All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Sunday, August 31, 2008

kale and lentil soup with hot peppers and cumin

Yesterday was just cool enough in the morning to start thinking soup recipes. First I made a fresh carrot soup that ended up somewhat unexciting, so I froze it and headed back to the stove. I rummaged through my pantry supplies and pulled out the lentils - nothing fancy, just the inexpensive brown lentils from the supermarket. I LOVE lentil soup, and I can tell you this recipe beats the pants off Progresso Lentil.
Way back in my mind I remembered reading a post last winter on 101 cookbooks that combined lentils and kale ( and thought - how brilliant to use kale rather than spinach! Spinach has a tendancy to fall to pieces during cooking, so kale is a far better green to use in this lentil soup.
Making the soup:
1 cup regular brown lentils
1 bay leaf
small amount hot pepper flakes or piece of hot pepper
sprig oregano or a shake of dried
Cover the lentils with water to spare ( by about 3 inches), add the herbs and hots, and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain. (this is supposed to keep the lentils from causing distress to your stomach)
Cover the drained lentils with half water, half chicken stock.
1 t. fresh oregano, or 1/2 t. dried
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. dried thyme
1t. cumin
1 clove garlic, smushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces, plus juice
3 cups torn kale greens - discard the stems
2 t. red wine vinegar
Cook for another fifteen minutes, taste and add more salt and pepper, hot sauce or hot pepper flakes, cumin, and a little basil.
This freezes really well, so you might want to multiply the recipe for extras.
Have a great holiday weekend!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

oeufs a la neige - the dud

We all know we cooks are prone to peculiar fits of passion, often going to remarkable lengths to either procure ingredients or experiment with a new recipe. Today was such a day.
It started so innocently. I picked up the September Gourmet and browsed through it, delighting in what looked like a return to the old Gourmet, which had “real” recipes and gorgeous photographs of Paris. Parisian food, I should say. I fixated on this recipe “Ginger-Cardamom Oeufs A La Neige” - or, in American cooking terms, Floating Island. I got the cardamom - pods and ground, since I couldn’t remember which was called for - and set aside a few hours today to make the recipe.
I whipped the egg whites and heated up the milk with the spices. Using an ice cream scoop, I placed the egg whites carefully in the hot milk for four minutes, turning once. The egg whites inflated quite suddenly, but I nudged them over, losing only one, which crumbled to bits. I took the skimmer and gingerly set them on a baking sheet.
I was halfway through beating the yolks into the hot milk to make the custard when I turned around and saw the puffs of meringue had shrunk to a strange gelatinous disc (see middle photo showing 1st and 2nd attempts)). I tasted it, and it had the texture of a very slippery, sweetened, poached egg. Struggling on with the custard, my eyes bugged as I saw the custard turning to a grainy, cornmeal-textured and colored sauce. I bravely plated it up and took a picture, swearing the whole time at the idiots who came up with this recipe ( see bottom picture).
About to flame out of the kitchen and take a walk, I felt that stubborn, ornery streak we all get at this point, and pulled out my cookbooks until I found "Oeufs" in a very old edition of Joy of Cooking. I washed the pots and started again. This time, the meringue stayed inflated, and I dollied up the custard sauce with pepper, lemon zest, and a crushed cardamom pod. I looked at the dish plated (top photo), tasted it, and wondered why anyone would want to go through this trouble for such a mundane dish - but email me if you'd like to try.
And now, I think I'll go smash a plate.

unexpected company: spinach quiche with onion jam

An unexpected call from my daughter saying they were coming for brunch - and had invited a few friends who were painting down the road from my house. Quick! Make the quiche, start the onion jam, race through the freezer, pull out the just frozen congo bars with cranberries, the odd assortment of mineral waters, run to the garden and pick the few cherry tomatoes bravely ripening after a month of rain, cut up the watermelon and strawberries, top with fresh mint - and put out a new tablecloth. Oops - coffee! And why not make a batch of blueberry muffins with pecans? Stir the onion jam again....
It was all pulled together in an hour, and we were all happy to have a final meal before the roundabout of preschool, jobs, and preparing for the autumn.
Here's my favorite spinach quiche, which is crustless, since none of us eat it:
Butter a pie pan and preheat oven to 340F.
Mix together in mixer bowl:
4 extra large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 t. fresh nutmeg
1 1/2 cups good swiss cheese, grated
2 cups spinach, sliced thinly
lots of pepper
Pour into pie pan and cook about 40 minutes, or until quiche is solid in the middle. Remove and cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
I like to serve onion jam with many foods - chicken, meats, and even this quiche. It has a rich, buttery, robust taste, and it's incredibly easy to make.
Onion jam
Peel 3 medium white onions very, very thinly.
Melt 3 T. unsalted butter in a skillet.
Melt the butter and add the onions.
Saute on medium for 10 minutes, stirring quite a bit, then lower the heat to very low and put a lid over the onions. let them cook for at least another 20 minutes, stirring now and then and checking to make sure they don't burn. I like to add a pinch of thyme to mine.
Serve in a small pot, or spoon over or next to the quiche.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

