All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Monday, March 31, 2008

comfort lunch: leek and potato soup with sweet potato sticks

A quick trip yesterday to see my mother, who is doing quite poorly. It was a joyous reunion of sorts, since I drove down with my daughter and granddaughter, and met my son from Dover, NH. , and sister from St. Louis in Cambridge, where my mother lives. Today, I'm sifting through the moments and pictures of yesterday and decided to make a light, but comforting lunch. A thoughtful day.
Leek and Potato Soup
2 cups cleaned, sliced leeks, white only
2 cups red-skinned potatoes, cubed, not peeled
chicken stock
1 T. fresh dill, chopped
Simmer the leeks and potatoes in the chicken stock ( to cover) . About halfway through, add the fresh (you can also use dried) dill.
When the potatoes and leeks are soft, turn off heat. Let sit about 15 minutes.
Using an immersion blender stick or blender, puree soup.
Add medium cream, a little at a time, or hot stock, if you don't want to use cream, until the soup has a nice not-too-thick or thin texture. Add salt and fresh pepper as you wish.
I've also used chives and/or thyme as the main herb, and both taste equally lovely.
Sweet Potato Sticks
Peel a large sweet potato and cut into thick slices.
Cut the slices into large matchsticks.
Drizzle olive oil on a toaster oven tray and add sweet potato sticks, turning them in the olive oil until they're coated. (You can also use your oven set at 375)
Cook at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until the sticks are softening.
Switch to the broil setting on the toaster oven, and broil until some of the sticks show browning. Remove, sprinkle with salt and pepper and minced fresh dill.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

french toast and new maple syrup

My part of New Hampshire is still buried under heaps of snow - we just had another storm yesterday. Nerves are frayed, backs are sore, and every fibre of our selves hopes to fling aside the curtain and see GREEN. However.
To start the morning with a little cheer, I decided to make french toast for breakfast, using my fresh rosemary bread and lovely fresh eggs from the egg lady. The rosemary bread has a fine crumb and makes a firm loaf. I like to cut it fairly thick - so I soaked it in a mix of milk, two eggs, a little nutmeg, and a drop of vanilla. Soak for about a half hour - less if your bread is soft.
Drop into a skillet with sizzling unsalted butter, turn when brown and toasty, serve with new maple syrup or jam, or confectioners sugar. And pray for Spring!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

broccoli rabe with vermicelli, garlic, hots & herbs

Everyone in my family is wild about greens, and especially "bitter greens" - and this lovely vegetable is the queen of them. Also known as rapini, you should make sure your rabe is a bouquet of fresh green, with no wilted or yellow leaves or crowns.
You will need:
1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed, stems cut off, cut into 2" pieces
vermicelli or other pasta
2 cloves garlic, cut in slivers
2 T. olive oil
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 shallots, sliced thinly
2 T. fresh tarragon, roughly chopped or 1 T. dried tarragon
(alternate for tarragon-haters)'
2 T. fresh rosemary, pulled from stalk and roughly chopped
Put pasta water on to boil.
In a large pot, place olive oil, garlic and hot pepper flakes. Saute for a few minutes.
Add 1/2 cup water, the chopped broccoli rabe, the shallots, and the tarragon or rosemary to the olive oil, garlic, and hot peppers. Turn down heat to medium, cover. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring and tasting, making sure the rabe isn't tough - it cooks down ALOT.
Cook pasta and drain.
In large pasta bowls, place a ring of broccoli rabe in bottom of bowl, add hot pasta to the middle. Top with coarse salt and pepper, a good drizzle of olive oil, and butter or parmesan.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

