All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Cornucopia Project: kids in the garden

I wanted to tell you about a very exciting project going on in our little town. It's called the Cornucopia Project, and it's run ( and founded) by passionate gardener and Mom, Kin Schilling.
It began in a very small way: teaching handicapped kids to garden at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center. The kids not only flourished, working in the greenhouse, but found enormous pride in selling their home-grown , organic produce to the kitchen at the Center, pulling a small wagon filled with delicious greens and veggies for all to admire - and later, to consume.
The next step unfolded - a summer project for area children to learn about hands on organic gardening and using their produce in the kitchen, with their end of the season dinners hugely popular, and why not? With breads and pizza baked in their own homemade outdoor oven, fragrant with basil and organic tomatoes, zucchini, and a basketful of beautiful vegetables, it was a hit from the start.
But there was a hitch. Cornucopia was very close to being shut down due to traffic problems on the tiny triangle of land they were gardening on, when a kind neighbor stepped in and offered his centuries-old farmland to the project, and how beautiful it is! You can see above the stunning fields that have been farmed for generations, and, in the third photo from the top, Kin along with one of her "Seedlings" and family.
The Spring program has started, with interns arriving and chickens, a sheep or two, and even a pony expected on the farm any minute. Plans are afoot to build a chicken house, and later - a sugar house after tapping the ancient maple trees on the farm. The kids, beginning at age three, are excited and passionate - and their parents are thrilled. For many parents, hands-on gardening was not a part of their early life, and they are simply delighted their children are learning the connection between sustainable living, organic gardening, and the cycle of seed to plant, plant to dinner. Many thanks to Kin for putting the program together - and for having the passion to make it work - and we are delighted the program is flourishing!

Monday, May 24, 2010

eight strawberry desserts

Here in New Hampshire, strawberry season is edging toward full bloom, or maybe I should say, full boom! The wild strawberries have blossomed , and I can expect to find those tiny, ripe and highly fragrant jewels in a week or two. In the meantime, strawberries are everywhere in the supermarkets, and should show up soon at the Farmer's Markets. So what to do with that overwhelming flood of berries?
Of course, you can freeze them. You can make a very quick and delicious jam. Dice or slice them with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of fresh basil or lemon balm. Toss them with fresh spinach and arugula ( also known as rocket) for a tasty salad. A creamy bliss of Julia's clafouti, or simply dipped in chocolate for a perfect ending to dinner. And let's not forget the traditional strawberry shortcake!
Here are several ideas to celebrate the strawberry season:
Enjoy the season!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

strawberry shortcakes with sweet buttermilk biscuits

Oh boy, oh boy - the first strawberry shortcake of the season! And I noodled with a new recipe from The Modern Baker for the shortcake biscuit that was so fabulous, tender, and tasty I'll be using it all summer. Peach shortcakes? Absolutely. Raspberry would be divine. And how about Fourth of July blueberry? So even though it's rainy and chilly outside today, I'm just finishing off the somewhat soggy but delicious crumbs of yesterdays dessert, dreaming of July.
To make six biscuits:
Set oven to 425F.
Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
4 T. sugar plus more for sprinkling on top
1 t. grated lemon peel
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1 T. baking powder
4 T. cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
Combine the flour, sugar, nutmeg, lemon peel, salt, and baking powder in in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a few times to mix, then add the butter and process until butter is incorporated well .
Using a fork, mix the egg and buttermilk together, then add to the processor and mix until it forms a soft ball.
Using a 2-3 inch ice cream scoop, scoop balls of dough and place on baking sheet. Press gently on tops to flatten very slightly ; it will be sticky, but it makes a nice texture when you pull your hand away. Sprinkle each biscuit with a little sugar.
Place in hot oven and bake about 15 minutes, or until tops are just barely golden brown.
Remove to cool before slicing.
The strawberries:
Slice however many strawberries you wish ( I used about 2 cups, sliced) into a bowl. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of sugar, a quick squeeze of lemon juice, and a drop of vanilla. let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before using.
The whipped cream:
1/2 to 1 cup whipping cream or heavy cream
confectioner's sugar
Make sure the cream is chilled. Using a whisking attachment, whisk the cream in the mixer bowl until it forms soft peaks. Add about 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, or whatever amount you prefer, and whip until firmer peaks form. Cover and place in fridge if not using immediately.
To serve, slice biscuits in half. Place biscuit bottoms on plate or platter, scoop a tablespoon or so of the whipped cream on the biscuit bottom, and top with the fruit. Add another dollop of cream, and cover with the biscuit top - or, if it's just too pretty, you can serve the biscuit top on the side.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

