All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

chocolate chunk cookies with toasted pecans

Last night, I was flipping through Peggy Cullen's cookie book, Got Milk? and came across these simply amazing looking cookies. Deep, dark, chocolatey, with the sweetness of toasted fresh pecans I just got from a friend in Alabama - well, let's say it does the word "decadence" justice.
Apparently, I'm still on my "I love anything chocolate" kick!
The recipe worked perfectly, but the book says the recipe makes 28 cookies - using a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop, the total was only 19 - so if you need to make a lot, doubling the recipe makes sense.
To make:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line two cookie sheets with foil or parchment.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 large egg
1 cup King Arthur flour
1/2 t. baking soda
6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate ( I used one 4 ounce bar of Ghirardelli 60% cacao and it worked fine)
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
Toast the pecans in a toaster oven, or the regular oven - just don't forget they're in there! Toast just enough for them to smell deliciously toasty. Cool pecans well before adding to dough.
In mixer bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla until creamy.
Beat in the cocoa, then the egg. Scrape down the mixer bowl and beat briefly again.
Add the flour and baking soda and mix on low until combined.
Mix in the cooled pecans and the chopped chocolate.
Using a 1 1/2" ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
Bake for exactly 10 minutes . Remove baking sheet and let cool five minutes, before removing cookies with a spatula to a cooling rack.
This makes 19 cookies, using the ice cream scoop - 19 delicious, stupendous chocolatey cookies!
Featured on TasteSpotting!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

chunky black bean soup with goat cheese

It's Spring in New Hampshire - sugaring season for the maple syrup producers, mud that sucks at your boots and tire wheels, and raging rivers and streams filled with snowmelt. The woods are still snowy, but with the cold rain we're getting today, should be clearing soon. Then again, snow is predicted for Wednesday - our own April Fool's Day, I guess!
This kind of raw weather always finds me making a thick, chunky soup - today it's black bean with roasted red peppers and fresh, creamy goat cheese. YUM! Serve with a bottle of Tabasco and you're bound to be feeling cheerful and warm.
You can add a little chicken or meat, if you like - but I'm happy with it just the way it is. This serves about 3.
To make:
1 onion, chopped or sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 T. olive oil
1 T. cumin
1-2 t. oregano
spring of fresh rosemary
dash of hot pepper flakes
1 T. chili powder
1 cup plum tomatoes with juice, diced
3 T. ( or more) roasted red peppers, diced or 1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1 cup chicken, vegetable, or beef stock
2 cans ( 15.5 oz) drained black beans
water if needed at the end
2 t. basil
a few slices fresh, mild, goat cheese ( I used Ile de France)
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Stir and cover for five or ten minutes.
Uncover and add the cumin, chili powder, rosemary, and oregano and red pepper flakes.
Add the plum tomatoes and stock, stir, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the black beans and red pepper, and more water or stock if needed.
Add the basil and cook another ten minutes.
Taste carefully and add more seasonings if needed.
Serve hot with a slice or two of goat cheese and a tablespoon of diced or sliced red peppers .
Enjoy the crazy Spring weather!

Friday, March 27, 2009

warmed goat cheese with wilted greens

For a long time, I thought I didn't like goat cheese, but it turned out more to be age and brand that changed my mind. Fresh goat cheese from a good manufacturer is creamy ( especially when slightly warmed) and mild.
This is a fast and easy brunch or dinner, and it has a lovely combination of flavors and textures.
To make:
pasta of your choice
several fat slices of fresh goat cheese ( I used Ile de France)
baby spinach or regular spinach
sauteed mushrooms ( or you can use grape tomatoes)
fresh basil or oregano
freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste
good olive oil
Cook and drain the pasta .
Saute the sliced mushrooms in butter until nutty and brown.
Assemble on a plate or in a large pasta bowl:
Spread the pasta on the plate. Take two handfuls of the greens and arrange on top of the pasta.
Place two or three slices of goat cheese in the middle of the greens.
Sprinkle the mushrooms around the pasta and greens.
Toss a few leaves of basil or oregano on top, top with salt and pepper.
Warm for 1 1/2 minutes in a microwave and drizzle with good olive oil.
Serve and enjoy!
I think this also would be delicious with a few slices of juicy sausage - like the sage and chicken one I saw and forgot to buy. I would simmer the sausages, and then cut into chunks and arrange on the plates.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