the easter cake

This has become our traditional Easter cake - an old fashioned southern carrot cake with a cream cheese and butter icing, decorated with marizpan vegetables. This year, we had a two year old assisting, so our decorating wasn't as elaborate as it usually is. But the crowd was delightful , the dinner was grand, and for a few magical moments, we forgot about the four foot high hardpacked snow and ice outside and welcomed Spring!
to make:
2 or 3 cake pans, greased and floured
Preheat oven to 350.
the cake:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
2 cups flour ( I use King Arthur)
2 t. baking powder
2 t. (scant) baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
3 cups finely grated carrots, organic
Beat eggs; add sugar, oil, and dry ingredients. Add carrots and stir. Scoop batter into pans, about halfway full.
Bake about 35-45 minutes - sometimes it takes longer depending on the moisture content of the carrots. Done when the cake pulls away from the sides of the cake pan, and the middle is somewhat firm to the touch.
Remove to cooling rack. Run a knife around the edges of the cake, and cool 15 minutes. Take a spatula and gently loosen the underside of the cake. Flip onto another rack and cool completely before frosting.
the frosting:
1 large package cream cheese
1 stick softened unsalted butter
juice of a lemon
one box confectioner's sugar
Beat til creamy and pipe or spread on cake.
Mix food coloring into store bought marzipan ( I get it in tubes) - we just made green and orange, but you can get more eleborate.
Form into carrots and stick into frosting. Tradition is - the youngest child goes first pulling the carrots out of the cake.

Monday, March 17, 2008

one blue egg

We used to think all blue and green eggs came from Araucana or Americana chickens, but now researchers say they can be laid by any hen , usually a "barnyard mongrel" that carries the blue egg gene. When I had a large flock of Bantams, I'd often get 30% colored eggs every day. Seeing this beauty in my carton of eggs from the Egg Lady in town was a happy surprise!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

warm salad of mozzarella, fresh rosemary, red-skinned potatoes, and fresh tomatoes

When I was married, and had a tween and a teenager in the house to feed, I so often roasted chickens, sauteed steak slivers, simmered pot roasts, and made carb and protein laden suppers - in between shuttling someone to soccer, lacrosse, chorus, or everlasting school shuttles. Tonight, as I shuffled through the fridge, I realized I had all the beautiful makings of a tapas for one for supper - soft mozzarella, fresh rosemary ( though if it had been fresh basil, it would've been a toss-up), large cherry tomatoes, and gorgeous red-skinned potatoes. Why we're programmed to serve enormous, stomach unsettling dinners is a mystery to me. So I flew with it.
On a small platter, I sliced a few tomatoes and some mozzarella, sprinkled on some olive oil and fresh rosemary leaves, a grind of fresh pepper and some sea salt. I'd started some slices from two beautiful potatoes boiling, and when they were tender, placed them on top of the mozzarella and tomatoes. I added a few more halves of those sweet little tomatoes, a few more bits of soft mozzarella, more rosemary, salt and pepper. I microwaved it ( sorry) two minutes, and was greeted with a lovely platter of bubbling bliss. The only thing missing was a crusty chunk of rosemary-sourdough bread and a salad. I had spinach, but no desire to rustle up a salad, so I simply enjoyed my little supper, enjoying every single forkful.
Shop wisely and from the heart and you'll never go hungry!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

a visit to fishtales grocer

I love this new grocer and take-out in Peterborough, NH. I've been stopping in more and more, finding unusual foodstuffs and seeing still lifes everywhere I look. Today I found fingerling potatoes and celery root the size of large grapefruits, chestnut flour, and kumquats, fennel soup and the best coffee in the area.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

the last sugar pumpkin soup

It was the last sugar pumpkin from Abenaki Springs farm. I felt such sorrow seeing this last beautiful sugar pumpkin - it was the closing of last year's bounty from the farm, and the months of joy of buying from them at the Keene, NH farmer's market. I hesitated before cutting into it - would it be moldy? Would it have shriveled into a dry shadow of its former self? Not a bit. It was juicy and colorful as it was when I bought it last October. That's what you get when you buy organic, local, and fresh.
So I felt I had to celebrate this incredible vegetable. I Googled, I surfed the Net, but there was nothing. So I came up with a soup that celebrated the autumn earthiness of this vegetable, and I hope in a way you can also taste the flavor and fullness of this beautiful pumpkin. It involves all the flavors of Fall - sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms, chives, and the last of the dill and thyme.
In a pot saute:
2 T. olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 sugar pumpkin, peeled and sliced in chunks ( about 4 cups)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 small to medium sweet potato - peeled and chopped
4 or 5 mushrooms
1 T. whole dried thyme
chicken stock
2 T. chives, fresh or frozen from the garden
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T. fresh or frozen dill or parsley
( optional: medium salsa and roasted pumpkin seeds)
Saute the celery, sugar pumpkin chunks, onion, mushrooms, and sweet potato in the olive oil and butter until tender.
When tender, add the chicken stock just to cover, and the thyme, chives and/or dill. Cook for another ten minutes, then puree in a blender or by using a infusion blender stick. Taste and serve with a tablespoon of medium salsa and a few pumpkin seeds floating on the top of the soup.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