baby beet greens with lardons and red wine vinegar

When I saw these baby beet greens at the Keene Farmer's Market, you can believe I snatched them up quickly. Early spring vegetables and greens are one of the joys of eating with the seasons, and the way I make them is quick and delicious.
I added lardons (little sticks of sauteed salt pork) but you could just as well use bacon - or no meat at all. When I opened the package of salt pork, I was sorry to see it was pre-sliced, so I couldn't make the matchsticks as fat as I wanted. (To make the lardons, simply cut salt pork into fat sticks about an inch and a half in length, and 1/2 inch in width, simmer in water for a few minutes, then drain and pat dry. Proceed with your recipe from there.)
This recipe serves two, but it's easy to multiply.
To make:
2 large handfuls baby beet greens, about 4 cups, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons or so of lardons
3 slivered cloves of garlic
2 T. olive oil
1 or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or herb vinegar
salt and pepper
In medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, then saute the lardons and garlic until just golden.
Remove the lardons and garlic to a paper towel, but do not drain off the oil.
Carefully add a half cup water ( it will sputter) to the oil, then the beet greens. With heat on medium, cover and cook about 5 minutes.
Uncover the greens and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper and vinegar to the greens and stir.
Remove to a plate and pile the lardons or bacon and garlic on the side, then dig in!
What I'm reading: The Hunger, a story of food, desire, and ambition, by Chef John Delucie.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

farmer's market day!

This morning I made it to the Keene, NH Farmer's market in record time - a half hour after it opened. Which meant it was only the second time ever I was able to buy a warm loaf of Bob's bread ! Usually by the time I drive the 45 minutes to the market, Bob's has sold out and driven away, so it was worth going without my second cuppa. Though sunny, it was wildly windy today, and the farmers held down their tents with one hand while they tried to make change and bag up the veggies with their other.
Lots of herb and flower plants, leafy greens, a few eggs ( new layers are slow this time of year), the sausage people, a new goat-cheese vendor, and a maple syrup producer were on hand today - and Bob's bread being sold out of the back of his white van. Keene is the biggest farmer's market in our area ( the southwestern corner of NH known as the Monadnock region), so they offer more produce and products than the smaller markets in the outlying villages of Hancock, Peterborough, and coming tomorrow, Temple, NH. I go to all of them if I have time.
Keene Farmer's Market is open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 9-2, Hancock Saturdays 9-12, Peterborough Wednesdays from 3-6, and Temple, Sundays, not sure of the time.
Here's a list of all the farmers markets in New Hampshire - so hope you'll plan a visit!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

creme caramel with cinnamon and cranberries

I think this was my first time making creme caramel - I usually make brulee or just plain custard ( or panna cotta), but I'll definitely be making this again! It's fairly easy to make, and the texture is firm, not too sweet, and lends itself to all kinds of additions and/or garnishes.
Because I thought the creme caramel was in need of some sharp, fruity contrast, I made a little relish using a few cranberries and strawberries, but I would think reducing a zingy fruit juice would be wonderful, too. Maybe passionfruit next time?
To make about 6 servings:
Preheat oven to 330F
Grease 6 ramekins well.
1/2 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup sugar for the caramel sauce
4 large fresh eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup medium cream
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt
In a small saucepan, place 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon over medium heat until just golden and melted.
Immediately, pour about 2 tablespoons into the bottom of each greased ramekin until all the sauce is used up. Set aside.
In a mixer bowl, whisk or mix the eggs, milk, cream, and salt til frothy, then add the vanilla.
Pour into the ramekins.
Set the ramekins into a baking pan, and then carefully add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This is the traditional bain-marie or water bath. Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes. The creme caramel should be firm. When done, remove from hot pan to a plate and let cool in the fridge for an hour.
Now, here comes the tricky part. When you're ready to unmold, carefully use a sharp knife to run around the lip of the creme, then again slowly around inside the ramekin. Invert onto the serving plate you're using and it should pop out, along with the drizzle of caramel sauce. It should, but doesn't always. So just be patient and try again. If you wish, you can add a circle of strawberry and cranberry relish, then invert the creme caramel on top of that.
To make the relish:
about a half cup frozen cranberries and a half cup frozen strawberries, cut up.
Place berries in food processor while still frozen and pulse til finely chopped.
Let thaw right in the bowl, then use about a heaping tablespoon under ( or, I guess, over would work) the creme caramel. If you're in a real rush, there's always the microwave for a few seconds.
The cranberry relish added a wonderful tart zing to the creme, which, frankly, I felt it needed.
What I've been reading:
Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie. Magical, disturbing, complex novel encompassing Indian reservation life, music, and an odyssey of sorts.
What was up two years ago: Lemon-Chive pasta!

