All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Monday, July 28, 2008

toasted coconut pound cake ( with a peach sauce)

I make a moist and somewhat sticky toasted coconut poundcake that's a perfect background to the bounty of summer fruits and berries , but also just as delightful on its own for a summer picnic or an evening cookout. I've found that if you lightly toast the slices, they are even more wonderful, especially with a fresh fruit sauce. Here, I've sliced some fresh peaches, squeezed a little fresh lemon juice in with them, and briefly cooked. I finished with a hefty drizzle of wildflower honey. But, as I said before, with a glass of lemonade or milk, just plain, it's really, really good. I often make this for birthday parties, and just plop a little bouquet of flowers in a tiny glass vase and drop it in the hole in the middle. Pretty, and easy.

I make this in a Bundt pan , but if you decide to make it otherwise, let me know how it came out - I've been wondering what other shapes might work.

To make:

Grease a medium sized Bundt pan.

Preheat oven to 325F.

You will need:

1 1/4 sticks softened, unsalted butter

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

zest of one lemon

1-2 T. fresh lemon juice

3 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached flour

1/2 cup warm milk

1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted briefly in a toaster oven

3/4 t. vanilla

pinch of salt

For the sauce:

3 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced

squeeze of lemon juice

pinch of salt

1 t. red currant jelly

about a tablespoon honey

3 T. salted, toasted and chopped almonds ( optional)

In a mixer bowl, whip egg whites until 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 until barely golden. Set aside.

In the same mixing bowl you used for the egg whites ( no need to wash), cream the butter and add 1 1/4 cups sugar gradually. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until somewhat fluffy.

Alternating, add flour and warm milk, then the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, coconut, and salt, and mix briefly. Fold in the gg whites.

Scrape batter into the Bundt pan, distributing it evenly, and smoothing the top with a spatula. Place in oven and bake for one hour.

When done, remove pan to cooling rack for a half hour. Using a sharp knife, loosen all around the edges, including the inner tube part. Wait another 15 minutes, then turn upside down on another rack and whack with a heavy rolling pin all around the Bundt pan. It should fall out. If it doesn't, just do it again.

Make the peach sauce and drizzle on, or serve simply on its own. To serve with a bouquet, go out to the garden and gather a small tussie-mussie ( a small bouquet of flowers and herbs) . Fill a small glass vase with water, making sure it fits in the center hole of the cake. Drop the bouquet in, and serve.

To serve toasted, simply place slices briefly in a toaster oven, toast, and serve.

Happy summer picnic!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

stormy weather and tuscan tomato soup

Noah's Ark here in New Hampshire, with a foot of water in the (then) empty bucket I left outside the last sunny day we had. Inbetween rainstorms, I visited the Keene Farmer's Market on Tuesday, and was delighted to pick up the first carrots of the season, and a few Gold Rush zucchini that were perfectly baby sized. Last night I fingered the fresh vegetables and decided to make my favorite soup, Tuscan Tomato, which is always a joy. The tang of tarragon and basil, the bright colors of the tomato and carrot , ( and this time, the Gold Rush zucchini) never fail to delight me .
To make:
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter
6-8 fresh carrots, finely grated ( I use my KitchenAid grater attachment)
1 medium sized zucchini, grated
1 large 28 oz. can Italian, whole plum tomatoes in juice, sliced ( wear an apron - they squirt!) in small pieces
1 T. dried tarragon
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 t. dried basil, or 2 T. sliced fresh basil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Chop onion. Melt butter and olive oil in cooking pot, and add onion to the pot. Stir on medium heat until golden, then add the grated carrots, the zucchini, the chicken stock, and the tarragon to the pot. Cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. Add the cut up tomatoes and the basil and salt and pepper, and cook another 20 minutes on med-low, with the lid on.
Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches on rustic bread, and a green salad and you'll be in heaven.
Note: I was told a long time ago by another chef to always buy whole, peeled, plum tomatoes, when buying canned tomatoes. He insisted the canned tomatoes sold in pieces didn't have the flavor the whole tomatoes do, so I always follow his advice. Nevermind that I ALWAYS end up with tomato juice on my shirt - having forgotten to wear an apron.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

