All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Sunday, February 27, 2011

beluga for the Oscars - beluga lentils, that is!

I'm getting a little punchy with this everlasting snow - which is now up to the kitchen window sill. So, when my neighbor gave me some of these lentils the other day and I discovered they were known as "Beluga" lentils, well - I had to have a little fun, didn't I?

Given that today is Oscar day ( which I only watch to see the dresses), a lot of people are hosting parties, and this would be a fun surprise: trimmed hard boiled eggs ( using only the white) filled to the brim with tiny black lentils. Save a little of the hard boiled yolk to make it resemble caviar even more - or top with scallions, parsley, or little bits of tomatoes. Not using the yolks also makes it less aromatically eggy and there's no mayonnaise, so it's dairy free.

To make about 3/4ths of a cup of cooked lentils:

Hard boil six eggs, drain, and leave to soak in cool water.


1/2 cup tiny black "Beluga" lentils

a bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

water to cover the lentils plus a few inches

Bring the water, lentils, garlic, and bay leaf to a boil, turn down to a medium simmer/boil and cook for about 12 minutes, or until lentils are cooked.

Drain the lentils and remove the garlic and bay leaf, then place the lentils in a bowl.

Add to the lentils:

2T. olive oil

1/2 t. cumin

1/2 t. ( or to taste) kosher salt

fresh pepper

a few squeezes of Sriracha hot sauce

1 T. fresh lemon or lime juice

Toss gently.


Peel the hard boiled eggs. Trim a tiny bit of the ends off so they'll sit upright.

Cut the trimmed eggs in half vertically.

Gently squeeze the eggs until the yolk pops out.

Fill the eggs with the lentil mixture, garnish with parsley, scallions, egg yolk, or your choice of garnish.

Keep chilled until about to serve.


If you have any leftovers, these would be a great brown-bag lunch!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

watercress and mushroom soup - a hint of Spring

Hallelujah - the watercress has arrived! This spicy, hollow stemmed green signals the start of Spring, just as asparagus does. Related to the Brassicaeae (cabbage) family, it's an aquatic perennial that grows clear, cold, clean streams and ditches - and according to this website, it's in every state in the United States. Check out directions for growing your own watercress while you're on the site - wouldn't that be heaven?
Watercress salads, watercress sandwiches, and watercress soup are dandy ways to utilize this vegetable, and today I tried something new - combining the flavors of sauteed mushrooms with watercress. It was a lovely, soothing soup that was a little less overpowering, as straight watercress soups can be. I held out some leaves to top off the little tomato open faced sandwich which made for the prettiest lunch I've had in a long time - and one of the quickest, too. The soup takes only around 15 minutes to make.
This recipe makes two bowls of soup.
To make:

1 T. olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter
2 cups sliced white mushrooms, stems included
1 t. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup chopped watercress
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet until bubbling, then add the mushrooms and saute until lightly brown and nutty.
Add the thyme and stock to the mushrooms and stir.
Cook for five minutes, then add the watercress and salt and pepper.
Pour into a bowl and puree with an immersion blender, then taste before serving.

Spring is coming!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

juicy apple cobbler with a fluffy crust

What a week. My mother has been fading after a year of ups and downs, and I find myself puttering around in the kitchen a lot, eyeing the phone, looking at the ceiling, staring into space and sending her mental love notes. My daughter and I visited her last Friday, for which I am very grateful.
(Update: Friday: My Mom died today, and we are all hopeful she is in a better, happier place. She will be missed.)
So. Here I am, wishing I could share this delicious apple cobbler with her - with chunks of juicy MacIntosh apples dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with a soft dough that bakes into a perfect fluffy crust. I make these in small ceramic dishes - just enough for two people. Scoop into the hot cobbler and spoon out onto a plate with the crust down and there it is. Top with ice cream or drizzle with cream, as you wish. I like it plain.
Enough for two 4-5 inch dishes, each serving two people. Or you can make this in a pie tin or a shallow ovenproof tart dish.
To make:
Preheat oven to 400F.
Butter a pie dish or two smallish (4" or 5") ceramic dishes
For the apples:
2 T. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
4-5 cups peeled apples, cut into large dice
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
Place the diced apples in a small bowl and toss with the sugar, lemon juice, and spices.
For the dough:
1 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
3 T. cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup plus a tablespoon of milk
In mixer bowl, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the cold butter until it is incorporated well.
Add the milk and mix until the dough forms a soft ball.
On a floured board, knead the dough a minute or two, then roll out dough and cut to fit the pans or dishes you're using. The dough should be fairly thick, so don't roll it out too thinly!
Place cobblers on a baking sheet and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Remove to cool, then serve.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

slow roasted peppers with basil, capers and anchovies

If you're looking for a colorful and different vegetable to go with that beautiful bowl of soup or roasted chicken ( or that lovely cheese panini) , these peppers are fabulous!
Charmingly trimmed quartered red peppers are drizzled with olive oil, filled with slivered garlic, basil or parsley, and anchovies and slow roasted for an hour until very, very tender. If you don't like anchovies, I think pesto would be delicious instead. Or actually, in addition to! If I'd had any pesto, a little dollop would've been inspired.
Look for peppers that have an inch or two of stem for this dish.
To make 4 servings:
2 large stemmed red peppers
about 1/3 cup olive oil
8 canned anchovies
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 t. dried basil, or 2 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. capers, drained
2 T. fresh, chopped parsley
Optional: pesto
Preheat oven to 350F.
Quarter the peppers, being careful to neatly slice through the stems. Remove the seeds and membranes .
Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in an ovenproof dish, then arrange the peppers. Add a dollop of pesto ( if using), an anchovy per quartered pepper, the basil, salt and pepper, and the slivers of garlic and capers on each pepper quarter. Drizzle with a little oil , cover with foil, and slow roast for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and roast another 30 minutes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

happy valentine cookies!

These are my cookies of choice for Valentine's Day - buttery, crunchy but chewy, and perfect, as Martha says. The recipe is from Martha Stewart's first cookbook, Entertaining, and it gets its unique and very special flavoring from brandy ( I use cognac). I've tried making it with only vanilla, and the taste is not the same, so I've stuck with the cognac. I glaze them twice with a thin confectioner's sugar and lemon juice icing - simple, but perfect. I tuck them into a little mountain of sliced strawberries, or packaged in cello bags with frilly, curly, pink ribbon and hand them out to friends on Valentine's Day. Total delight, both for me, and for the lucky recipients.
To make:
2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 extra-large or large egg
2 T. brandy or cognac
1/2 t. vanilla
The icing:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 large egg white
a few drops of lemon juice
one drop of red food coloring
Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. In mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar well, then add the egg, brandy, and vanilla and mix again. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time, and mix well. The dough should be soft and come together easily. Press into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Fit two baking sheets with foil.
Cut the ball of dough in half, then roll and cut into cookies.
Placing the baking sheet in the upper part of the oven, bake for 9 minutes, then remove to cool, and bake the second sheet of cookies.
Cool the cookies on a cooling rack, then remove and cool further on another cooling rack.
When cookies are completely cooled, ice with the icing, let cool until dry, and package as wished.
The icing:
Mix the confectioner's sugar, the egg white, the lemon juice, and the drop of food coloring until smooth and well mixed. Using a pastry brush, brush each cookie once, let dry on a rack, then brush another layer on. Let dry completely, then package as you wish.
Happy Valentine's Day to all you sweethearts ♥ !

Monday, February 7, 2011

perfect asparagus

Nothing says Spring is coming like the first bundle of asparagus you see in the grocery store. Of course, here in New England, it will be a long time before home-grown asparagus peeks their pretty heads above ground, but at least we're heading toward gardening time.

My father adored asparagus, so, as a child, we ate it alot. Simmered, dipped in brown butter and a few squeezes of lemon, salt and pepper is still my favorite way to eat it. I have made one change - instead of a platter of long spears, I now cut the spears in half, or thirds, if they're really long. And while dipping is fun, half of the butter ends up on your shirt or lap, so I toss the cooked asparagus in the brown butter and lemon juice, then drizzle the remaining sauce on top just before serving - and serve with a fork. Make sure you cook the asparagus long enough - nothing worse than undercooked asparagus.

Trimming the asparagus:

Wash your bundle of aspargus well and drain.

Working spear by spear, bend the base of the spear until it snaps off. This assures you don't get any tough stems.

Trim ends with a knife so they look tidy.

Working with a handful at a time, cut the spears into halves or thirds.



Add water to a large skillet or pot and bring to a boil, then turn down heat to medium low.

Add just enough asparagus to cover the pan ( don't crowd the asparagus) and cook until asparagus is tender. Drain and set aside, then cook the rest of the asparagus the same way.

Drain the water off, place back on heat, and add a few tablespoons of unsalted butter to the hot pan. Cook gently until the butter foams and turns a light brown, then add a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice and salt. Toss the cooked asparagus in the skillet or pan briefly, then use tongs to arrange on plates or serving platter. Drizzle the rest of the brown butter over the asparagus, and grind fresh pepper on top, then serve immediately.
Enjoy ! We had an ice storm yesterday, the the trees are still coated and sparkling today, but the power stayed on - and I'm passionately thinking of Spring with every bite of "grass".

Friday, February 4, 2011

wonderful winter soups- vegetarian

Those of us in the Northeast have been having quite a winter! And, to me, winter means soup - usually hearty, sometimes vegetarian, but always loaded with the scents of herbs, and soothing to the soul and tummy. Add a perfect slice of buttered, toasted bread, and you're good. For vegetarians, think Kale and Lentil soup with hot peppers and cumin. Or Carrot and Ginger soup, heady with fresh ginger. Thyme and Mushroom soup is a blissful, carb-free, deep and tasty soup that takes minutes to whip up. Butternut Squash soup with Indian spices simply rocks the taste buds, and Spinach-Arugula soup makes you feel, not only like Popeye, but healthy to the core. Potato soup with crunchy scallions is soothing, and blissful, while Rapini and Pasta soup hits all the healthy spots - healthful, tasty, and clean, as does the Rapini ( broccoli rabe) with cannelini beans and basil. And the Corn Chowder with fresh dill is simply stunning.
So enjoy the last month of winter ( we hope!) - and these marvelous soups!

In between all that shoveling of snow, and endless drying out of boots and gloves and mittens, take a little time to enjoy the soups of winter!

What I'm reading:
Citizens of London - The Americans who stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour.
A fine, fine book about World War II and the bond between the British and the Americans, which, I'm ashamed to say, I had very little knowledge of.