Friday, May 7, 2010

backpack chicken with rosemary, potatoes, and baby carrots

Ummmmm, the scent of chicken and rosemary sizzling in the fire, unwrapping the packet, inhaling the deliciousness of dinner in the open air. Is this some upscale Tuscan eatery, perfuming the air with herbs and vegetables, chicken, and brown butter? Surprise! It's the dinner I concocted with my wee little lads as a Cub Scout Den Leader.
When my son was in first grade, he had moved to a private school. I had hoped to find a way for him to stay in contact with his friends in public school, and when a friend asked if I'd be interested in being a Cub Scout Leader, I thought, why not?
I found the program to be endlessly creative. Once signed on as a leader, I took the boys to visit with a delightful fly fisherman, who made his own lures. We prowled the huge field nearby, gathering wild herbs and greens to nibble. A friend who had lived in Alaska came by, with menus of Alaskan treats, homemade clothing, and stunning photos of salmon fishing in the way-back, outback. We made an outstanding gumbo in February to celebrate Fat Tuesday, and we made this ever popular dinner packet that takes all of 20 minutes from start to glorious finish. Yum yum.
You can make these in your weensy little outside barbeque, or right in your fireplace, or, I suppose, in your Grande BBQ grill.
To make:
For each packet, you will need two pieces of aluminum foil.
Set out the squares of foil, setting one on top of the other.
Add 3-4 medium slices of potatoes onto the foil.
Top with 3 chicken tenders.
Add a good sprig of rosemary, and a slice or two of onion.
Add several matchsticks of carrots, and salt, pepper, and a pat of butter.
Firmly close the foil, tucking in all the ends.
Throw packet into the fire and set timer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, unwrap and enjoy!
You might also enjoy:
Breakfast on the Terrace: Blueberry muffins with toasted walnuts
and for this chilly weather - Sweet Corn Chowder with dill

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

gingerbread cake with basil vinegar and currants

Spring has sprung ! The horses are grazing on drier pastures, the apple orchards are blooming and scattering petals, looking all the world like wedding confetti; and it's my friend Mr. B's birthday.
Because he has spent so much time in England, I've noticed he enjoys somewhat old-fashioned bakery goods - oatmeal cookies, raisin scones, - and cakes like this spicy gingerbread. The recipe comes from an old NY Times cookbook, when Craig Claibourne was editor. Because it calls for vinegar ( you can also use lemon juice) to make the sour milk for the batter, I use it as an opportunity to plunder my supplies of homemade herb vinegars, from chili pepper-oregano to basil, from lemon verbena to rosemary-lovage. I decided to go with the basil today. I also made a thin glaze with a little milk, lemon juice, and confectioner's sugar, just to fancy it up a little. At the last minute, I remembered he liked currants, so I tossed a handful into the batter.
Wherever you are, I hope you're enjoying the spectacular show Mother Nature is putting on!
To make one 9 inch cake:
Grease a 9x2 inch cake pan and set aside. If you use a different size, make sure you fill pan up only 3/4ths of the way to avoid spillover.
Preheat oven to 350F.
1 T. herb vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
3/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 T. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/3 cup canola oil or other mild oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup or more dried currants
Add vinegar to milk and set aside until it curdles.
Beat the oil with the sugar, then the egg, then the molasses.
Add the flour, baking powder and soda, the spices, and the salt, and then pour in the by-now soured milk. Mix slowly until thoroughly mixed, then add the currants and mix well.
Scrape into prepared pan and place on upper third shelf of the oven.
Bake approximately 40 minutes, or until the center rebounds when gently pressed in the center.
let cool completely, then unmold to another cooling rack.
Eat as is, or with confectioner's sugar, or a thin milk glaze:
In small bowl, mix a tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2 T. milk.
Quickly whisk in enough confectioner's sugar to make a thin icing.
Pour on cake and spread quickly.
What I'm reading:
A hilarious guide to London - in 1599!
Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day
and a fabulous little treasure: