All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

wordless wednesday: the pleasure of wild pears

Monday, September 28, 2009

minestra with swiss chard and white beans

My Sunday newspaper, The Boston Globe, has quite suddenly appeared with a new food writer, Adam Reid, and a fantastic photographer, Jim Scherer. Sundays are no longer a day of lazy feet-up and browsing , no sir. Lately I take one look at the featured recipe and race into the kitchen. This Sunday was no different.

I'd just gotten some fresh chard at Saturday's farmer's market and was racking my brain trying to think of what to make. And there it was. Not a minestrone, but a glorious soup called a minestra, which highlights just a few ingredients, among which were handfuls of chard, cups of cannellini beans, a tumble of rosemary and garlic. The original recipe underwent the usual modifications, but in small ways. While squinting at the photograph, I swore I saw bits of tomato, so I added some, even though it wasn't mentioned in the article. I had no anchovies, nor did I have parmsesan rinds, unless I wanted to drive 25 miles and back. I was fired up to get to the stove, so I skipped them, though they sound delectable. Next time.

Adapted from a recipe by Adam Reid

Minesta with swiss chard, white beans, and rosemary

To make:

3/4 cup peeled, diced carrots

4 T. olive oil

3/4 cup chopped onions and leek whites, if you have

6 cups water and/or chicken stock, or both

3/4 cup chopped swiss chard stems

2 T. chopped rosemary

3 cups cannellini white beans ( I made my own) or drained, canned white beans

2 1/2 cups chopped chard leaves

2 bay leaves

5 fat cloves garlic, minced

salt and freshly cracked pepper

4 chopped canned plum tomatoes

1 t. dried basil, or 1 T. chopped fresh basil

Please note: The garlic, rosemary, chard leaves, and white beans are added at two different times in this recipe, so don't let it trip you up.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil.

Add the onions ( and leeks, if using) and carrots and cook, stirring, about 6 minutes.

Add half the garlic and rosemary, and the bay leaves and cook for just a minute.

Add the water/stock and raise the heat, so the soup is simmering.

Add half the beans and half the chopped chard leaves and simmer.

Reduce the heat and cook for about 40 minutes.

Pick out the bay leaves, stir in the chard stems, the remaining beans, the chopped tomatoes, and salt , basil , the rest of the rosemary and garlic, and freshly ground pepper and cook until the chard stems are tender.

Stir in the rest of the chard leaves and cook another few minutes.

Taste before adding more salt and pepper.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle each bowl with a little olive oil.

Serve with a hunk of parmesan and a grater - oh! And crusty bread or rolls.

This would be a wonderful soup to freeze for a surprise winter dinner or brunch, don't you think?


Friday, September 25, 2009

red hot chili pepper vinegar

When I stopped by a friend's house today, I smiled when I saw these hot peppers in the kitchen. When my children were younger, and I had an herb company, which we called Island Herbs, I made vast amounts of wonderful herb vinegars, that I sold at the Farmer's Market. My daughter conjured up marvelous calendula facial washes, while my son came up with Red Hot Chili Pepper Vinegar. To this day, I make him several bottles of it every year - enough for salads and additions to his grilling sauces. It's incredibly simple to make, and the longer it sits, the spicier it is. As you use it up, simply add a little more vinegar to the bottle, and it will last you a whole year.
To make:
Clean a nice looking bottle with soap and water. Let drain until dry.
Go to the hardware store and buy some new corks that fit the bottle.
Snip several long pieces of oregano from your herb garden, wash, and let dry.
Select one or two very good looking fresh hot peppers, wash, and let dry.
Fill the very clean bottle with half apple cider vinegar, half white vinegar.
Using a chopstick, arrange the peppers and oregano sprigs in the bottle.
Top off with the clean, new cork, place in a dark cupboard, and let steep.
Use as you wish for sauces, a zing to soups and salads, or even for a little pop to baked goods.
If you're interested in herbs, a great book ,published years ago is The Herb Book. It has loads of both culinary and medicinal recipes, as well as skin care and perfumery.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

cannellini fresca with bacon, sage, and rosemary

The other night I was browsing through The New Basics and came across this recipe. Well, actually, it doesn't really resemble that recipe anymore, but that was where the idea came from.
Imagine a large soup bowl filled with ziti rigati and an herby broth of sage and rosemary, white cannellini beans, browned bacon chunks, and baby tomatoes. Imagine the dark, gloomy, day that threatens rain, then changes its mind. Just take the soup spoons and dig in and I assure you you'll feel much more cheerful.
How to make it:
Make enough pasta for 4 people, drain, leaving a few tablespoons of cooking water in the pot. Put the pasta back in, drizzle a little olive oil over, cover, and set aside.
For the sauce:
1 large can rinsed cannellini beans
3/4 can of water ( using the same bean can)
3/4 cup chicken stock
4 T. olive oil
4 sage leaves, chopped
1/4th of an onion, cut into thin slices
3 T. browned, thick cut bacon, cut in slivers
1 T. fresh rosemary, destemmed and chopped
2 T. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, pressed
a dash of hot pepper flakes
a large handful small tomatoes - cherry tomatoes preferred
salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and simmer.
Cook for a half hour, or until the flavors have come together into an herby broth.
Warm the pasta up slowly.
Set out 4 large soup bowls.
Place two large spoonfuls of pasta in each bowl.
Using a slotted spoon, gently scoop out the beans and sprinkle on top of the pasta.
Tip the saucepan and drizzle some of the broth into each bowl. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil into each soup bowl.
Top with more parsley, sage, or rosemary, and serve.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

fresh apple gingerbread

Today's post is a completely local one, I'm happy to say. The apples were picked at the local orchard, and the recipe comes from another cooking friend in town. The orchard has only a few varieties, but their Macintoshes are outstanding - crisp, sharp, juicy - and huge.
The apple gingerbread is what I consider to be a "snacking cake" - perfect for hungry kids, as well as just about anyone else. No frosting is needed, but a spoonful of softly whipped cream or a dusting of confectioner's sugar will dress it up if you feel it needs it. You can also make and freeze while the apples are fresh, as we sneak closer to holiday season. Very moist, and just the right amount of spicy.
Adapted from a recipe by Nancy Adams
To make:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a 9 inch x 2 inch cake pan.
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 T. molasses
2 large eggs
2 cups King Arthur flour
1 t. ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
4 T. minced candied ginger (optional)
1 cup packed grated fresh apple
3/4 cup buttermilk (changed from 1 cup because the apples were so juicy!)
1 t. baking soda
Beat together the sugar, molasses, canola oil, and salt.
Mix in the eggs .
Add the flour, spices, and baking soda, and mix until incorporated.
Add the apples and buttermilk, and the minced ginger.
Bake for about an hour, or until the cake is firm in the center when you gently press it.
Remove to baking rack and let cool in pan at least a half hour.
Run a dull knife around the cake, then flip out of pan onto cooling rack.
Serve good sized slices alone, or with a dusting of confectioner's sugar or some whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

baby toffee shortbread cookies

You can tell it's edging toward autumn when you have to dodge heaps of fallen apples from the ancient now-wild apple trees. Or when you go completely overboard when reading your friend Farmgirl's recipe for her Baby Shortbread Bites with toffee and chocolate chips. Yes indeed, like the bears, I guess I'm storing up fat for winter. Maybe I can blame it on the recent 5 hours I spent at the hospital, finding out about a back problem I didn't know I had. Whichever we choose, my response to her description of buttery, toffee-flecked mini cookies sent me straight into the kitchen. Her recipe called for both toffee bits AND mini chocolate chips, but I stayed with just the toffee , though I did drizzle some chocolate on some of the cookies.
Yummy, yum, yum!
Here's how to make your own:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line two baking sheets with foil, shiny side up.
Makes 44 or more mini cookies.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2 cups King Arthur flour
1 1/2 cups toffee bits OR 3/4 c . mini-chocolate chips and 3/4 toffee bits
Cream the butter and confectioner's sugar well.
Add the vanilla and salt and mix.
Add the flour and mix until incorporated well.
Mix in the toffee bits ( or the toffee and chocolate chips).
Using a small, 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop, scoop balls of dough onto the cookie sheets.
(Note: I always bake cookies one sheet at a time, upper third of the oven)
Bake for 17 minutes, remove to cool.
If you want to drizzle a little chocolate on them, melt some chocolate chips with a little vegetable shortening, microwave about 2 minutes or more, til chocolate is smooth and melted when stirred with a spoon. Dip a fork into the chocolate and drizzle on top of cookies.
Thanks, Farmgirl Susan!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

