All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Monday, June 27, 2011

poached fresh apricots and mango with lemon verbena

Back from my mother's memorial service on Saturday, a little sad, but so happy to meet up with our extended family: it was grand to see you all!

Cooking always cheers me up, so when I noticed the juicy little apricots in the fruit bowl, I whipped out to the garden and snipped some of the lemon balm and lemon verbena (which is flowering!) to make the poaching liquid I use for so many fresh fruits. The lemon verbena is the spiky leafed sprig with little tiny white flowers. Reaching into the fridge I noticed half a mango and thought that would go well with the mild flavored apricot, so I grabbed that as well.

I simmered the herbs in water then let them steep to get the fullest flavor of the herbs ( and a few green cardomom pods), then poached the fruits very briefly, removed, and chilled both the herb infusion and the fruits. Serve with either some Greek yogurt or softly whipped cream, and you have a lovely dessert , perfect for brunch, breakfast, or dinner. Pears are also delicious prepared this way.

To make:

This makes enough liquid for approximately 6 apricots and 1 mango, with some to spare.

2 cups water ( you can add a little sweet white wine or a squeeze of lemon if you like)
several sprigs of fresh lemon balm
several sprigs of fresh lemon verbena
3 or 4 green cardomom pods
1/3 cup sugar

Simmer the herbs, cardomom, and sugar in the water briefly, then let cool for 30 minutes.
Cut the apricots in half and de-stone them.
Peel the mango and cut into spears.
Bring the herb/water mixture to a simmer again, and poach the fruits for around 4 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to gently remove to a bowl. Pour a little liquid into the bowl with the fruits, then simmer the liquid until it is reduced to a little under a cup.
Chill the poaching liquid and the fruits separately in the fridge until ready to serve.
In shallow bowls, scoop out the mango spears and apricots, add a little liquid, then top with Greek yogurt or whipped cream and a few fresh mint or lemon balm leaves.

You might also enjoy:

Monday, June 20, 2011

sweet strawberry clafouti with black pepper and nutmeg

What a beautiful day it is! The sun is shining, the queen anne's lace is blooming, and it isn't so hot that I can't use the oven. I wandered the garden, picking pineapple sage here, and the last lemon lily there, and some sweet twiggy branches with tiny cherry colored blossoms - the first summer bouquet .

The strawberries were coming to room temperature on the counter, and instead of making meringues with whipped cream and strawberries, I pulled out my recipe for Julia's wonderful strawberry clafouti custard. 40 minutes later I was spooning it up with a happy hum, inhaling the scent of strawberries and nutmeg - and a last minute grind of fresh black pepper. The nutmeg and pepper are my own traditional additions to her classic dessert.

Makes four or five individual clafoutis, depending on ramekin size, or use one large shallow casserole dish.

To make:

1 1/2 cups light cream ( or use half cream, half milk)
1 T. good vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
3 medium or large eggs
pinch of kosher salt
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/2 cup all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
about 2 cups trimmed and quartered strawberries
a few grinds of pepper

Butter the ovenproof dish or dishes you are using.
Preheat oven to 325F
In a blender, combine the milk/cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt,nutmeg, and flour. Whiz in the blender until well mixed.
Evenly divide the strawberries between the dish or dishes, then pour no more than 2 inches of batter over the berries.
Grind a little pepper on top of the mixture, and slip into the oven.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until custard is set and top is a very light golden brown.
Let cool, then serve as soon as the custard has cooled.
If not using right away, you can place in fridge, but sometimes there can be staining from the fruit, so it's best to make just before you plan to eat it.

Enjoy your day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

perfect burgers and zucchini ribbons among the flowers

The sun is out! After a month of rain, tornado watches, storms, and chilly temperatures, the sun is out and my beautiful "Red Fox" speedwell (veronica) is blooming very prettily beside the front steps. Time for le picnic!

I rustled up some herby hamburgers, and quick blanched zucchini ribbons, sat in the shade, and dug in.


For the burgers:

2 pounds 80/20 chuck hamburger ( this will make at least 6 burgers)

2 slices fresh bread (I used semolina 3 cheese, but you can use plain bread and add a little cheese)

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 small farm fresh egg

1/2 t. thyme

1/2 t. herbes de provence

1 t. or more to taste kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

2 t. worcestershire sauce

Wash your hands well. Place the bread and roughly chopped parsley in food processor and process until bread is well crumbed. Place in a large bowl.

Add the egg, thyme, hamburger, herbes de provence, salt and pepper, and worcestershire sauce and mix very well by hand. Form into burgers and cook. Serve with slices of tomato and spinach leaves.


For the zucchini ribbons:

Each medium zucchini should serve two, so multiply as needed.

Wash the zucchini, trim the ends, and using a vegetable peeler and holding the zuke firmly, shave ribbons of zucchini. If using large zucchini, shave around the seedy core, and discard the core.

Bring a few inches of water in a saucepan to a boil, throw in the ribbons, and cook for one minute.

Drain and run cold water over the ribbons, then drain again.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of oregano, salt, and pepper.

Happy picnic!

* What I'm reading:

A History of Europe by J.M. Roberts

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Simple Sunday: Spinach soup with mustard vinaigrette

Rain, rain, rain. It's been so cold, and so rainy, that I'm back to hot soups - in this case, my Popeye soup: green, green spinach and arugula soup with lots of hot pepper flakes and a swirl of mustard vinaigrette, leftover from lunch. A swirl of heavy cream would do just as well.

Hope YOUR day is filled with sunshine and warmth!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

composed salads: salade parisienne

Today is beautiful - warm and summery with a slight breeze, so what better way to announce lunch on the terrace than this composed salad?

Composed salads ( or plated salads) are usually served chilled, or at room temperature, with small amounts of varied , swiftly blanched vegetables, a hard boiled egg, some fish, chicken, or meats, a few olives, and a few slices of tomatoes or new radishes. A vinaigrette ( in this case, dijon mustard) is drizzled on the chicken or fish or beef, and the vegetables are gently tossed in a tiny amount of the vinaigrette before serving. It's a perfect way to use up your odds and ends in the fridge, and it's a delight to those of us who are grazers - lots of choices, not too many carbs, and an unhurried meal.


Sauce Moutarde: Dijon mustard vinaigrette

2 T. dijon mustard

boiling water

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

1/2 t. fresh lemon juice

1/2 t. minced fresh herbs ( I used tarragon)

Spoon the mustard into a small bowl and add the hot water in droplets slowly, whisking all the while .

Whisk in the olive oil the same way - by droplets, whisking well after each addition until it thickens and emulsifies. In the photo above, I've just added the olive oil and am about to whisk it in.

Whisk in the salt and pepper, the lemon juice, and the minced herbs.

Use a tiny amount to just barely coat cooked vegetables , or dribble a little on top of cold meats or fish.

Cover the leftover sauce and keep in the fridge.

Plate suggestions:

baby potatoes, cooked until just tender and sliced

fresh radishes

cornichon pickles

just tender green beans, cooked and quickly dipped in cold water

hard boiled eggs


diced or sliced tomatoes, whole, if using cherry tomatoes

leftover salmon or chicken

tuna chunks

brocolli sprigs, cooked til barely tender, then dipped into cold water

zucchini spears or rounds, barely cooked, or zucchini ribbons, uncooked

After cooking or blanching, place a small amount of the vinaigrette in a bowl and lightly coat the vegetables you're using before plating.

Arrange the vegetables in a pleasing way around the plate and serve with a little bowl of the sauce.

Enjoy your day!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

simply sunday

What better way to enjoy a lazy Sunday than with a plateful of apricot jam stuffed crepes, and a heap of fresh strawberries? You can find the recipe here.

Hope you're having a beautiful day!