All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Thursday, October 28, 2010

panzanella ( italian bread salad)

What a beautiful salad! Chunks of fresh, fresh cucumber, red or yellow peppers, thinly sliced shallots, and parsley and basil marinate overnight in a zesty, sparkling dressing of red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, capers, and anchovies tossed with slightly stale Portuguese, French, or Italian bread. If anchovies scare you, don't worry - you can't even taste them, unless you triple the amount ( which I do). Even then, I add one or two fillets on top. If you're heading into fall and winter recipes, toss this together, marinate, and inhale the scent of summer. This is a wonderful salad for packing for work, as a side to dinner, or well, just anytime. ( I had it for breakfast! How could I not, after inhaling that fantastic cloud of deliciousness?)
This tends to be a toss-together recipe, but I'll try to make a real recipe here.
*Note: I use V-8 juice for the marinade, now that our summer tomatoes are gone. If you have really good home grown, sun ripened tomatoes, just cut up a handful , toss in the blender, and strain the juice onto the bread salad.
Italian Bread Salad ( Panzanella)
Serves 3 or 4.
3 T. red wine vinegar
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
3 anchovy fillets, diced ( I use 6)
1 T. capers, drained
kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper
1 t. dried basil, or 1 T. fresh slivered basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
about two cups cubed slightly stale bread ( make it a nice quality Portuguese, French,or Italian bread)
1/2 a red or yellow bell pepper, roughly diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced very thinly, or 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
3 T. roughly chopped parsley
4 T. V-8 juice or strained juices from chopped tomatoes
In a medium bowl, place the red wine vinegar, the anchovies, salt and pepper, garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil, basil, and the capers. Smush with a spoon, and mix well.
Add the bread chunks, the red or yellow pepper dice, the cucumber and tomatoes, the shallot or red onion, and the parsley. Toss several times. Drizzle the V-8 juice or tomato juices on top, and toss again. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight.
In the morning, toss the ingredients together, taste, and add more salt, pepper, basil, or capers and anchovies as you wish. Feel free to add little mozzarella balls, scallions, or Italian canned tuna, canned in oil - or?

Monday, October 25, 2010

creamy polenta saves the day

I began feeling odd four days ago. That tight, headachey feeling in my head. The flickering feverish feeling that wouldn't go away, even after hot showers with lemon verbena scrub, or peppermint and thyme baths. Three days ago I made some lovely sardine toasts, with Thai sardines and hot sauce. I couldn't even think of eating them. Then I made roasted walnuts with rosemary and hot peppers, salt and thyme. I scraped them into a jar and put them in the cupboard. The more I couldn't eat, the hungrier I got.
That's when I remembered polenta. Creamy, wonderful polenta made with roasted chicken broth and finely ground cornmeal, which I've been eating for three days now, graduating from a baby rice cereal texture, to a hardier almost-polenta-cake. I even added a little cheese today.
I've watched a lot of the Cooking Channel, new to me. I fumed over a horrible book about politics and agribusiness called The End of Food, and could only breathe when I got to the last chapter, one that airily mentions locavores, farmers markets and organic farms, dubiously. I looked out the window a lot. Now that I'm on the mend, I'm back to scribbling down recipes for Thanksgiving and hoping for an oozy, cheesey and veggie laden forkful of omelet.
Creamy Polenta with roasted chicken broth and cheddar
Makes 2 servings or so
2 cups roasted chicken broth or stock
1/2 t. kosher salt
3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 t. butter or olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or parmesan (optional)
Bring the broth or stock, salt, and oil or butter to a boil.
Slowly, very slowly, whisk in the cornmeal, tablespoon by tablespoon. If you dump it in quickly, it will clump up and will be inedible.
Keep stirring the polenta for another five minutes, adding the cheese, if you're using it.
Pour into a shallow bowl and eat.
You can also make little cakes by oiling ramekins, and pouring the polenta into them.
They can go in the fridge, covered, then unmolded and fried in a skillet for breakfast.
Be well!