french potato salad

Now, I like mayonnaise as much as anyone else, but I prefer the French Potato Salad sans mayo. You dress it with olive oil and herb vinegar while the potatoes are still warm, so they soak up that tasty, tangy marinade. And to celebrate the first patch of garden that is finally free of snowcover, I thought I'd make this springtime favorite for lunch ( and save the mayo for the first ripe tomato from the garden - on white bread, please).
To make:
3 medium large red skinned and/or California White potatoes, whole, scrubbed
Bring the potatoes to a low boil in a saucepan and let cook til just tender - about 25 minutes.
Remove potatoes when done and let cool for five minutes.
While the potatoes are boiling, you can make the dressing:
4 T. olive oil
1 pressed garlic clove
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
2 T. good herb vinegar ( I used dill)
1/4 t. salt, or to taste
several grindings of pepper
1 T. fresh minced dill
1T. fresh scallions, sliced thinly
Mix the dressing very well. Slice the potatoes lengthwise, then into even slices vertically. Don't make them too thin.
Gently toss the warm potatoes in the dressing and serve on top of a handful of arugula, or other greens.
I was thinking how nice a chunk of cheese would have been with this, like a soft brie.
Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the humble egg

I am completely in love with eggs. Their shapes are so pleasing, so organic, so....Brancusi. And you can feast on everything from stuffed omelets to souffles, from chocolate mousse to these little hors d'oeuvres. They're inexpensive - even the best cage free, organic eggs run under $4. This is my favorite way to serve them fancied up.
In a saucepan, place however many eggs you need and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat a little, so the eggs aren't being overly boiled, which will produce a green rim around the yolk. Set timer for ten minutes.
Drain eggs and place back in saucepan. Cover with cold water, drain, cover again with cold water, and let sit for ten minutes. This insures the egg peels easily. If your eggs are under two days old, forget about hard boiling - it never works.
Slice off a tiny sliver of egg from the pointy end. This will enable the egg to sit on a plate without falling over . Cut a small slice from the larger end, and there will be your very pretty yolk. Pipe a little wasabi paste on the yolk, and top with a fern of fresh dill.
You can do lots of beautiful color combinations, too - from diced tomatoes to black or red caviar, from chopped herbs to chiles, minced olives - the list goes on. Have fun!
Featured on TasteSpotting!

Friday, March 20, 2009

cream scones with toasted walnuts and currants

When I saw my friend Barry the other day, he had just arrived back from California, looking healthy and tanned. As usual, our conversation leaned toward food, and he raved about some toasted walnut and currant scones he'd tasted there. I mulled it over and started tinkering in the kitchen, deciding to go with a cream scone instead of my usual buttermilk scone. Pleased to say the first recipe that came out of the oven was just perfect - tender, a little sweet, but not overly so, and chock full of that lovely walnut and currant richness. These would be perfect for a special breakfast or brunch!
To make:
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a toaster oven briefly
1/2 cup dried currants, plumped in a tablespoon of boiling water
2 cups King Arthur flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg or about 6 scrapings fresh
4 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 extra large egg
2 t. vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
In mixer bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.
Add the small pieces of butter and mix until distributed evenly with the flour .
Add the egg, cream, and vanilla and mix briefly.
Add the toasted walnuts ( reserve a few for the top) and the currants.
Mix briefly again and remove from bowl.
Knead lightly and form into an 8 or 9 inch circle.
Cut circle in half, and each half into thirds, so you have 6 pieces altogether. Sprinkle a few pieces of walnut on tops of scones.
Arrange triangles on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove and cool. Though this doesn't need adornment, you can put out fruit preserves and sweet butter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

quick and spicy mushroom soup

This is such a great soup - no fillers, just sauteed mushrooms with thyme and hot pepper flakes. You can rustle it up in about ten minutes, throw together a green salad , slice up a rustic bread and have a nice brunch/dinner on the table in under a half an hour.
To make:
4 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
4 T. unsalted butter ( or olive oil, if you prefer, but butter is better)
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/4 t. hot pepper flakes
2 t. thyme
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste - or just place bottle on the table
Serves about 4 people, depending on bowl size
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Toss in the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are browned and nutty.
Add the broth, hot pepper flakes, and thyme and stir well, scraping up the browned bits.
Using an immersion blender, or a regular blender, puree until smooth. Taste and add salt or pepper as wanted.
Pour into bowls and serve, topped with a little dill and a nicely browned mushroom.
Serves 4.

