All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

big, soft pumpkin cookies

It's a beautiful rainy day in New Hampshire today - what a relief from months of hot, dry weather. And when I saw Michelle's recipe for soft pumpkin cookies on this perfect indoor day, I had to make them. Oh, what a great cookie! This is a moist cookie, nice and fat, and studded with raisins - and I made them monster size, all the more to nibble.
I changed very little in her perfect recipe - a little more brown sugar, a few more spices to enhance the pumpkin, but other than that, it needed nothing.
Recipe from Big Black Dog:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Fit two baking sheets with foil or parchment.
(Remember to bake one sheet at a time or you'll get uneven baking)
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger ( or grate some fresh)
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 cup soft raisins
Cream the butter and sugars.
Add the egg, raisins, spices, salt, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin, and vanilla and mix.
Add the flour slowly and mix until well blended.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up batter and space about three inches apart.
Bake for approximately 18 minutes, though they may need a few minutes more because of the moisure. Cool and enjoy!

What I'm reading:
well preserved: a jam-making hymnal by the late joan hassol

Sunday, August 22, 2010

veggie salad with that burger, please

You see that island in the top photo? I've lived one town over from the town this is in, and never had any idea what it was used for. Fishermen, sure, but not so much for the night in a sleeping bag. I finally asked at the local store, and discovered it was used, quietly, for overnights by the younger crowd. I see them parking trucks along the highway, and lugging rowboats and canoes - and coolers.
I'm sure it's a beautiful place to get away to, and no doubt the grills and burgers come out at dark, as well as refreshments. Which gets me waxing poetic about Veggie Salad. I've mostly been eating it for years packed in a container for a brown bag lunch. But lately I've been doing the most delicious burger and veggie salad, or sauteed chicken with veggie salad ( said chicken is marinating as I write), with a nice crunchy slice of red onion. Oh my stars, is it good! Fish fry? Sure! I've changed the recipe a little in the last year, adding in even more veggies: spinach, cabbage, parsley, scallions, tomatoes, and celery. Six veggies! Hope you enjoy!
To make:
Using a shredding cone on the KitchenAid or slice thinly by hand:
3 cups fresh green cabbage
2 cups fresh spinach, destemmed
1 1/2 cups celery, washed and trimmed
1 or two large tomatoes, chopped
5 or 6 scallions, sliced thinly
5 tablespoons finely minced parsley
Mix the vegetables in a large bowl . In a medium bowl mix:
5 T. olive oil
3 T. red wine vinegar ( or lemon juice)
1 t. dried oregano
kosher salt to taste
freshly cracked pepper to taste
Whisk well, and pour over salad, mixing in gently.
Store in fridge.

What I'm reading:
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Julia's birthday cake: biscuit au beurre (butter spongecake)

Happy Birthday, Julia! In honor of her birthday, I decided to make a cake I'd never tried before, her "biscuit au beurre" spongecake. What a pretty cake, brushed with apricot jam and a rim of toasted, ground almonds. But, it's a little bland to my tastebuds, although Julia suggests it for tea served with berries or other fruits. It was wonderful with mango sorbet, but next time I make it I think I'll split it and fill the middle with creme patissiere for a little more interest. Still, it's a pretty foolproof cake - I usually make a genoise, which can be tricky.
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I
to make:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and flour an 8x2 inch cake pan.
4 T. unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
2 t. vanilla
kosher salt, pinch of
2 T. sugar ( for the whites)
1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
about a cup of apricot jam, warmed with a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice (the glaze)
about 3/4 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped in a food processor ( for the rim)
Melt the butter until it's golden brown. Take off heat, set aside.
Beat the egg whites and salt together in mixer bowl until soft peaks are formed.
Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Scrape onto a plate while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
In the same mixer bowl ( no washing!) mix the egg yolks. Gradually add the 2/3rds cup of sugar and the vanilla, and beat with whisk attachment until batter is pale yellow and thick.
Scoop 1/4 of the egg whites and 1/4 of the flour onto the egg yolk mixture and fold gently in. Add half the melted butter. When incorporated, add the next 1/4th, fold, and so on, and the rest of the butter, until all are blended in.
Scrape into prepared cake pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
The top should be golden and firm to a tender touch in the middle. Remove to cooling rack for five minutes, then remove the cake to another rack to cool.
While still warm, brush the top and sides of the cake with the warmed apricot jam.
Holding the cake on a "table " of your five fingers, take a scoop of the almond meal and press all along the sides of the cake until covered.
If you want to add a filling, obviously you would split it and fill the middle before brushing with the jam and pressing in the almond meal. The recipe for the creme patissiere is here.
So enjoy - and raise a glass of bubbly to our favorite effervescent cook in the world!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

courgettes rapees, sautees: grated, sauteed zucchini

What I love about August: ZUCCHINI! For the third year in a row, my zuc plants have failed to produce anything beyond flowers. I have found this is not a problem, however, thanks to friends with bountiful zucchini plants: I am overjoyed when they shove a bulging brown bag of squash into my arms.

