All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Friday, May 27, 2011

butter-braised spinach: epinards etuves au beurre

Good beautiful day! I hope you're enjoying this lovely holiday weekend. Here, our lilacs are still blooming after two weeks, thanks to chilly weather and misty rains - heaven! Is anything better than a bouquet in every room during lilac season? That chilly weather makes the trasition to humid, summer heat a little easier - I've been enjoying hearty soups and roasted chicken, along with this lovely side, before the quick jump into summer foods.

I adore spinach: I make a quick spinach soup that instantly recharges me, and a quick blanch and toss for my bento box lunches, lovely with olive oil and hot pepper flakes. But I'd always been curious about Julia Child's recipe for braising spinach in butter. It's a bit long winded, but finally I tried it, and it's a winner. The French have a very unique way of cooking vegetables ( see braised celery and cucumbers) that brings out a deep richness unlike any other recipe for these veggies.

I made it with the mature spinach, as the baby spinach simply doesn't have the heft that the larger leaves of the older spinach have - simply my choice. I de-stemmed the spinach, then did a quick blanch, then braised in nutmeg, butter, and salt and pepper, and oh ,my! - it tingles you right down to your toes. Soothing, warming, and smooth, it's a wonderful side with everything from roasts to chicken to fish and seafood. I could see this working beautifully in an omelet or frittata, as well. There are three very quick steps to this recipe - but make sure you do them all.

Epinards Etuves au Beurre:

(eh-peen-ard ay-too-vey )

Makes 2 servings.

1 large bag spinach ( about 10 ozs),destemmed

4 T. unsalted butter

kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

2 pinches of nutmeg, or several scrapings of whole nutmeg


Wash the spinach very well in a bowl of cold water and drain briefly.

In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil, and drop in the washed spinach. Cook for 5 minutes and drain in a colander, running cold water over the spinach quickly to retain the green color. Squeeze out an excess water.


Melt 2 T. unsalted butter in a skillet or saucepan. When the butter is bubbling, add the spinach, salt and pepper, and two pinches of nutmeg - or about 10 scrapings on a nutmeg grater. Stir until all the moisture in the spinach is gone. Take off heat for a moment

In the same pan, melt 2 T. unsalted butter with the spinach, turn the heat to low, and cook another 10 minutes , stirring often, until the spinach has absorbed the butter and is very, very silky and tender. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or nutmeg as needed.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

double chocolate cookies with chile

Rain, cold, rain, pollen, mist , scattered showers. Is it any wonder I woke up with a fierce hankering for chocolate? Forget the toasted pecans - let's chop up this nice bittersweet chocolate bar and throw the whole thing in, so the cookies have those melted chunks of chocolate when you break it in half. Maybe if I toss in some chiles I won't need to put on another sweater.

Ah......that's better:)

Makes about 10 medium large cookies, using a 2" ice cream scoop.

From The Cookie Book by Peggy Cullen

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil.

To make:

1 stick ( 8 T.) soft unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 t. kosher salt

1 t. vanilla

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)

1 extra large egg

1 cup King Arthur flour all purpose

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. cayenne pepper ( optional)

1 4 oz. bar of Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate, chopped

Beat the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla well in mixer bowl. Beat in the cocoa, and then the egg. Add the flour, cayenne, and baking soda and mix well. Add the chopped chocolate and mix again.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up batter and place on cookie sheet. They don't spread a lot, so 2 or 3 inches apart is fine.

Bake for 11 minutes, let cool for five minutes before removing cookies to cooling rack.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

wordless wednesday: grape hyacinths

Three delightful pots of bulbs arrived for Mother's Day : one is blooming, one is almost blooming, and the daffodils are sulking about all this dark, dreary, rainy weather and refuse to bloom until the sun comes out.....

Monday, May 16, 2011

rerun recipe time - and a crazy spring

Forgive, please, the long silences lately - it has been a crazy-busy Spring, and I've often found myself making many, many recipes that I've published here before. I've been making ( and loving all over again : asparagus frittata, that apple cobbler, and so many chilly mornings, the oatmeal with chunks of sweet apples and dustings of cinnamon sugar. I made my Christmas biscotti for a friend who loves them. and several batches of crunchy oatmeal cookies, some for friends, but mostly for myself. Chocolate-chip cranberry cookies for my son, and one pot chicken for me ( again) as well as a magazine article. Rapini pasta soup warms the end of the day for me, as does spinach quiche and roasted chicken with rosemary and lemon.

Most difficult this month was approaching Mother's Day, with my mother so recently gone. We all get through these milestones, but it's never easy, is it?

For a few weeks the weather was beautiful - no cold, no snow, no rain, no BUGS! I took advantage of the moment and made several stops at our local farmstand/greenhouse, gathering up lemon balm and thyme, pineapple mint and several violas, sage and lots of flat leaf parsley. The arugula came up ( YAY!) and I'm covering the zucchini and green beans nights, as there's still a threat of frost. The chard is up. The lupine didn't make it through the winter, but the spearmint is showing up in some very odd places :) So are the lady's mantle plants, which are insisting on crawling out on the lawn, where they will be mowed every week unless I find a new home for them.

Happy gardening to you all - and I hope you're enjoying the busy-ness in the garden - and the kitchen!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

for love of olives

Puttering around in the kitchen on a rainy morning, making focaccia and pizza dough and setting out little dishes of toppings, and remembering when I first had a REAL olive, instead of black olives-from-a-can. Oh my, what a revelation. Rouen, France, my first French meal - a salade nicoise with tiny nicoise olives.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

potage parmentier: leek and potato soup with fresh chives

Hurray for Spring! When a friend offered me some fresh chives from her garden, I showed up the next morning with scissors in hand. My own pitiful chive plants were still too small to cut, so I was delighted to see her exhuberant plants nearly ready to bloom.

A peek in the fridge showed the last of the leeks and those lovely baby potatoes, so on we go to the traditional leek and potato soup ( or potage parmentier) with the first fresh shower of chives sprinkled on top. My soup is not pure white, as is usual, since I don't bother peeling the baby potatoes - there wouldn't be much potato left if I did. And I do use a little of the pale green leek when making the soup, so if you want a very white soup, stick to just using the white parts. Sometimes I even add several teaspoons of minced chives when I puree the soup, which makes it even more green ( see above), but the chive/oniony flavor is more pronounced done that way. So I stick to a little sprinkle of chives on top, and pass the little dish of minced chives for those who want a more intense chive flavor. And to celebrate the huge spread of violets over the lawn, I added those pretty little flowers to each plate.

To make 4 servings:

2 cups washed and sliced leeks

Trim each leek, then cut into 4 inch pieces. Cut the pieces lengthwise, and rinse under running water to get the sand and dirt out. When clean, cut the leeks into 1 1/2 inch pieces and continue with recipe.

2 cups sliced baby potatoes

4 cups light chicken or vegetable stock

1 t. thyme

1 t. unsalted butter

1/2 t. kosher salt

Place the leeks and potatoes in a pot, and add the stock, thyme, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and cover with a lid slightly askew, so some of the steam escapes. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Let the soup cool a little, then use an immersion blender or a regular blender. If you use a regular blender, fill the blender only halfway and puree carefully, then do the next batch. When it's hot, you're liable to get a little messy explosion of soup.

To finish:

3 T. or so of finely minced chives for sprinkling

1/2 cup medium cream

kosher salt to taste

a pinch more of thyme if desired

Potage Parmentier is meant to be served warm - if you serve it at room temperature or chilled, it is then called Vichyssoise.

Serve with a nice fresh arugula & violet flower salad . Just make sure the violets aren't growing on a chemically treated lawn, and no cute little puppies have been watering the lawn:)


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

crunchy oats, coconut and cornmeal cookies

Last week, a friend handed me an undistinguished cookie - it's the sort of cookie one would have made on a commune in the old days: very healthy and hard to chew. After a few bites it grew on me, a hint of coconut, oats and a nugget of chocolate that seemed to be out of place with the coconut. Finally last night I had a chance to fiddle with recipes and bake up a few batches.

Normally, I like a fat, soft cookie, but this one will grow on you, I promise! I tried it with raisins (so-so) and plain, and clearly the plain was best. I made both large and small cookies, and both were good, though the small ones were a little crunchier. They're sturdy and a delightful snack cookie, perhaps alongside bananas and cream or sliced strawberries.

This recipe made 9 large cookies or 25 small cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Fit two baking sheets with foil.

Toast 1/2 cup flaked coconut in a toaster oven until just slightly brown.
Cool and set aside

1 stick softened unsalted butter ( 8 T.)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 extra large egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup rolled oats
The 1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder


Cream the butter and sugars well. Add the egg and vanilla and mix briefly.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients ( along with the coconut) together, then mix into the butter/sugar mixture slowly.

Using a small or large ice cream scoop, scoop cookie batter onto baking sheets.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, baking the large cookies for 26 minutes or until golden , and the smaller ones for 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove cookies to a cooling rack, and bake the next batch . They will firm even more as they cool.


Out to the garden ( with a cookie) to admire all my new herb plants - I hope your day is fabulous!