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick's Day breakfast: pratie oaten

For much of my early life, I was not aware of the strands of Irish in our family. English and Welsh, yes, but very little mention of Irish. That all changed when my father began exploring our genealogy; suddenly we heard of O'Hanlon, Hughes, Fitzgerald, Leary, Butler, Merwin, and Sullivan in our family tree. And I discovered traditional Irish music in the car one day, listening to the radio. The pounding of the bodhran drum, the whistles and fiddles, the rising up in joy, and the depth of the sorrow. I was so overcome, I had to pull off the highway. I guess that Irish gene was announcing itself.
So to celebrate all things Irish, I made a traditional potato dish called Pratie Oaten, from a small book I found called From Celtic Hearths . It's really more like a hash brown with mashed potatoes and oats - I divided the soft dough and added some chopped scallions and bacon crumbles for a little interest. You fry them up in a skillet with bacon fat ( or oil) and serve with a smile and a twinkle in your eye.

To make:
3 large potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup rolled oats ( not the instant one)
1 stick melted, unsalted butter
salt to taste
chopped scallions (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)
a few tablespoons bacon fat, oil, or butter.
Boil the potatoes in their skins until done - about 25 minutes.
Drain and mash, or whip in mixer bowl.
Add the melted butter, salt, and oats to the potatoes and mix to make a soft dough. If adding the scallions and bacon, mix them in now.
Sprinkle a little flour on the board and gently roll or pat the dough to a thickness of 1/2". Cut out rounds with a glass or cookie cutter.
Heat oil, bacon fat, or butter in a skillet and fry until golden brown.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

poached fish with roasted vegetables and spinach-dill sauce

I made this wonderful meal for dinner last night - gently poached pollock with a colorful jumble of roasted vegetables and topped with a vaguely Portuguese sauce. Good, healthy, delicious - my kind of dinner!
To make:
baby carrots, cut in two
sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
an onion, peeled and cut into thick slivers
a few scallions, cut into 3 " pieces
red-skinned potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup grape tomatoes, or more, whole
If you have butternut squash or brussels sprouts, those would be terrific, too. I did not.
Set oven to 400F.
Drizzle olive oil in a large roasting pan. ( You don't want them swimming in oil, so be frugal)
Add the vegetables and stir until coated with olive oil.
Roast until vegetables are tender, stirring gently every once in a while. It should take about 40 minutes, depending on amount.
Remove from oven and turn off heat.
The fish:
I used pollock, which is slightly darker than cod or haddock. The amount you need will depend on how many servings you're planning. Each plate should have a few hefty chunks of fish.
1 lb. or so of thick white fish ( cod, pollock, haddock)
2 slices lemon
a few slices of onion
fresh dill
salt and pepper
In stainless steel skillet, add water to about an inch . Add the lemon slices and onion. Place the fish on top, and sprinkle with dill and salt and pepper.
Bring the poaching water up to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. Remove fish to a plate.
The spinach-dill sauce:
In a blender, add a handful of clean, washed spinach, stems and all
( I microwaved for a minute to sort-of blanch it)
1 T. fresh dill, or 1 t. dried dill
1 t. red wine vinegar
a drizzle of olive oil
1 T. water from the fish poaching
Blend until it forms a thick paste.
To assemble:
Add several spoonfuls of roasted vegetables to each plate.
Divide the fish among plates, so each person has a few thick pieces.
Add a scoop of sauce to the top.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
And that's it! Enjoy!
Featured on TasteSpotting!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

pumpkin cake with clementine frosting

Still snowy here, and it will be a long time before we see the ground, but at least with March here, we know the worst of the bitter cold is over. The sun comes out, the icicles melt, and we can dream of seeing the daffodils in another month or two.