One of my favorite ways to eat zucchini is to grate it, drain it, and quickly saute it in a frothy foam of butter and a little olive oil. Every forkful is buttery and smooth - a delicious side dish with chicken, or fish, beef or pork. But it can also stand alone with a little fluffy rice on the side, or nestled up to an omelet. Or IN an omelet. Don't skip the draining! Getting rid of some of the excess zucchini water is what makes this so good.

To make:

One medium zucchini makes two servings .

Trim the washed zucchini at both ends and, using a box grater, grate the zucchini into a colander. If you are using large zucchinis, grate around the seedy core, and toss the core. Sprinkle a half teaspoon of salt over the grated zucchini, place over a plate or bowl, and let drain for five or ten minutes. You can see above the amount of zucchini juice that drained out in that brief amount of time. When ready to cook, scoop up handfuls of the grated zucchini and squeeze until fairly dry.


grated, drained, squeezed zucchini ( one zuc drained made about a cup)

2 T. unsalted butter

1 T. olive oil

1-2 T. minced shallots or scallions (optional)

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a skillet, then add the shallots or scallions if using. Stir for a minute or two , or until the butter foams up. Add the zucchini and stir. After a minute or so, cover the pan and lower heat to medium low. Keep cover on for about five minutes, then remove from heat.

Before serving, taste for seasoning and add a tiny bit more butter, gently swirling it into the zucchini.

Although I learned this technique in the restaurant I worked in, you can also find it in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II, by Julia Child. ( page 369)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Inhale: the scent of basil

Does any herb intoxicate the senses like summer basil? Inhale - and smile.
Pasta salad with basil, sun-warmed tomatoes, and artichokes:
To hot, drained vermicelli add:
Gently diced fresh tomatoes
As much sliced fresh basil as you want
A good drizzle of olive oil
Several squeezes of fresh lemon
chopped artichoke hearts from a jar
Kosher salt and pepper
Pesto pasta:
If you have a cup of basil leaves, you can make pesto. This makes about 3/4's of a cup of pesto.
3 garlic cloves
1 cup basil leaves, firmly packed then sliced
about 1/2 - 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese ( or none, or more)
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
juice of a half a fresh lemon
Place the garlic cloves in a food processor and chop finely. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until smooth. This is highly adaptable to individual tastes - so feel free to experiment.
You can scrape this into a jam jar and stick in the freezer until January - when it will bring a smile to your face and a reminder of sweet summer days.
Or you can just toss gently with hot pasta and dig in. Use a little ( a few tablespoons) or a lot, like the whole jar:)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

little peach pies with honey and thyme

Oh, the sweetness of peach season! There really is nothing like a warm from the sun, fully ripe peach - even if I have to steady myself dealing with the peach fuzz. Still, a few shivers as I peel the fragrant peaches is certainly worth the slight discomfort with peach fuzz.
I love to make diminutive desserts, but since I couldn't find my little pie tins ( gone, no doubt, after an abundant family gathering and the leftovers line) I used the traditional white ramekins with just a little disc of pastry on the top, sprinkled with sugar and fresh thyme leaves. To the juicy bowl of cut up peaches, I added tiny pinches of cinnamon, thyme leaves, and pepper with spoonfuls of honey . The bubbling juices and meltingly warm peaches made a wonderful brunch dessert.
I had some leftover pastry dough in the freezer, so I used that, but here is the recipe if your freezer is bare:
2 cups King Arthur flour
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 T. sugar
2 sticks ( 16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water
Place the flour, salt and sugar in food processor bowl using the steel blade. Pulse a few times. Add butter and brocess until the butter is well incorporated. With the motor running, drizzle the ice water into the dough until it forms a soft ball.
Remove, briefly knead, and pat into a rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour before using.
The peaches:
You can either use an oven , or, since I was only making tiny pies, I used the toaster oven.
Set oven to 350F.
Each ramekin took two peaches, cut up, to fill, for a total of six peaches.
6 medium peaches, peeled and cut up
6 tablespoons of good honey
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 t. fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stem plus more for top
a few grindings of fresh pepper
Toss and scoop the peaches into the ramekins.
Roll out the dough and use a large glass or cookie cutter to cut out discs of dough.
Place dough discs on top of peaches, sprinkle with sugar and thyme leaves. Cut a few slits in the top of the dough to let the steam out.
Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, or until top is browned and juices bubbling.
Let cool before serving!
Enjoy - and Happy August!

What I'm reading:
Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum