All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

carrot & ginger soup (potage carottes) - and the top 10

It wasn't that I ate a lot of rich food this holiday - it's just that I was making ginger stars and anise cookies , and the cinnamon roasted walnuts every day, it seems. There were always leftovers, and I couldn't resist nibbling.
So last night I was happy to make this light, but rich creamy carrot soup - no cream, no butter, just the warm bloom of fresh ginger and the earthy smoothness of fresh carrots. Served with a quick olive and rosemary focaccia, it was a perfect supper.
Carrot and fresh ginger soup:
Serves about three.
2 cups water
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 t. thyme
1 1/2 cups organic carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, washed and sliced
1 heaping T. peeled, diced fresh ginger root
salt and pepper
1/2 t. dill
In a saucepan, bring the stock, water, thyme, carrots , ginger and celery to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.
Remove from heat and puree, using an immersion blender or regular blender.  You may have to add an extra cup or more of water or stock if the soup is too thick.  It should be very smooth and well colored.
Stir in the dill, and taste carefully before adding salt and pepper.

(Drum roll, please) - here are the top ten posts of 2009!
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Joyful day to all! Near the top of our tree sits Stuart Little, paddling his canoe down the boughs, and reminding us each year to keep love close in our hearts as we navigate the rivers and waves of life. Blessed Day to each and every one!
I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant - Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see - and to see we have only to look.
Take joy!
And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
Fra Giovanni, 1513

Monday, December 21, 2009

russian tea cookies:messy, but delicious

Last week, someone offered me these cookies ( which I accepted with alacrity), which they identified as Russian Tea Cookies. While I had never heard a name attached to them, I certainly remembered the cookies! As a child, I was a wee bit pudgy, and had a passion for sweets. I remember these cookies not only for their delicious melt- in -your- mouth taste, but the shower of confectioner's sugar down the front of your sweater. The messy child grew into the messy adult, and since I never remember to wear an apron, spills down the front are part of my wardrobe image. Nevermind; these are wonderful, tasty snowballs that continue to be popular at Christmas. My recipe comes from an older friend, and I'm grateful to her for finally giving these cookies a name. (Thanks, Anita!)
Russian Tea cookies
To make:
Preheat oven to 375F.
2 ungreased cookie sheets or jellyroll pans
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 1/4 cups King Arthur flour
1/4 t. salt
3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped in food processor
1/2 t. nutmeg ( optional)
More confectioner's sugar, for rolling
Cream butter and sugar.
Add vanilla, nutmeg, flour, salt, and nuts.
Mix well and form into dime or quarter sized balls.
Place on baking sheet and bake for 14 minutes.
While still warm, roll in confectioner's sugar.
When cool, using a sieve, shake an avalanche of more sugar on top of cookies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gingerbread Stars for Christmas

Christmas baking is in full swing here . I've been making Italian Anise cookies, and batches of those beautiful Sugar Roasted walnuts and almonds from Maria's recipe - apple gingerbread, and chunky double chocolate cookies with ginger and/or pecans. But I have to say my favorite cookie for Christmas is the plain and simple, but spicy and fragrant gingerbread cookie from an old edition of The New York Times cookbook. It reminds me of those lovely Carl Larsson paintings of Swedish Christmases, and the modest Christmases of the Little House on the Prairie books I loved so much as a child. It holds up well to decorating, though I'm sadly lacking in the decorating skills department. It travels well, which is handy in this day of uncertain mail delivery times. You can dunk it, decorate it, fluff it up with whipped cream ( or ice cream), or nibble slowly on one corner of the star, enjoying the flavor of cloves and cinnamon, ginger and molasses.
To make:
Fit two baking sheets with foil or parchment.
2/3 cup (11 T.) unsalted, room temperature butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. salt
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, spices, and salt.
Add the egg and mix, then add the molasses and mix again.
Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and mix until the dough forms a ball of sorts.
Remove dough from bowl, and pat into a disk. Chill for at least an hour. ( I keep this dough ready to go in the fridge, so I can bake up cookies when I need them)
Take out the chilled dough and set oven to 350F.
Roll the dough out to about 1/3 inch or less and cut with cookie cutters, dipping cutters into flour lightly every once in a while so it won't get too sticky.
Place cookies on sheet, 2 inches apart. Place first sheet in oven and bake for about 9 minutes.( your time will depend on thickness of dough and size of cutters)
Remove cookie sheet to cooling rack for ten minutes, then remove cookies to another cooling rack. When completely cooled, decorate as you wish.
This recipe made about two dozen cookies, using a medium-large star cutter.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

roasted sugared almonds and walnuts with cinnamon

I found this recipe on Two Peas and their Pod, and I love it! Crunchy, not-too-sweet almonds and walnuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and roasted for an hour are not only perfect for gift-giving, but a fairly healthy snack, too. Most roasted nuts are tossed in melted butter, but this recipe uses beaten egg whites as a binder instead - smart thinking.
The only thing I changed for the second batch I made was to make twice as much cinnamon sugar coating - it's so delicious I wanted even more on those toasty walnuts and almonds.
Recipe from Two Peas and their Pod
1 egg white
1 t. cold water
2 cups whole almonds or walnuts
3 T. white sugar
3 T. brown sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
Preheat your oven to 250F (My oven is hot, so I set it at 225F)
Beat the egg white and water with a whisk til frothy, then add the almonds or walnuts and stir well until coated.
Mix the sugars , salt and cinnamon together and sprinkle over nuts. Stir gently to coat the nuts evenly.
Fit a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the nuts out evenly.
Place in oven for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Let cool completely before storing in airtight containers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

martha's vegetable soup

The first incarnation of this soup came straight from Martha Stewart's Entertaining , but over the years it's evolved into quite a different soup. However, when I first made it for the kids, I dubbed it "Martha's Vegetable", and the name stuck.
It's a great, simple soup, bright with basil and easy on the stomach if one has ( now who would that be?) indulged in a few too many Double Chocolate Chunk cookies, as well as six Italian Anise cookies. A small handful of either vermicelli or gemelli pasta adds a little oomph to the hearty mixture of fresh veggies, and if you have some, a spoonful of pesto is always good, too.
To make about 4 plus servings:
1/2 large onion, quartered and sliced
2 T. olive oil or unsalted butter
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup zucchini, quartered and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cloves pressed garlic
1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup large dice red or green peppers
1 cup large dice red skinned potatoes
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, diced
3 T. gemelli pasta or small bunch vermicelli pasta
2 t. basil
salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 t. tarragon ( optional)
2 T. chopped parsley
4 1/2 cups half water, half vegetable or chicken stock
Pesto - one tablespoon per bowl (optional)
In a pot, heat the olive oil and/or butter and toss in the onions. Stir and cook for five minutes or so.
Add the potatoes , the stock, and the celery and peppers and simmer until the potatoes are just barely tender.
Add the zucchini, garlic, basil, tarragon, green beans, tomatoes, parsley, and pasta and cook about 15 minutes, or until pasta is just tender.
Taste the soup for seasoning, and add more basil and salt and pepper to taste. Swirl in the pesto if you're using it, and serve.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

italian anise cookies for Christmas

Nothing like a soft little snowstorm to get in the mood for Christmas! While the ice storm we had last December still sits lurking in our memories, this snowfall was delightful - soft and fluffy, and very pretty. It also reminded me to start deciding which Christmas cookies to make this year. I snatched up The Boston Globe magazine from last Sunday, where I remembered seeing a recipe for cute little lemon-glazed anise "snail " cookies.
Now, I do realize anise is a love or loathe spice, but happily, I'm in the love department. It has a strong licorice aroma and a milder taste. The recipe called for anise extract, which I didn't have, so I toasted and ground a teaspoon of anise seeds - but I would use the anise extract next time for a bolder anise flavor.
I made a few adaptations ( more flour, more lemon juice, clementine juice instead of orange juice), and I made a tray of tiny cookies using my smallest ice cream scoop, as well as the snail cookies. I liked them both, so you can go either way. And another bonus? They're dairy free.
Adapted from The Boston Globe magazine recipe from A&J King Bakers:
To make:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plus 1 T. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 ( or more) anise extract or 1 t. toasted & ground anise seeds
1/4 cup clementine juice, or orange juice
1T. baking powder
3 (plus or minus) cups King Arthur flour
The icing:
1 cup confectioners sugar
fresh lemon juice to make a very thin glaze
anise seeds or clementine zest for tops
Preheat oven to 350F.
2 cookie sheets, UNgreased
In mixer bowl, beat the eggs and oil until foamy. With mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, then the vanilla, anise extract or seeds, and clementine or orange juice. Add the baking powder and mix in the flour until the dough is stiff.
Pinch off about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a short rope - about 6 inches. Coil the rope on the baking sheet neatly into a circle. Or, use a mini-ice cream scoop and scoop onto cookie sheet. The cookies don't really spread, so you can set them fairly close together.
One sheet at a time, place in oven for 12-14 minutes. When first sheet is done, remove to a cooling rack and bake the second sheet.
Mix up the thin glaze and brush on the warm baked cookies. Sprinkle with a little lemon or clementine zest, and a pinch of anise seed if you wish. The warmth will release that wonderful cloud of anise aroma.
Continue with the second sheet of cookies , ice, and let cool.
Happy December!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

julia's leek and potato soup: potage parmentier

I was thumbing through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 this morning and got the surprise of my life. The Potage Parmentier I've been making all along, thinking it was still Julia's recipe, has undergone some fairly radical changes over the years.
First of all, she adds no extra herbs to the basic leek and potato soup base - and no stock, either. So all this time, I've been loading the potage with the potent aroma of my favorite herb, thyme. And enriching it with chicken stock AND butter.
No matter: both are wonderful soups! There may be times when you want your Leek and Potato with few seasonings, and others when you prefer a richer bowl .
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
1 lb ( 3-4 cups) peeled and diced or sliced boiling potatoes
1 lb (3 cups) washed and sliced leek whites, with a little of the tender green
(by the way, leeks lately have been sandy, so slice the leeks down the middle, fan them out, and rinse well under running water)
2 quarts of water
1 T. salt
Simmer the vegetables in the water and salt for about 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soft. Mash with a fork or pass the soup through a food mill. Just before serving add:
4-6 T. whipping cream or 2-3 T. soft butter
2-3 T. minced parsley or chives
My version:
1 1/2 cups peeled, sliced white potatoes
1 1/2 cups sliced leeks, well washed, whites only
2 cups light vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
1 1/2 t. thyme
Simmer vegetables in the light stock and thyme until soft.
Using an immersion blender stick, puree the soup until smooth.
about 1/3 cup light cream
1 T. unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
Serve with a sprinkle of chives, finely sliced scallions ( green onions), or a stick of trimmed scallions, or some chopped parsley.
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