The other night, I started to make those pumpkin ginger muffins we're all so fond of, then hesitated. Hummm, how about trying it as a cake, I thought. Making a cake meant no big chunks of sugared ginger, which would mess up slicing pieces, but how about a frosting?

Well, the cake turned out beautifully, and I made a really simple cream cheese frosting with a little confectioner's sugar and microplaned clementine zest. Hope you enjoy it!

To make:

1/2 can One Pie pumpkin puree

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

2 extra-large eggs

1/4 cup apple juice

1 3/4 cups King Arthur flour

1 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

The spices:

2 t. cinnamon

2 t. ginger

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. cloves

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease a medium sized loaf pan and set aside.

In mixer bowl, mix the pumpkin, brown sugar, and melted butter. Beat. Add the eggs and apple juice and mix again.

Sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.

Scrape batter into the loaf pan and bake about 45 minutes, or until the middle of the loaf is firm to a gentle touch. It will continue to bake on the cooling rack, so don't rush taking it out too soon.

Cool loaf on rack about 15 minutes, then remove from loaf pan. Cool thoroughly - about a half an hour or more. The frosting will melt if it's too warm, and it will crumble when sliced, so again, don't rush things.

When cake is totally cool, cut cake with a serrated bread knife into four pieces - 3 careful slicings.

Make a quick clementine frosting by whipping:

2 packages cream cheese, softened

zest of 3 clementines

about 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, or to taste

Spread the clementine frosting on each layer of cake and press together firmly. Setting it in a fridge for a while helps hold it together, especially if you make thin slices.

Serve with an extra shaving of clementine zest on top. Makes about 8 slices.

Featured in TasteSpotting!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

chard and artichoke soup

I came around to chard a few years ago, mostly because of my friend Susan, of Farmgirl Fare, who posted gorgeous pictures of her Missouri grown chard - deep green, and obviously delicious.
She had recipes, too - chard salads that you could almost taste through the computer - and a particular one that always appealed to me: Chard and Artichoke Soup.
So last night I finally made it! It's an unusual combination - chickpeas, artichoke hearts, and chard, simmered together and pureed - and it is good! Best of all, you usually have most of the ingredients on hand in the pantry, so all you need is the fresh chard. I served it with the sweet potato sticks I love so much, and it was a lovely combination. As usual, I added in some herbs and spices that weren't included, but kept (mostly) to the recipe she posted.
To make:
3 T. olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can chickpeas ( garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
about 2 cups Swiss chard stems, chopped
about 3 cups Swiss chard greens, chopped
about 2-3 cups chicken stock
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1. t oregano
dash of hot pepper flakes
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
pepper and salt to your taste
Heat the oil in a large pot on medium, and add the onions and chard stems. Stir well and lower heat a little, then cover and cook about 15 minutes, covered.
Uncover the pot, stir, and add the garlic, stirring well. Add the artichoke hearts, the chickpeas, chicken stock, herbs and spices, Worcestershire sauce, and Swiss chard leaves. Bring up to a boil, then turn down to simmer for about 30 minutes, with the pot covered.
Puree with an immersion blender ( or a regular blender), and taste carefully before serving.
If the soup is too thick, add small amounts of water until the texture pleases you. I did find the next day the soup had thickened, so I just added a little more chicken stock to thin it out.

