It's a heart!

Let Me Call You Sweetheart Shortcakes

Let Me Call You Sweetheart shortcakes :

This will make lots of various sized cut outs - how many

depends on the size of your cookie cutters.

You will need:

A preheated oven, 375'

1 3/4 cups King Arthur flour

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt and nutmeg

6 tablespoons unslated butter, cold

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 plus 1 tablespoon milk

sugar for sprinkling

Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.

In mixing bowl, place flour, baking powder, salt, and


Cut butter into little cubes, add to flour mix and mix til it looks

crumbly. Mix in the sugar, and milk, and mix til dough forms a


Turn dough out onto board, roll to about an inch thick. Cut with

cookie cutters. You can re-roll this dough without it getting tough.

Place on cookie sheet and place in oven for about 25 minutes.

Transfer to cooling rack.

For strawberry sauce:

a small box of fresh strawberries, hulled

1 tablespoon orange juice

Mash together berries and orange juice. Taste, and add

sugar if needed. You can also make some nice whipped

cream, if you like.

Split each shortcake in half carefully. Spoon some strawberries

over bottom, top with other shortcake half, and add more berries.

I make tiny little stars or hearts to pop on top of the whole, put-

together shortcake.

my little valentine

How appropriate to start a blog just before Valentine's Day - for the kitchen
has been my joy and passion, refuge and , to quote Toad, a lovely place
to mess about.