tomato pie and sweet potatoes with rosemary

Pardon the long delay between posts - somehow I wrenched my back on Thursday, and it's been, well, a wee bit uncomfortable to sit at the computer. I pray tomorrow the orthopedist can figure out what went wrong and wave her magic wand. I wouldn't say I'm wussy about pain, but these last few days have been a challenge. (UNDERSTATEMENT)
This morning, I celebrated being able to stand by making a lovely tomato pie with spinach and basil for brunch, along with some sauteed sweet potatoes with sweet onions, bacon (optional), and fresh rosemary . Call it a getting-to-the-end-of-fresh-herb-season celebration! I know fresh herbs are available pretty much year round now in the supermarkets - but I swear they taste five times better straight out of the herb garden, don't they?
I suppose you could call the pie a quiche, but it's 1) crustless, and 2) has half the cheese I would put in a quiche, so voila! Tomato pie it is.
I used a 12" metal tart pan for this, but you could use a glass pie plate if you don't have a large tart pan.
To make:
Preheat oven to 330F. ( 325 is a little low for my oven, and 350 too high)
Butter or grease the pie pan you're using.
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
1 cup fresh spinach, destemmed and very thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 cup grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese - I use Cabot.
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 extra large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
Arrange the onion and tomato slices in the bottom of the pie pan.
Mix the eggs, milk, cream and salt and pepper together well.
Add the cheddar, spinach , and basil in and mix well, again.
Pour into the pie pan and bake for around 50 minutes, or until the mixture is slightly puffed and firm in the very center.
Remove pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
Sweet Potatoes with rosemary, onion, and bacon
2 T. olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter (optional)
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform chunks.
2 T. fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 sweet onion, large dice
salt and pepper
1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
Heat the oil and optional butter in a skillet. Add the sweet potatoes, onion, rosemary, bacon, and salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for ten minutes.
Turn heat to low, cover, and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

not Julia's ratatouille

Summer is coming to a close - time to stack the wood , make peach preserves, and count the days until the Honey Crisp apple season opens. It's also time to celebrate ratatouille season, that delicious mixture of zucchini, garlic and eggplant, tomatoes and peppers, heavenly basil.
When my stepmother made ratatouille, it was similar to Julia's recipe; a tedious, oil soaked casserole of the same ingredients that truly repelled me. It was only when the "nouvelle" craze hit that I discovered a way to make a fresh, lively, and edible ratatouille.
*A note on eggplant. When I worked in a French restaurant, we routinely sliced the eggplants, salted them heavily in a strainer with kosher salt, and let them sit for 30 minutes, before washing and patting them dry. You can still do that, but I've found if you choose a very fresh, very firm eggplant, you can usually get away with just slicing and dicing it without that step. I admit, once I used an eggplant that turned out to be so bitter, I had to toss the whole batch of ratatouille. It's really your decision.
Rather than the hours the traditional recipe calls for, this recipe is done in about a half an hour.
To make:
3 T. olive oil
1 medium or large chopped onion
3 fat garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large green pepper, chopped in a large dice
1 medium, firm, unpeeled eggplant, cut in a large dice
* you may salt and drain it first, see above
1 medium zucchini, cut in a large dice
about 1-2 cups canned plum tomatoes with juice, cut up. ( I also have used canned diced tomatoes with chiles, the 14.5 oz can)
3 T. or so of really good salsa ( I use Green Mountain Gringo from Vermont)
fresh or dried basil, oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes.
Add the peppers, eggplant, and zucchini and cook, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
Uncover and add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper.
Turn heat to medium-low and let simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and tender.
Turn off heat and let the ratatouille sit for 20 minutes before serving.
Your taste buds will thank you!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Homage to Sheila: oatmeal raisin cookies

