All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Friday, February 26, 2010

rapini and sausages on penne pasta

What a wonderful birthday week it's been, filled with flowers and cards, messages and phone calls - and a beautiful cake from friend Winnie. It saved my week, because the weather has been terrible - snow, rain, sleet, ice, and some kind of pellets of snow/ice.
There was a lovely bunch of rapini in the fridge for my birthday dinner, but rather than the usual rapini soup, I decided on a fairly traditional Italian recipe, using fat sausages to give the dish a little more oomphf. A confetti of onions and green and red peppers made for a very pretty platter.
To make:
2 cups penne pasta ( or farfalle or spagetti)
one bunch rapini, washed, trimmed, cut into 2-3 inch pieces, stems and all
a package of sausages ( I used small, but next time will use the large ones)
1 large onion
1-2 cups diced red and green sweet peppers
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. olive oil
1 t. thyme
sueeze of fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smushed
3 T. olive oil
Cut the sausages into 1 or 2 inch pieces.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Toss the cut rapini into the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes.
Scoop out the rapini ( you'll use the water for the pasta) and place in a bowl of cold water.
Using the same water, cook the pasta for around 8 minutes, then drain.
Place the sausages in a large skillet with a few tablespoons of water and cook until slightly browned. Remove the sausages to a plate.
Drain out any grease, then add the olive oil to the skillet.
Toss in the onion, garlic, and peppers and saute for 2 minutes.
Add the drained rapini and saute another 2 minutes.
Add the sausage and thyme and saute 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper as desired.
Toss the pasta and veggies and sausage together and mix well.
Place in large pasta bowl or serving platter, top with a drizzle of olive oil and the fresh lemon juice, and serve. You can serve with Pecorino-Romano, or not.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

happy birthday cupcakes!

February is a big month in our family for birthdays - it's even my blog's birthday! Feeling in a festive mood, I whipped up some of these sour cream cupcakes with my favorite pink frosting, then gave them away to friends. It must be the child in all of us, because everyone chuckled and smiled as I gave them out. So what better way to celebrate February? And if I could hand one to Bode Miller and the rest of our Olympic medal winners, I would. It's been an exciting Olympics and I'm proud of our team!
To make about 15 medium cupcakes:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups King Arthur flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup sour cream, room temp
2 t. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place paper liners in medium cupcake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar and beat until fluffy and light.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg is added.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together, then add to the butter and sugar mixture.
Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat briefly.
Using a regular size ice cream scoop, place scoop of dough into each paper liner.
Bake about 35 minutes, or until golden on top and gently firm on top - or you can use a kebab stick to insert in the middle of a cupcake. It should come out clean.
Remove to cooling rack for a few minutes, then remove cupcakes from tin to another cooling rack. The cupcakes need to be completely cool before frosting.
The Frosting:
one 8 oz. bar of cream cheese, room temp
2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter
1 box confectioner's sugar
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. vanilla
Decors and sprinkles for tops
Beat all ingredients until smooth and creamy, then scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Starting at the outside of each cupcake, swirl the frosting generously onto cupcakes.
Enjoy - and Happy Birthday to all you February babies!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

fresh rosemary rolls

I have an enormous rosemary plant on the kitchen counter near the window, and it was badly in need of trimming. Snipping off the aromatic twigs and sprigs brought back the memory of the rosemary rolls and bread I used to make....and a short time later, the dough was gently rising under a teatowel.
This is an Italian recipe, made with finely chopped rosemary and warm milk. It has a very tender crumb, and a fine texture. I use it for everything from sandwiches to croutons to french toast - the rosemary flavor is not overwhelming. Today, we're having a little snowstorm, and I'm anticipating a nice melted cheese sandwich in a bit - goat cheese? Swiss? I usually split the recipe into one loaf of bread, and four large rolls which is a little more versatile.
To make:
1 packet Rapid Rise dry yeast, or one T. dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 T. chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 t. salt
6+- cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
oats or cornmeal for sprinkling on baking sheets
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
a spritzing water bottle
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand 10 minutes.
Stir in the lukewarm milk and rosemary, olive oil, and salt and stir. Cup by cup, add the flour. Since all flours differ, and absorb moisture erratically, I slow down on the 5th cup of flour and watch carefully as I add it. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky, not dry.
Mix the dough until it forms a ball, then knead briefly or use the dough hook.
Pour a little oil in a bowl, plop in the dough, and roll around. Then cover with a damp teatowel and put in a warmish place until the dough doubles in size.
Sprinkle some oats or cornmeal on two baking sheets.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter and knead . For one loaf of bread and four rolls, I cut the ball of dough in half, using one half for the bread, the other half cut into four smaller pieces for the rolls.
Shape the dough as you wish - whether balls of dough or loaves, or both.
Place the rolls or bread on two baking sheets, leaving about 2-3" space between.
Place the rolls in a barely warmed oven THAT YOU HAVE TURNED OFF (I've forgotten to do that many times and ruined the batch).
Let dough rise by about 40%.
Remove rolls to counter and preheat oven to 400F.
With a sharp knife, slash the rolls in an X - for bread, just slash diagonally.
Spritz with water and sprinkle the coarse salt on the dough.
Spritz again and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes, or until it makes a hollow sound when thumping. The crust should be golden.
Remove, cool, and enjoy.
What I'm watching: The Olympics and Westminster Dog Show!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Date Night desserts: three mousses

Valentine's Day is almost here, and love is in the air. For a cozy dinner-for-two, mousse is a delightful dessert, whether it be white chocolate with rosewater, tangy lemon, or rich chocolate. You need to allow a little time for the mousses to chill in the fridge, but they are not difficult to make and are fairly quick to whip up. You will need either traditional white china ramekins, but you can also use fancy cocktail glasses, though they're more apt to fall over in the fridge. They are also a perfect beginner dessert for the guys out there who are hesitant about their cooking. Since mousses require no baking, they are less intimidating.
Decoration can be simple - a rose petal or two from the small bouquet, or even a tiny pinch from a bundle of dill or parsley will do nicely.
So grab your whisks, and start your mixers!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

watercress soup, watercress sandwiches

You know winter is slowly coming to an end when you see the first bunch of watercress in the market. And what a find it is - crunchy, slightly peppery thick stalks and delicate leaves make for a delicious sandwich as is, a remarkable salad green - and a subtle, healthful soup.

Watercress is loaded with antioxidants, as well as iron, iodine, folic acid, and calcium : another good reason to add it to your February menu. Here, I've made the traditional watercress sandwiches and the classic French soup, potage cressoniere, which is slightly thickened with potato and onions before the watercress is briefly stirred in and then pureed. Instead of stirring in heavy cream, I whipped the cream and added a pillow of whipped cream to each bowl. The cream slowly melts into the soup, but stays firm enough to scoop up with each spoonful of soup.

Watercress Sandwiches:

White, finely textured bread, crusts trimmed

Unsalted soft butter

Finely minced watercress, on a plate

You can use the food processor to mince the watercress, but you will find a few stems - just pick them out.

Cut bread into "fingers" or rectangles, or any other shape.

Butter the bread generously.

Gently press the bread into the minced watercress until each sandwich is covered.

Scatter a little sea salt and pepper over the watercress sandwiches, and serve.

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Watercress Soup ( Potage Cressoniere):

1 T. olive oil or unsalted butter

1.2 cup diced white onions

1/2 cup peeled, diced potatoes

1 cup water

2 cups packed watercress, cut in about 2" pieces

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped (for the garnish)

Place the water, the olive oil or butter, the onions, and the potatoes in a saucepan.

Cook on medium-high heat until the potatoes are soft.

Add the milk and watercress and cook about 3 minutes.

Using an immersion, or "stick" blender, puree soup.

Add salt and pepper as desired (pepper goes especially well with watercress).

Add a large spoonful of whipped cream to each bowl, sprinkle with a little parsley, serve.

Makes 2 bowls of watercress soup.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

iced oatmeal cookies with roasted walnuts and milk icing

It's been a long time since we had a snowstorm - not that I'm complaining! Just above you can see the busy traffic to the birdfeeder, along with some litter from the trees after a windy day. At 6 am I was in the kitchen ( of course), sipping on coffee and thinking about how good a cookie would taste. At that hour, I'm not usually thinking about chocolate, but a bowl of oatmeal or an omelet. Oatmeal/cookie, oatmeal - oh, oatmeal cookies!
The second photo shows what I usually make: oatmeal cookies with raisins, which are delicious, but somewhat plain. I roasted some walnuts and added a drizzle of milk icing and voila! Fancy cookies .
This makes about 10 large cookies.
Adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook
Line two baking sheets with parchment or foil.
Preheat oven to 350F.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 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 rolled oats ( not instant)
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted in the oven briefly
Milk icing:
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Add milk slowly by teaspoons, whisking smooth. Using a fork, scoop up icing and drizzle on cooled cookies . The texture should be not too thinned, not too thick.
To make cookies:
In mixer bowl, cream the butter and both sugars until creamy.
Add the egg and mix again, then add the water and vanilla.
Add the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and mix again.
Add the oats, the raisins, and the toasted walnuts and mix until well combined.
Using a regular sized ice cream scoop, scoop out cookies, 6 to a sheet.
Gently press balls of dough to flatten slightly.
Bake in 350F oven for around 20 minutes, baking one sheet at a time in the upper third of the oven.
Let cool slightly, then move to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Ice with drizzles of milk icing.