Friday, March 6, 2009

red onion bread

I kept eyeing that purple onion in the fruit basket, then finally threw my hands in the air and grabbed the Recipes from an Italian farmhouse my daughter had given me years ago, turning right to the butter splattered page for Red Onion Pizza, or fitascetta.
This is a delicious, easy, and fairly fast bread that is shaped into ropes, then coiled into a circle, then mounded with slowly sauteed red onions in butter and sprigs of fresh rosemary. It works beautifully for a soup or stew dinner, or simply as is. I made two small circles, rather than the one large one called for in the recipe - one for freezing, one for now. It could easily be made into party food, if you want to try making even smaller circles, or just slice the bread into managable pieces. It has a very fine, tender crumb.
To make:
1 envelope dry yeast ( 1/4 oz)
1/2 cup warm water
Mix the yeast into the water and let bubble and foam.
2 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
1 - 1 1/2 cups water
a little kosher salt
1 T. fresh rosemary, pulled off stems
Place the flour, salt and rosemary into mixer bowl.
Add the warm water and yeast and mix a little.
Add the water, beginning with 1 cup and adding more depending on humidity and flour you're using - it should form an elastic ball of dough - not too dry, not too wet.
Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Let rise to double - about an hour.
2 red onions, peeled and sliced thinly
2 T. unsalted butter
several sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a skillet on medium, add the onions, and turn heat down.
Let onions saute for approximately 20 minutes, until soft and buttery.
Toss in the rosemary sprigs, and add salt and pepper. Set aside.
Take the risen dough and knead briefly. Cut into two equal pieces.
Roll the dough into ropes, then coil into circles.
Place on cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Carefully spoon the onions all over the dough.
Bake for 30 minutes and remove. If tops are not browned, set under a broiler to char the onions a little.
Let cool before cutting.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

it's a chicken soup day

Do you remember that book by Maurice Sendak " Chicken Soup with Rice"? Every month had a little song about chicken soup, and I sing it as I put together another homemade chicken soup.

"In March the wind blows down the door
and spills my soup upon the floor
it laps it up and ROARS for more
blowing once
blowing twice
blowing chicken soup with rice."

Thankfully, Spring seems in sight, even though yesterday was frigid, and we had just gotten another foot+ of snow. I chattered into the kitchen and rustled up the chicken soup - this time with a little sliced kale for a change, and some hot pepper flakes for a little warmth.

We're all watching our pennies, and when I priced the ingredients for this, it came to under $4.00 Not bad for hearty, delicious, and healthy soup for 4 people. I always make chicken soup with lots of fresh carrots - the simmering makes them sweet and it certainly brightens up the bowl.

To make:
3 chicken thighs or 1 large chicken breast
1 onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, unsliced ( for the stock)
2 cups peeled, sliced carrots
1 t. thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
pinch hot pepper flakes
1-2 cups sliced kale leaves
salt and freshly cracked pepper
3 cups chicken stock
optional: fresh dill, fresh parsley, another vegetable
1 cup leftover cooked rice

Simmer the chicken in a small pot, along with the onion, carrots, and celery, plus the chicken stock , for 30 minutes.

Remove the celery and discard.

Pull the chicken off the bones and cut into small pieces.

Add the chicken back into the pot.
Add the thyme, hot pepper flakes, and rosemary.
Add the fresh dill or parsley, and the sliced kale.
Bring to a simmer and then add the cooked rice. Cook another 15 minutes, then serve, piping hot.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

pear tarts

Once again, we are getting a huge snowfall. Everyone is tucked up into their houses ( except for the plowmen) - and I was no exception. I continued to go through a large pile of old recipes, where I found this one for pear tarts. As I had all the ingredients, I put it together quickly, baked it, and critiqued it. I've become more adventurous these days, and found it to be a little bland, but I'll fix that next time with a brushing of red currant jelly under the pears, and a sprinkling of toasted walnuts or pecans on top.
This is a tart with a soft, cake like crust. You press the dough into tartlet pans, or one larger pie tin - no rolling required. You can put it together quickly for a nice breakfast treat, or for dessert. And I have used plums instead of pears, equally tasty.
To make:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Lightly grease small tart pans, or a pie pan.
For topping:
In mixer bowl:
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
1 t. grated lemon zest
2 T. butter, cold, cut into small cubes
Mix the spices, salt, lemon zest, and sugar together. Add the butter and mix until crumbly.
Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.
2 pears, cored , quartered, and very thinly sliced
1 cup King Arthur flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1-2 T. topping sugar mixture
3 T. cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup milk
red currant jelly ( optional)
handful of chopped toasted walnuts/pecans for top (optional)
Mix up the dough and divide in equal pieces for the tartlet pans, or pat into the bottom of the pie plate.
(Optional: brush dough with red currant jelly)
Arrange pears in decorative circle, or however you wish.
Sprinkle pears with topping sugar thickly and top with walnuts or pecans, if you wish.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.
Remove to a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes, then remove from rings. If using a pie plate, you will obviously leave it as is.
Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or snack. This is great for kids to make - with your supervision!