my sweet potato sticks are about to be famous

I just found out that these delicious and darling sweet potato sticks are about to be included in a cookbook by Beth Sheresh on cooking for children. Did I mention not only how tasty they are, but low in fat and loaded with the kind of vitamins and fiber you dream of? You can read more here.
I usually make these in a toaster oven, just enough for two, but if you want to make a larger amount, just set your oven to 350F and wing the directions.
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 until they're completely coated with olive oil.
Cook at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until sticks are softening.
Switch to the broil setting and broil until the sticks show some browning.
Remove, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper, and finely minced fresh dill.
These are beautiful with roasts, hamburgers, fish, or chicken. Just add a green salad and you're good to go . And for kids, this is a perfect "fast food" treat. Just don't tell them it's good for them!

out of the kitchen and into the woods

After three weeks of thunderstorms day and night, and humidity that rendered every towel and piece of clothing saturated with moisture, the sun finally came out. As I walked to the car, I saw a huge brown mushroom, and then inhaled a waft of that intense, earthy, primeval scent of forest . I kept walking, into the dappled sunlight of the woodlands nearby. The brook was rushing noisily downstream, and, on either side, a wonderland of mushrooms had sprouted.

As I am not familiar with which mushrooms are edible ( except for puffballs), I simply enjoyed the rainbow of colors and shapes I saw spread out before me. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.


little peach pies

I've gone berserk with peaches lately, making tiny pies almost every day. Actually, I suppose they should be called cobblers, since they only have a fat pastry top, sprinkled with sugar.
In the beginning, I loosely followed the traditional mixing of peaches with sugar and flour, but I felt the peach flavor didn't shine, as I felt it could. Then I remembered the traditional Greek and Italian marriage of peaches and honey, tried it out, and was delighted. The peaches tasted like peaches, and the juices were clear and fragrant.
To make:
The peaches:
Peel and slice enough ripe peaches to make 2 heaping cups
Squeeze on 1 t. fresh lemon juice
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 T. honey ( I used wildflower)
1 T. flour
Mix peaches in bowl with rest of the ingredients. Heap into 2 individual souffle cups or one larger 2 serving dish.
To make the pastry top:
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a mixer bowl, mix:
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3/4 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
3 T. cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 t. sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and butter until crumbly. Add the cream and briefly mix, until it forms a ball.
Roll out and cut with cookie cutters, or with a pizza wheel to fit your dishes.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve as is, or with softly whipped cream.
This serves two people.

Monday, August 4, 2008

ooey gooey cheesecake brownies

I haven't made these brownies in years - but had a request for them yesterday, sooooo , here they are. They come out of the oven somewhat soft, and definitely gooey, but firm up as they cool. Since I'm not a die hard chocolate fanatic, I really like the cheesecake part - too much chocolate is too much for me.
To make:
1 rectangular cake pan, greased
Preheat oven to 350F.
You will need:
8 oz box ( I used Baker's) semi-sweet chocolate squares
10 T. unsalted butter
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
2 cups sugar, divided ( see recipe)
6 eggs
1 cup King Arthur all purpose flour, plus 2 T. for the cream cheese mixture
3 t. good vanilla
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
Melt chocolate and 6 T. butter in a saucepan, set aside when melted.
Mix cream cheese in mixer bowl with 4 T. soft butter until blended well. Slowly add 1/2 cup sugar, then 2 eggs, 2 heaping T. flour, and a teaspoon of vanilla. When mixed well, scoop into a bowl and set aside.
Clean bowl. Then add 4 eggs and 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat until light. Add the baking powder, salt, and 1 cup flour and mix. Blend in the chocolate mixture, the remaining 2 t. vanilla.
Spread all but a cup of the chocolate mixture in the pan, then cover with the cream cheese mixture. Drizzle the cup of chocolate batter all over the top. Take a skewer and swirl top in circles and squiggles.
Bake for 35 minutes, remove pan from oven to a cooling rack. Cool a good half hour or hour, if you want it firmer. Cut into squares and serve.

what I'll miss about summer - pasta salad with zucchini ribbons

There was a moment today, just as I finished making another pasta salad, when the light changed and I heard a tiny difference in the insect symphony outside. I looked at the calendar, noting it was still early August, but something had changed in the air. I went to the back yard and there was the proof - goldenrod, just about to bloom. In New Hampshire, seeing goldenrod is bittersweet, because it signals the end of summer. Sure, there will be glorious and sunny days, but it's also a time we start to think about winter - stocking up on firewood, picking apples at the orchard, worrying about the price of fuel oil. It reminds me of buying school supplies, new clothes, and birthday presents for my late August-born daughter, who now has a daughter of her own. Signing the kids up for soccer, weeding out the herb garden, and cutting bouquets of thyme, oregano, and lemon verbena to hang from the ceiling beams.
Enough of that ! We still have plenty of time before we see the first iced-over mud puddle in the driveway. But I did want to show you what I've been using lately in the ever delicious pasta salad, which are the ribbons of Gold Rush zucchini, blanched briefly in the boiling pasta water. Pretty as can be, along with the fresh grape tomatoes, shredded basil, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and a few black olives. I prefer green cracked olives, but there were only the black ones left in the fridge, so I used those.
To make:
Go through your fridge, gather your baskets of produce from the garden, and/or from the farmer's market. For the vegetables you will use raw, cut into manageable bites. For broccoli, cut into small "trees", and throw into the boiling pasta water about five minutes before the pasta is done, then drain along with the pasta. For the zuc ribbons, using a vegetable peeler, peel large strips from all sides of the zucchini, throwing away the inner core with the seedy part. Throw the ribbons in with the pasta water about a minute before it's done, then drain along with the pasta and broccoli.
Pasta Salad for 4 people
3 cups raw rotini
large pot of boiling water
For the veggies, etc:
rugula, spinach, basil leaves, cut into ribbons
broccoli cut into trees
grape tomatoes, whole, or other tomatoes in small dice
cubes of cheese, or shavings of parmesan
zucchini ribbons
shredded carrots, or tiny baby carrots, sliced on a slant
peas- fresh or thawed frozen ( no need to cook)
blanched green beans, cut on the bias
hard boiled eggs, cut in quarters
black or green olives, pitted
sliced or diced radishes
crispy sliced sweet peppers
ribbons of pumpkin or butternut squash, cooked briefly
raw mushrooms, sliced
bok choi, crisp part only, 1 inch slices
For the dressing:
equal parts virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar or herb vinegar
salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 cloves garlic, pressed
To make:
Boil the water and add the rotini or other pasta. Five minutes before it's done, add the sprigs of broccoli. One minute before it's done, add the zucchini ribbons. Drain all in a strainer and add to a large bowl. Mix in the dressing and add the other assembled veggies, herbs, and cheeses to taste.

Friday, August 1, 2008

the joy of the farmer's market ( and making ratatouille)

Isn't that the most beautiful box of freshness from the farmer's market?
Whenever I go to the farmer's market, I first walk slowly up one side and down the other to see what the vendors are selling this week - and as soon as I saw the small, shiny eggplants and brilliant Gold Rush zucchini at Sunset Farm , I grabbed them , and got in line behind two other eggplant lovers.
As I paid, the owner and I got into a discussion about ratatouille, and I promised her I'd repost my recipe, so here it is. It has very little oil ( unlike one recipe I read once - that used 1 1/2 cups of olive oil!), and the flavor is summer itself, heady with basil and oregano, garlic and tomato. It also freezes well, which is a treat in the dark days of winter.
4 T. olive oil
1 large onion, rough chop
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 red, yellow, or orange peppers, chopped in 1 inch pieces
2 small eggplant or one medium eggplant, diced in 1 inch pieces
2 zucchini, diced
a large can plum tomatoes, with juice, cut up
1 cup fresh grape tomatoes ( optional but pretty)
3 tablespoons salsa ( I use Green Mountain Gringo)
basil, oregano, salt and pepper
Heat oil in large pot. Add the chopped onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add the peppers, zucchini, and eggplant, stir, lower the heat and cover the pot . Cook on med-low for about 15 minutes.
Uncover the pot and add the tomatoes, salsa, salt and pepper, and basil and oregano. I start with a tablespoon of fresh or dried basil, and about a teaspoon of the dried oregano. Cook until the vegetables are soft, adding a little water or V8 juice if needed.
Throw in the grape tomatoes and turn off heat. Taste for seasonings, and serve.