All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Thursday, October 29, 2009

butternut squash and sweet potato soup with Indian spices

I love my sister's visits to my home in rural New Hampshire! She arrives in a rush, her dog Pippa in tow, loaded down with bags of goodies from Whole Foods in Cambridge. Let me hasten to add, I just love seeing her, as our visits are few and far between. But as soon as she steps in the door, I think she's as excited as I am with her exotic foodstuffs from the big city.

The last time she was here, she brought an assortment of the most marvelous cheeses from around the world. Our favorite was immediately clear: the goat's milk brie, which had us swooning. And the time before THAT, she arrived with an assortment of Indian spices, tucked up in pretty cardboard envelopes - along with soups and breads, ciders and sweets. Bless her heart. It was only last week I finally read the spice labels, and fortuitous it was - I had in mind a seasonal butternut squash and sweet potato soup, that cried out for much more than my usual thyme, nutmeg, and pepper seasoning. I grabbed an envelope and cut it open. A waft of pungent but aromatic spiciness enveloped and enticed me, so I plunged ahead with the usual soup-makings, toasting the spice in olive oil and onions, before adding the squash and sweet potatoes.

I finally put on my reading glasses and read: bhindi masala : ingredients, tumeric, red pepper, coriander, cumin ( CUMIN! - I love cumin!) salt, and other exotic seasonings. Go for it.

So I did, and it turned out to be a deliciously flavorful soup. Do try!

Makes two medium bowls of lovely soup.

To make:

2 T. olive oil

1 stick celery, sliced in 1 inch pieces

2 cups butternut squash, peeled , seeded and cut into 1-2 inch chunks

1 cup peeled sweet potato, cut into 1-2 inch chunks

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

1 t. cumin

1 t. bhindi masala spice

1/2 t. thyme

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over high heat.

Add the onion and the bhindi masala spice, the thyme and the cumin and stir for a minute or so.

Add the celery, butternut squash, and sweet potato and stir. Lower the heat to medium.

Add the vegetable stock and stir. Keeping heat at medium , let the vegetables cook until tender.

When the vegetables are tender, take the pot off heat.

Using a stick blender, puree the vegetables and taste. Add salt and pepper as wished at this point.

Serve with homemade croutons .( I used millet bread croutons, which were briefly toasted in a skillet with a little olive oil. Big mistake. I discovered I didn't like millet bread at all - but it's gluten free, so if you have to, go ahead)

If you don't have access to the bhindi masala spice, I would tinker around with cumin, cayenne, ground coriander, and tumeric. It lends a perfect heat and warmth to the squash and potato that is truly unique.

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

It's a rainy, rainy day. The air is raw and chilly; feeding the woodstove keeps the kitchen warm and cozy . I've been mulling about for a pumpkin chocolate chip SOMETHING for a while, and suddenly realized this morning it's been in front of my nose all the time.
I've baked up this wonderful pumpkin-ginger recipe several times, most often as a cake. I usually make it with chunks of crystalized ginger but today I decided use milk chocolate chips instead. I made smaller muffins than I usually do, and used my two heart muffin tins as well, so I ended up with 22 muffins. Perfect! I'm doing refreshments at the annual library meeting, so now I can consider that obligation done!
This is a delicious, spicy, earthy October muffin, and it comes from the excellent chef, Sarah Leah Chase. I never change a thing, except here, substituting chocolate chips for the ginger.
From the Nantucket Open House Cookbook
1 15 oz. can pumpkin ( I use One Pie)
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
4 1/2 t. cinnamon
4 1/2 t. ginger
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves
1 cup milk chocolate chips, plus more for the tops
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease muffin tins.
Place the pumpkin, brown sugar, and melted butter in mixer bowl and mix well.
Add the eggs and mix again, then add the cider.
Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices and salt to the mixer bowl.
Mix on low until well blended, then add the chocolate chips and mix one more time.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into muffin tins: for regular sized muffin tins and using a normal ice cream scoop, each muffin should be one scoop. Continue filling tins until all the batter is gone. Sprinkle one or two ( or three!) chocolate chips on top of each muffin.
Bake for around 25 minutes, or until tops are firm when gently pressed with your finger.
Remove to cool. After ten minutes, use a dull knife to edge out the muffins and let cool further on a cooling rack.
Makes 22 normal size super delicious muffins. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