A year ago :
2 years ago:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

thyme and mushroom soup with pepper biscuits

What a gloomy, rainy morning! While yesterday was sunny and cold, it was a perfect day for long walks and the last glimpses of the fiery maple trees. Today is a perfect day for my favorite mushroom soup, mellow with thyme and perky with a pinch of cayenne. I don't use any fillers in this soup - just mushrooms, chicken or vegetable stock, and lots of thyme.
Two days ago I had seen a recipe on Chezus for savory scones with parmesan and black pepper and I thought it would go well with this soup. I halved the recipe, and added a little bit more buttermilk so they were more like biscuits . Delicious! And halving the recipe gave me just enough biscuits for serving with the soup, with no leftovers.
Makes 2 or 3 servings of soup:
a 10 oz. package of mushrooms, sliced ( about 2 1/2 cups)
2 or 3 T. unsalted butter
1 T. olive oil
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 t. dried thyme
1 T. minced parsley
pinch of cayenne pepper, or 1/4 t. hot pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
In a skillet or large saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil, then add the mushrooms. You may need to saute the mushrooms in two batches. Saute until the mushrooms are brown and nutty.
Add the stock, thyme, cayenne or hot pepper flakes, and parsley to the mushrooms.
Simmer for five minutes, then take off heat.
Using a blender or immersion stick blender, puree the soup.
Taste carefully and add salt and pepper as desired.
Parmesan and Black Pepper biscuits
Makes 5 biscuits
Preheat oven to 375F
Fit a piece of parchment or foil to a baking sheet.
1 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. kosher salt
3 T. cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
5 T. buttermilk
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
several turns of freshly cracked pepper
(about 1/2 t.)
Add the flour, salt, and baking powder to a food processor and pulse .
Add the butter and pulse until incorporated into the flour.
Add the cheese and pepper, then the buttermilk.
Pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball.
Pat down dough into a small square, then trim the edges - I use the trimmings to make another hand formed biscuit.
Cut into small biscuits using a sharp knife. Mine were about 2 1/2 inches square.
Grind pepper on top of biscuits and place on baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until tops are golden and biscuits are light when picked up.
Enjoy the day!

Friday, October 15, 2010

retro cooking: congo bars

Congo bars must date from the 40's and 50's - the recipe is simple and straightforward, never mind a little non-pc nowadays. If I called them Blonde Brownies ( because of the lack of cocoa in the batter), perhaps that would sound a little more chic?
The batter could not be easier - eggs, dark brown sugar, melted butter, flour, eggs. A little baking powder and whatever chips or chunks you desire and you're ready to slide it into the oven. Sometimes I add vanilla, sometimes not. It doesn't seem to make a huge difference. As you see, I overcooked them slightly, forgetting about the slightly hot oven I have. I like them slightly underdone, a little sticky, and tasting of toasty butter and chocolate. They freeze well, they go into lunchboxes well, and they make an awesome sundae, intermingled with some coffee ice cream. But I love them best with a glass of milk or soymilk.
The recipe comes from a torn out, yellowed page from the Boston Globe, credited to Millie Corbett.
This easily makes a dozen large almost 3 inch squares.
To make:
Preheat oven to 340F
Grease a 9"x13" baking pan.
2 cups flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, or 12 T. butter, melted
2 t. vanilla ( optional)
1 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, large
1 12 ounce package any chocolate chips or chunks
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
Combine the melted butter and brown sugar in a mixer bowl and mix well.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter/sugar mixture, mixing well after each egg.
Add the vanilla, if using.
Mix in the flour, salt and baking powder and mix.
Using a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips until incorporated. Spread in pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes - touch the top of the congo bars gently - they should be golden and firm to the touch in the middle.
Let cool on a baking rack before cutting into squares.
Enjoy your weekend!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

my favorite muffin and spicy chai

This is my favorite muffin ever - and that's saying a lot! I must make ten or twelve muffins on a fairly regular basis, but this buttermilk bran muffin is the first on the list.
It's an old southern recipe I got from a friend eons ago and it has all the greatness you want in a bran muffin ( besides the fiber): a little sweetness, plump raisins, a hint of cinnamon, and a perfectly moist crumb. I make up a batch of 5 Texas size muffins and eat them through the week - or you can make regular size muffins ( it makes 10) and freeze some. They freeze very well.
And to celebrate two mornings in a row below 40 degrees, I mixed up a batch of spicy, warming chai. What a way to start the day!