luscious lemon bars with whipped cream

There's not much to do during cabin fever time in New Hampshire, except scowl at the five to seven foot drifts of ice and snow, and eat. Sometimes it's sweets, sometimes it's a nice spicy gumbo, or a beautiful roasted chicken. Today, it's sweets. These are very lemon-y, with a nice buttery crust, filled with tangy lemon filling, almost like a lemon curd. And , of course, it tastes even better with the puffs of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
You will need a large rectangular cake pan. Grease pan with Crisco, or butter.
To make:
Preheat oven to 350.
In mixing bowl, mix:
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups King Arthur flour
Mix above until it is crumbly. Press into pan and place in oven for 15 minutes, until slightly browned and toasty. ( It smells WONDERFUL)
While it's cooking, you can make the lemon filling.
In same mixer bowl, mix:
4 eggs
1/1/2 cups sugar
4 T. flour
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. baking powder
Lower oven temperature to 325. Pour the egg mix into the par-baked shell, and place in oven. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes or so -if you have hot spots in your oven, you'll want to turn it around once while it's baking.
Remove to cooling rack . Let sit 10 minutes, then use a spatula or dough scraper to mark off squares and cut. Remove squares to cooling rack.
Whip up some cream, lightly sweetened with confectioner's sugar, and use either a spoon or a pastry tube to pipe cream onto squares. Add another square, and pipe more cream on top. Indulge and enjoy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

chunky herb & tomato soup

An awesome soup, tangy with tarragon and thyme, basil and oregano - with chunks of tomatoes and celery, and shreds of carrots and onions. My very favorite soup!
To make:
1 T. olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter
1 stalk of celery, sliced
1 large onion, roughly chopped
(or 1 cup chopped leek whites)
4 carrots, peeled and grated
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, whole
water or chicken stock if needed
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. thyme
1/2 t. oregano
2 t. whole tarragon
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
Place olive oil and butter in a pot, on low heat. Add onions or leeks,
carrots, and celery, and braise, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, which have been
sliced into small chunks, the juice from the canned tomatoes, and chicken stock or water
if needed. Add the herbs and simmer for 25 minutes.
Serve with a hefty sprinkle of parmesan, or shaved parmesan curls.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

tasty little doughnuts

You've probably had these in any number of places - at carnivals, as beignets in the South, and fried dough in the North, on chilly days with hot chocolate, and alongside a cherry Sno-cone at one of the summer fairs. I've even had them at a Feast of Saint Anthony street festival in New York City, presented to me hot and sugary, in a brown paper cone.
You will need:
2 cups King Arthur flour
2 T. sugar
1 packet dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
zest from one lemon
2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
canola oil for frying
extra sugar for rolling finished doughnuts
In mixer bowl, place warm water and yeast and allow to soften for five minutes.
Add the flour and sugar, lemon zest, butter, and salt, and mix until it forms a ball.
Knead by hand until smooth, then place in an oiled bowl and put in a warm place until doubled.
Knead dough and roll out on counter. Using a small circle cutter ( I used a large pastry tip),
cut out small circles of dough and place on baking sheet. Place in barely warm oven for about a half an hour. ( make sure you've turned the heat off!)
Heat oil and drop several balls of dough into the oil, turning quickly with a slotted
spoon. When gently brown, remove and drain on paper towels. Roll doughnuts in sugar and serve at once.