Such a sad day when I learned of Sheila Lukins death. Her first cookbook, The Silver Palate Cookbook, became one of the bibles in my kitchen, and I will always be grateful to her, and Julee Rosso, for their inspired cooking.

My children will remember the cookies: the infinitely variable chocolate-chip, the moist and chewy oatmeal-raisin, the meltingly tender Linzer Hearts. But the cookbook was so much more. It brought fresh, herby lushness to even beginner cooks. The recipes always worked, and always tasted delicious. I've given it to everyone from college bound students who have never cooked, to young marrieds, to bewildered suddenly solos. Just read the chapters: finger food, crudites, savoury meats, baking in foil, pasta perfect, sunday night soups, catch of the day, the charcuterie board, cheese & breads, the brunch bunch, significant salads, essentially chocolate, and on and on. The only wish I had for the book was a sturdier spine ; when I bought a new edition in 2007, the pages began falling out almost immediately.

When I briefly ran the kitchen in a Carmelite monastery, what was the only cookbook on the shelf there? Yes, it was Silver Palate . When the new chef took over, I remember several monks cornering me in the kitchen and pleading with me to deliver their beloved oatmeal cookies and lemon cakes on the sly.

Here are those Oatmeal Cookies:
(from The Silver Palate Cookbook)

12 T. unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 extra large egg
2 T. water
1 t. vanilla
2/3 cup King Arthur flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
3 cups Quaker rolled oats ( they specified quick cooking oats, but I prefer the rolled oats)
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350F.
Line two baking sheets with foil.

Cream the butter and both sugars until fluffy.
Add the egg and beat.
Mix in the water and vanilla.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and mix in.
Add the oats and raisins and mix well.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop cookie batter onto sheets, 6 to a sheet ( this should make between 10-12 giant cookies)
Gently press down on each scoop of batter to slightly flatten.
Bake sheets one at a time, for 17 minutes each.
Remove to cool.

Enjoy - and a final loving wave to Sheila.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

blueberry scones with lemon curd dipping sauce

You know me - I'm crazy about scones. So when I came across Steamy Kitchen's recipe for sour cream blueberry scones ( with a lemon curd "glaze"), I had to try it.
Were they tender? Oh yes. Lovely golden mouthfuls of delicious scone, and dipping them into the lemon curd really made them sizzle. I loved the way they puffed up into pillowy, pretty, pastries - so I hope you'll give them a try. I'm sure you'll agree!
Recipe from Steamy Kitchen:
For the lemon curd:
3 lemons
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 T. unsalted butter
Zest one lemon ( she says to zest all of them, but I don't like that much zest in my curd) into a saucepan.
Roll the lemons on a board firmly, then juice them and add to the saucepan.
Add the eggs and sugar and whisk away on medium heat - but be careful not to let it boil, or the eggs will curdle.
When the mixture is hot and bubbling, whisk in the butter and turn heat to low. Continue to stir for about 6-10 minutes, or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the scones:
This made 13 scones, using an ice cream scoop
3 cups King Arthur flour
1 1/2 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 T. sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut in pieces & softened
2 cups sour cream
1/2 t. vanilla
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries ( if using frozen, toss in a teaspoon of flour to coat them)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment.
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Cut in the softened butter and mix until butter is mixed well.
Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix gently.
Fold in the blueberries, or knead in gently.
Using a regular ice cream scoop , scoop up dough and place on baking sheet - 6 to a sheet. You'll have to space the second sheet, since it made 7 scoops of dough.
Bake 30 minutes or until the scones are golden brown and light when picked up.
Serve hot with the lemon curd. Yummy!