Buttermilk Bran Muffins
Preheat oven to 340F
Grease a Texas size muffin tin .
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 small eggs or one extra large egg
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup raisins
Divide the bran. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup bran, the canola oil, the raisins, and the boiling water. Stir and set aside.
In a mixer bowl , place the rest of the bran, the flour, salt, soda, sugar, cinnamon. Add the buttermilk and eggs and mix, then add the wet bran mix. Mix briefly.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out two scoops of batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until muffin tops are firm when gently touched with a finger.
Cool and enjoy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

dan's "seafood " salad

Surprise! What is a dead ringer for seafood or crabmeat salad is actually a combination of lion's mane ( or bear claw), chicken of the woods, and oyster mushrooms, fresh from the woods of New Hampshire ( third picture from the top). Dan the mushroom man also offered me a "chicken tender" made from a slice of chicken of the woods that was sauteed in grapeseed oil - I swore it really was chicken. I'll have to track him down next Saturday to find out how he made the salad. You just never know what ( or who) you're going to meet at the Farmer's Market!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

pasta with roasted squashes, bacon, and brown butter

Last pickings from the garden and farmers market veggies: beautiful roasted squash chunks, baby tomatoes, basil, thyme, bacon ,and brown butter. Sprinkle with nutmeg and parmesan curls and bless the season!

I'll post the recipe later - my daughter needs a ride to pick up her medication and here in the country, that means HOURS. *

Back again, after a wild and beautiful ride through villages I've never seen before. My daughter and her family have moved out of the city to a charming hillside cottage, surrounded by acres of mowed fields and working farms and sugarhouses. On the way, I drove over Pitcher Mountain and stopped to say hello to the Highland cattle there - the photo above doesn't have the long horns the Highland have, or the shaggy coat, but she ( or he) is utterly charming and docile.
So now, let's get to the delightful pasta! I used much of the odd halves of squashes, the handful of cherry tomatoes, the half a red pepper, and the gleanings of the last fresh herbs from the garden. A glaze of nutmeg and brown butter tossed with the spaghetti and veggies make it taste nutty and rich - topped off with parmesan or Pecorino and minced fresh herbs, it's even better.
Serves 4
Preheat oven to 425F.
3 sliced garlic cloves
3 cups cubed squashes ( I used pattypan and butternut)
1 small white onion, peeled and sliced
2 T. olive oil
a handful of cherry tomatoes
1/2 t. kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper to taste
1/2 red pepper, sliced
6 strips thick bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 package thin spaghetti
4 T. unsalted butter
1/2 t. nutmeg
Minced fresh herbs
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)
Place the olive oil in a large bowl, add the vegetables, and toss well. Spread vegetables on a baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes.
While the veggies are baking, make the brown butter. Place the butter in a small saucepan and gently heat, swirling the pan a few times, until the butter turns a light brown. Take off the heat and immediately pour into a small bowl. Add the nutmeg to the butter, and stir.
When the vegetables are done, sprinkle the bacon on top of the vegetables, drizzle with half the butter mixture, and stir. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook for about 8-10 minutes.
Drain, put back in the pot, and drizzle half the brown butter on the pasta, stir.
To make individual servings, use tongs to place a nice nest of pasta in each bowl, top with the vegetables and bacon, a sprinkle of herbs, and some cheese.
Now you get to dig in!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

chunky oats with fresh apples, cinnamon, and honey

What a wild two days it's been! Sheets of rain ( which we needed badly), chilly temperatures, and several hot baths and showers after getting soaked over and over. This morning, the air is clean and clear, the sun is shining, and the storm has left a carpet of russet and yellow leaves on the soggy ground.
This cool, clear morning brings back a lot of memories of this time of year with my children. Taking my daughter to the 7 o 'clock bus, still barely light. Hauling buckets of water down the hill to the horse in the fresh autumn air. Soccer games after school, when the weather could be anything from summerlike to sleet; picking apples at our local orchard. The mad search for mittens and hats, sweaters and parkas.
This time of year I often made this hearty oatmeal for my children, hoping to fill them up and keep them warm ( and healthy), and this morning I made it for myself, for all the same reasons. Finding the nuggets of slightly soft, warm apples in the buttered and sugared oats somehow makes the morning memorable. I measure a large (very large!) dollop of local honey into my spoon, and tip it on top of the oats, licking the spoon clean. Enjoy the season!
To make:
2 medium apples, peeled and cored, cut into chunks
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
2 T. cinnamon sugar (a little cinnamon stirred into sugar)
2 t. butter
1/8 t. kosher salt
Place the water, salt, cinnamon sugar, butter, and apples in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the oats, turn down the heat, and cook on medium low, for about ten minutes. Take off the heat and cover until ready to serve.
Serve with maple syrup , honey, or more cinnamon sugar.