roasted butternut salad with arugula and pomegranate dressing

Oh, the beauty of roasted squashes! There's something about roasting that brings out the robust sweetness of the lovely fall squashes , as well as the beautiful colors reflecting the changing of the season outside.
I saw a picture of this salad in one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, and the photograph summed up all the celebration of October, don't you think?
Instead of a traditional red wine vinegar, I decided to try a pomegranate-juice based dressing. I reduced the pomegranate juice by half, and mixed it with the olive oil. Lovely! It brought a tang of sweet/sour to the roasted squash that tasted wonderful.
To make 2 -3 servings:
one half a butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into cubes
olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and cut into thick slivers
a few fresh cranberries ( optional)
a handful of arugula
a handful of green leaf lettuce
parmesan or Campo Montalban cheese, shaved with a cheese plane
a few leaves of sage
Preheat oven to 400F.
Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Add the squash, onion, and cranberries - and a few squash seeds for interest and flavor. Cut sage into slivers and toss half of them on top of the squash mixture. Roast at a high temperature until squash is tender and shows a bit of color. You can also saute the squash if you prefer. If you want more color, just run the squash under a broiler until it's tinged with charring.
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
3 T. olive oil
NO salt
Reduce the pomegranate juice by half, then mix quickly with the olive oil.
Drizzle on top of salad as wished
Place a handful of the lettuces in a bowl or on a plate. Spoon the squash, onion, and cranberry on top, then drizzle with the pomegranate dressing. Shave the cheese and add a few slices to each serving.
Enjoy the Autumn days!
Featured on Tastespotting!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eat on $30 a week: vermicelli with kale, garlic, and rosemary

I just love food bloggers. Not just for their considerable talents in the cooking and baking departments, but for their empathy and concern for others. A few days ago, I became aware that a food blogger, Running with Tweezers, had decided to try living on a food budget that reflected what a normal food stamp recipient would recieve: $30 a week per person, or $4.29 per day. She put out the challenge to other food bloggers to come up with not only creative recipes, but to try to meet the challenge for a week.
Yesterday, I decided to try just one day of the challenge, and here is the result.
rolled oats with diced pears and a teaspoon of honey: 35 cents
1 cup instant coffee: 25 cents
1 fried egg : 17 cents
Total: 77 cents
Because I'd picked some wild pears, the pears were free, and because I had a large jar of honey, the cost was minimal.
poached chicken: 55 cents
cup of instant coffee: 25 cents
hunk of swiss cheese: 35 cents
slice of good bread: 21 cents
Total : $1.36
Again, I'd bought a large piece of cheese, and slicing off a piece was obviously cheaper than buying by the slice
Snack: homemade applesauce
Cost: free
I'd picked some windfall, semi -wild apples a week before, so I had several jars in the freezer.
I never did eat this, since I was full, but it it was a good backup for, say, hungry children.
I loved this! Much of it was free from the garden, though.
2 cups kale: free
1 T. butter: .13 cents
2 T. parmesan, grated: 30 cents
rosemary: free
vermicelli pasta: 50 cents ( which I bought on sale)
2 cloves garlic: free from a friend's garden
Total: 93 cents
Total for all three meals: $3.06
This is just one day for me, with considerable help from free food from the garden. To buy food in bulk requires putting out much more cash, not often available. And to do it day after day after day - is it any wonder carbohydrates figure so strongly in restricted budgets? So now, I'm going to challenge YOU to eating on $30 a week, per person, along with your recipes and thoughts on the challenge, if you would. And many thanks to Running with Tweezers, for her thoughtful challenge.
Oh, and here's that Pasta with Kale recipe:
1/3 box vermicelli pasta
2 T. fresh rosemary, stripped from stem
1 T. olive oil ( oops, forgot that in the figuring) for the pasta water
2 cups kale, stripped from stems and torn
more olive oil for the finished pasta
parmesan for the pasta
2 cloves garlic
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Throw in the torn kale and the vermicelli and cook for 8 minutes.
Drain the pasta and kale.
Sprinkle the rosemary on the pasta and gently toss.
Press the garlic and toss into pasta and kale.
Drizzle some olive oil on top and a little unsalted butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pass a bowl of parmesan, if desired.
Enjoy the challenge!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

green chile cornbread and Mt. Monadnock

As the nights ( and days) get chilly, I start thinking with excitement about Thanksgiving dinner. A few days ago, I was driving back from physical therapy, saluting, as always, "the mountain" - Mt. Monadnock, just a few miles away from my house. Actually, it's so big, you can see it from at least four towns, but it seems much closer. So between admiring the mountain, and the beautiful day, my memory wandered around in the kitchen of ones mind, and I realized I'd never made a cornbread stuffing for the turkey. So I started experimenting. What I came up with was a terrific, slightly grainy cornbread flecked with green chiles, scallions, and fresh oregano. It could be served alongside the turkey, or used as a stuffing.
I used stone ground cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill which is quite a bit coarser than the cornmeal I've been using for polenta and spoonbread.
Adapted from's Southern Food
How to make:
Grease an 8" square baking pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400F.
1 3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
3/4 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large egg
4 T. olive oil or bacon drippings
1 T. minced onion
2 T. finely sliced green onions ( scallions)
1 T. finely chopped green chiles ( canned or fresh)
1 T. finely chopped yellow or red sweet pepper
1 T. fresh oregano, finely chopped
Measure the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder into mixer bowl.
In another bowl, mix the milk, egg, and olive oil , then the onion, scallions, chiles, sweet pepper, and fresh oregano. Whisk well.
Add the milk mixture to the dry cornmeal mixture and beat until well incorporated.
Scrape into the prepared pan and bake 25 minutes.
Let cool well before cutting into pieces.
Stay warm and enjoy the season!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

gingerbread witch hats

To be honest, I'm not a fan of Halloween . I draw the line at creepy masks and fake blood, recorded screams, and mischief in the night. When the kids were really little, nothing was more fun than to read Tasha Tudor's Pumpkin Moonshine , and celebrate with spicy gingerbread cookies and flickering candles. I was okay with the frozen koolaid hands sitting in the middle of the punchbowl at school, too . But beyond that, I'm a wimp about Halloween.
My gingerbread cookie recipe is a great, all-purpose cut out cookie, good for every holiday that comes up. Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas teas. I roll them out to a half an inch, so they stay study and unbroken when handing out to Trick or Treaters. And they don't deliver so much sugar your kids are bouncing halfway to the moon, either. I found the witch hat cookie cutter at my favorite store in Keene, NH, Your Kitchen Store.
The cookies are deliciously spicy and soft, but firm.
Recipe from Craig Claiborne, NYT Cookbook:
To make:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1 large egg
3/4 cup molasses
3 cups King Arthur flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
Cream together the butter, brown sugar, and spices.
Add the egg and mix, then add the molasses.
Sift together the flour, soda, and baking powder, then add to the molasses mixture and mix until blended in well.
Chill the dough in a plastic bag in the fridge for a half hour .
Preheat oven to 350F.
Fit two baking sheets with foil or parchment.
Roll out half the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness, cutting into shapes as you wish. Place the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
Bake one cookie sheet at a time in the upper third of the oven for 10 minutes, then remove to cool.
This makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookie cutter you use.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

tuscan vegetable soup with white beans and garlic

These have been perfect soup days lately - chilly in the mornings and crisp in the afternoon for foliage peeping. This morning I was making my favorite tuscan vegetable soup when the treemen showed up to clear the ice storm debris in the field, so I took out two bowls of warm soup, heady with tarragon and basil, with a last minute garnish of white beans and garlic. I hesitated for a second, holding my breath as I handed the bowls to them, but heaved a sigh when they inhaled the herby steam and started eating. Two nods, so I think it passed the test.
At the last minute, as the soup was bubbling and simmering, a bowl of white beans in the fridge caught my eye. Heated up with a little olive oil and lots of garlic, it made a really nice garnish for that delightful soup. Matchsticks of prosciutto crossed my mind as the soup was nearing the end of cooking, but I had none. If you try prosciutto, let me know if it adds a little something to the already wonderful soup.
This soup freezes really well!
To make:
2 T. olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter
4 stalks of celery, washed and sliced
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated
1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes in juice, diced , and the juice from the can
2 cups light chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. thyme
1/2 t. oregano
2 t. dried tarragon
salt and freshly cracked pepper
Place olive oil and butter in a large , heavy bottomed pot. Heat, and add the onions, carrots and celery and braise, covered on medium heat, for about 20 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, the juice from the tomatoes, the chicken stock and all the herbs, along with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 20 minutes, take off heat, and stir in a little more basil and tarragon. Taste for salt and pepper and add if desired.
White bean garnish:
Warm one cup cooked, drained white beans. ( Great Northern, cannelini)
Gently stir in 2 T. olive oil, then 3 cloves pressed garlic.
Cook a few minutes more, then add salt, pepper, and or/ minced parsley, as wished.
Serve with a great crusty bread and a bowl of parmesan curls.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the sweetness of lima beans

Everybody has a few favorite foods. You love chocolate, or fresh French bread, or oysters , hours old, straight from the sand flats of the salty windy beach. I love lima beans. Yes, you heard me right, lima beans; those sweet, plump baby beans ( or its cousin, butter beans, available in the North only in cans), silky, tender, and evocative of Brancusi's sculptures.
I just looked up the history of lima beans and was shocked to find they are a veritable powerhouse in the fight against heart disease and high cholesterol. Who knew? To me, they're simply a favored dinner, now that the herds of hungry teenagers in the kitchen are gone, who much preferred steak, chicken, and desserts.
To those who have had too many forkfuls of overcooked, enormous limas, I will tell you the secret - buy frozen, baby lima beans, barely cook very briefly in a little water just until they're plump and warmed, and then mix ever so gently with unsalted butter ( just a teaspoon), a little salt and pepper, and that's it.
I've used them very few times in recipes: fresh green cabbage with limas and turkey meatballs and thyme soup, or succotash, but that's about it. Most of the time I tuck up with my warm little bowl of lima beans, sweet melted butter, and sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and blissedly dig in.

Friday, October 2, 2009

simple bread pudding with vanilla bean

Fall is here. The mornings are chilly with a scent of woodsmoke. The beech trees gently shower their yellow leaves on the still-green grass. We haven't had a frost yet, but it is simply a matter of days - this morning the temperature was 33 degrees.

The brisk temperatures send me into the kitchen to stir up something warm and comforting. A half a loaf of my favorite supermarket bread, viera saloio ( Portuguese bread), reminds me how long it's been since I made my bread pudding. A few hours later, it sits on the counter, warm, cheerful, fragrant with vanilla.

You can use any leftover bread, really. I prefer a slightly chewy bread for the bread pudding, like the 12 hour bread I made a while ago. I tear it into small pieces rather than cutting it into cubes.

Simple Bread Pudding with vanilla bean
Makes about 4 servings

1 3/4 cup milk
2 T. heavy cream
2 T. unsalted butter
half a vanilla bean, broken in pieces ( or 1 t. vanilla, but it won't be as good)
about 3 pieces handcut, 1 inch width bread, torn into small pieces
pinch of cinnamon
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 T. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Butter 2 small ovenproof dishes, or one larger dish.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean, cinnamon and butter in a saucepan. Do not boil - just heat until it's hot.

Place the bread in a bowl.

Remove hot milk mixture from heat.

Pour a little hot milk into the eggs, stirring, then a little more.
Tip the yolk mixture into the warm milk, whisking all the while ( so it won't curdle.)

Remove the vanilla beans ( you can scrape some of the delicious seeds into the milk)
Pour the milk/egg mixture over the bread and let sit ten minutes.

Arrange the bread and milk/egg mixture in dishes.

Sprinkle a little sugar on top of the bread.
Transfer dishes or dish to a baking pan that has been filled with an inch of hot water.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until bread is golden and custard is set.