pretty little carrot cakes

I usually make carrot cake in a rectangular pan and simply slice it into fairly big rectangles and pipe some tangy, creamy cream cheese frosting on each piece. But as I was looking at the cooling carrot cake the other day, I decided to fancy it up a bit,
Using a fluted round cutter ( the same one I used for biscuits), I cut out several little cakes about 2 1/2 inches across, piped the frosting as I would for cupcakes, then scraped some lime zest on top and plopped a fresh blueberry on top. You'd never know it took just a few minutes to decorate the batch, and they looked like something from a fancy bakery. Endless variations popped into my head; from chocolate drizzles and scrapings to fat raspberries to toasted nuts and coconut.
To make:
Preheat oven to 350F.
A greased rectangular baking pan.
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil ( I used canola)
1 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
2 cups finely grated carrots ( I used the fine grating cone that came with my Kitchenaid mixer)
Beat eggs, sugar, oil, and dry ingredients. Add carrots and mix again. Scrape batter into pan, smooth out, and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until top springs back slightly when you press it gently.
Remove to cooling rack. After ten minutes, loosen cake gently with spatula, and turn out onto another cooling rack.
When cake has cooled, cut out little circles using a round cutter, pipe on frosting, and decorate.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 large package cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
juice of one fresh lemon
1 box of confectioner's sugar
Mix and whip ingredients, scrape into a pastry bag with a star tip, and let your imagination run wild!
Have fun!

fast food - falafel with cucumber-dill dipping sauce

What has happened to time? I feel no sooner do I get up than I'm looking at the plants in twilight, snipping a bouquet to put beside my bed.
Yesterday and today have been especially busy, and when I finally remembered to make dinner, it was hot, humid, and there was no salmon. I had forgotten to buy it. My supermarket closed down a month ago, so I now have to travel 30 miles each way to shop - putting a dent into my usual "swing by the Stop and Shop" detour on the way home. But there are good things about this new supermarket, because it is much bigger and has more choices. And one of them was rediscovering falafel.
Falafel is a chickpea flour mixture, nicely spiced, that comes in a box. ( I buy one from Fantastic Foods, in the trendy organic and natural supermarket aisle - this is a Shaw's, btw.) It is an ancient, ancient fast food, dating back to the building of the pyramids , amazingly. You open the box, cut open the bag of dried peas and spices, cover it with boiling water - and voila! Falafel. I add chopped parsley, and my neighbor, who lived in the Middle East, adds the mix to ground chicken and turkey instead of bread crumbs - the spices liven up the poultry in a way panko crumbs do not. Best of all? It's vegan, low fat, zero saturated or transfat, high in fiber - and did I say delicious?
I serve it with a cucumber-dill dipping sauce, or as pictured above, with a dollop of sauce on top of each tiny disc of sauteed falafel. I make them small - about 1 1/2 inches, which I saute in canola or olive oil briefly, but you can make them hamburger size, or shaped into balls. The sauce is the same one I use for poached salmon, so it's ever useful.
Cucumber-Dill Sauce:
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into chunks
Puree the cucumbers in a food processor. Set a fine sieve on top of a bowl and pour the pureed cucumber into the sieve. Drain well, reserving the cucumber juice. ( I serve the cucumber juice in shotglasses, with 3 drops of hot sauce - but chill it well)
Add 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt and mix well.
Add 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Serve on top of the falafel discs, or on the side in a dipping glass .

twenty minute raspberry jam

Twenty minute jam? Absolutely. And by cooking it so briefly, the jam tastes as fresh and fruity in January as straight out of the preserving pot in July.
If you're canning the jam, you will need two very clean jam jars with clean, new lids. Otherwise, any heat-proof glass container will do.
(if you're planning to store these for winter, boil the jars and lids before filling with jam)
You will need:
2 cups black raspberries or red raspberries
2 cups sugar
1 T. fresh lemon juice
a heavy saucepan
Turn oven to 350.
Place the raspberries, lemon juice, and sugar into the heatproof saucepot and place in the oven for 10 minutes.
With a heavy oven mitt, remove saucepot to burner.
Boil raspberries and sugar for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly.
Ladle into jars and seal. This makes about 2+ jars.
That was easy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

buttermilk bran muffins with raisins

Right off, I have to tell you this is my very favorite muffin. Given a choice of big banana, lemon poppyseed, apple spice, blueberry, morning glory, or lemon drizzle yogurt - or this bran - I'll pick it every time. It's just the right consistency, just the right amount of juicy sweetness from the raisins, the tang of buttermilk, the hint of cinnamon. The only problem I have with this muffin is its refusal to shine in a photograph. I must have tried to photograph these ten times, and it always comes out the same - brown. The raisins don't show, the texture looks ordinary. This is my UPS muffin - brown, brown, brown. So when you make them, give them a little encouragement and affection for being humble, brown, and incredibly tasty.
To make:
Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease two Texas size muffin tins ( this recipe makes about 12-13 muffins)
3 cups bran
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
3 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups raisins, dark or golden
In a small bowl, mix the oil, boiling water, raisins, and one cup of the bran. Let sit.
In mixer bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and sugar. Add the eggs and buttermilk and then the bran and oil/raisin mix. Mix well.
Using an ice cream scoop of normal size, place two scoops in each greased muffin tin cup.
Place tins in the middle of the preheated oven, and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes in the tins, then remove from tins to a cooling rack. These freeze incredibly well, and are a terrific snack to keep in the car or in your bag or lunch basket.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

the black raspberries are ripe!

The best way to enjoy black raspberries? Warm from the sun with sugar and cream.......

a cool dessert - creme patissiere with berries

It is hot and very humid (97%) in New Hampshire today - and the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven for a fresh fruit tart. So, I thought, why bother? I made the classic creme patissiere pastry cream and simply layered it in glasses with strawberries and blueberries.
Fast, easy, and oh so delicious!
You will need a heavy bottomed saucepan for this.
To make:
1 cup milk
1 t. vanilla or a vanilla bean, scraped into the milk
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 T. sugar for the egg yolks
3 egg yolks
1 T. flour
1 T. unsalted butter
Heat the milk in a saucepan on medium, adding the vanilla and the 1/4 cup sugar. Whisk quickly, and make sure you do not let it boil! When sugar has melted in, remove from heat.
In a mixer bowl, place egg yolks and 1 T. sugar and whip until pale yellow and somewhat thicker, then add the flour and whip a little more.
Add half the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, stirring quickly, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place back on heat, whisking as you heat it again. The mixture will quickly become thick, and at that point, take off the heat and whisk in the 1 T. butter until melted.
Spoon over fresh berries and serve .

fresh! tabouli with chopped mint & crispy veggies

This is such a delicious salad to eat on a hot night - loaded with fresh, choppped herbs and vegetables, and simply dressed with fresh lime juice and olive oil.
The recipe comes from my old herb group in this small town - a large group of mad herb gardeners who spent most of the gardening months swapping plants, rooting tiny sprigs, and yes - even digging up a coveted , and ancient, daylily or trillium - in the dark.
To make:
1 cup bulgar
1 cup boiling water
Cover bulgar with boiling water, fluff with fork, and leave to absorb the water for a half hour.
3 diced Roma tomatoes
1 peeled and diced cucumber
4-5 diced radishes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/3 cup snipped chives
Dress with:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
salt and freshly cracked pepper
Fresh - and healthy!

making buttermilk biscuits

When I was 9 years old and newly arrived in Pascagoula, Mississippi, my mother signed me up for the local 4-H club, where I learned to make these biscuits. I think that time was where the foodie germ came from, because I went on to win a blue ribbon for my biscuits - and from that moment on I never stopped cooking.
In Mississippi, many folks eat biscuits every day - and not just for breakfast. I still remember visiting my next door neighbor, Linda Gail Ivy, after school and sitting at her table dipping buttermilk biscuits in pools of sticky molasses, while her sister blasted the music of local-boy-made-good, Elvis Presley. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes, then got back to the business of eating biscuits.
After years of trying to find a recipe that resembled the one I remember making - I found it, or close to it - on Homesick Texan ( She's listed on blogs here, so if you click on her blog, then click on top favorites, you'll find the recipe.
I made several batches today - and three sizes of biscuits. I use a drinking glass to cut out two of them, and a pastry tip to punch out little tiny ones for my granddaughter's "tea party". Big, big hit - and big mistake, since she spooned at least a tablespoon of that strawberry jam on each tiny biscuit and down her sparkling white Mexican dress. The big ones are being frozen for our 4th of July strawberry shortcakes - and the medium ones? Gone in a flash............

While the ingredients list seemed to be what I remembered ( except we used lard instead of butter), Ms. Homesick Texan and I have very different ways of technique. The technique I learned was to handle the dough as lightly as possible, and the dough was as soft and silky "as a baby's bottom". Some of my taste testers preferred my method, which made for a softer biscuit, and one that didn't toughen as much after baking.
So herewith, the directions:
Preheat oven to 400.
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut in little pieces (or 1/2 lard, 1/2 unsalted butter)
2 cups flour ( if you have a flour bin , fluff up the flour before measuring, and use a knife to even off the cup measure)
1 T. baking powder
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
3/4 ( plus or minus) buttermilk
Fluff up flour and measure into a mixer bowl. Add the baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the cut up butter and/or butter and lard and mix until you see pea-size bits of butter in the flour. Add the buttermilk, starting with between 1/2 - 3/4 cup. Mix briefly. If it holds together well, and looks moist, then do not add any more buttermilk. If it still looks dry, add a little buttermilk at a time until it holds together in a damp ball. Remove from bowl to floured board.
Briefly, squeeze dough and form into a ball. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out gently to about a half inch thickness. The dough should feel silky and soft as "a baby's bottom".
Using a drinking glass, cut out biscuits and place on a baking sheet that has been fitted with foil. You can re-use the scraps, but don't handle it too much or it will toughen.
Place biscuits close together, and bake for about 18 - 20 minutes.
Remove and cool.
This will make about a dozen medium sized biscuits, about 9 large, and a zillion little pastry tip baby biscuits for tea parties.