All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Thursday, September 27, 2012

chopped romaine salad with homemade ranch dressing

When it comes to salads, I have a strong fondness for one that crunches.  I used to eat iceberg lettuce as you might eat quarters of apples - and usually unadorned with dressing.  Those baby lettuces, so pretty but so limp, do not ring my bells.  So you're not surprised to know how much I love romaine lettuce, especially the paler, lower leaves.

Bouncing back from a few weeks of drinking a lot of peppermint tea and eating buttered toast fingers, I had a sudden craving for a good crunchy salad and a dressing other than my usual red wine vinegar with olive oil.  Once upon a time, I loved ranch dressing, but I've gotten picky about ingredients and tried my hand at a homemade version.  About the fifth try I got lucky  - though my fridge is now filled with bowls of all the rejects.  Still crunchy, still good, though.

For the lettuce:

One head of crispy green romaine lettuce

Trim off the bottom of the lettuce, then use a large knife to slice off inch-width ribbons of lettuce.  If the pieces are too large and floppy, slice through the pieces once or twice until the pieces are a manageable bite size.

For the dressing:

In a clean jar mix:
1/2 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 t. kosher salt
4 T. mayonaise (I use Hellmann's olive oil mayo)
2 T. sour cream
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 t. dried dill ( I dry my own)
1/8 t. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup buttermilk ( if you want it thick) OR
2/3 cup buttermilk (if you want it thin)
1 T. minced fresh chives

I like to spoon or pour some dressing in the bottom of the bowl before I add the lettuce, then add a little more once the bowl is filled.  I like a LOT of dressing!

Enjoy the Fall colors!  The dry summer has muted the leaf colors so far, but the air is crisp and walking and hiking is a pleasure.

Monday, September 24, 2012

rosemary & wild grape focaccia

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my daughter and daughter-in-law when (happily) Anni pulled out a hot, gorgeous - what IS that?  Bread?  Pizza? Cake?- out of the oven.  She cut off a chunk and I tasted the most remarkable whatever-it-was.  Salty and sweet, juicy and toasty.  It turned out to be an amazing soft focaccia made with rosemary, sea salt, sugar, and wild grapes that Anni and just-now 2 year old Frankie had just picked from grapevines beside the road.   She generously packed up half a yogurt container with those fragrant fruits , which I took home - and forgot about in my pneumonia haze.

I found them today .  And guess what I made?

Yup, and you can find the recipe here, which Anni got from her blogger best friend at Ben and Birdy.

Remarkable, amazing, and delicious.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

lemon muffins and the last of the tomatoes

What an odd two weeks I've had - laid low with pneumonia, of all things, and quite wobbly. I was very happy to have the new Julia book to read  - have you read it?  It's called "Dearie, the Remarkable Life of Julia Child" by Bob Spitz and although he goes over familiar ground, there is much about her older years and her connections with younger chefs and her commitment to classical French culinary training that I've found fascinating.  

After a good two weeks off, I was seized with a desire for something more than peppermint tea and oatmeal.  Lemon poppyseed muffins popped into my mind, but a quick search of the fridge turned up pistachios , but no poppyseeds.  That was an easy substitute, and I loved the crunch of the pistachios.

This recipe made several Texas-size muffins (2 scoops of batter per muffin) and a dozen regular sized muffins (1 scoop of batter per muffin) so I'm guessing this would make around
2 dozen small muffins.  They freeze well, IF you have any left over.  I always end up dropping off extras to several friends who are passionate about these particular muffins.

Glazed Lemon Muffins with pistachios

Preheat oven to 330F.
Grease your chosen sized muffin tins with vegetable shortening.

zest of two lemons, grated
3 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more for the glaze
2 t. baking powder
6 extra large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
6 T. milk
3 sticks (24 T.) unsalted butter, softened

Grate the lemon zest into mixer bowl.
Add the flour, sugar and baking powder and mix.
With mixer on low, add the eggs, vanilla, and milk.  With mixer still going, cut in the soft butter and beat until batter is smooth and creamy.

Using a regular sized ice cream scoop ( I use a spring-loaded one, well worth the investment)  scoop batter into muffin tins - one scoop for regular sized ones, two scoops for Texas sized ones.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, but I start checking the smaller muffins at 30 minutes. The muffins should be firm to the touch when you press the centers gently.

Remove muffins to a cooling rack and make the glaze:

Lemon glaze:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar

several tablespoons finely chopped pistachio nuts

Place the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat .

Gently remove muffins from muffin pans and set on cooling racks set onto baking sheets.  Brushing the muffins with the glaze is sticky business, so this will contain the mess.

Brush the muffins several times with the warm glaze and sprinkle with the nuts .

As you see, I did pick some of the last of the cherry tomatoes from my very neglected in-town garden.  I discovered after planting that there was no water supply, so I let it languish in the hot, dry summer weather - and the tomatoes suffered.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

september twilight

I love these days and evenings after the steaminess of summer - especially this summer, which was hot and dry, day after day.  The owls are cooing in the twilight, the mums on the step glow as you step through the front door, and the little yellow house settles in for the night.  

May you have a lovely evening!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting

What IS it about this last month of summer?  All of a sudden there's a whirl of accidents, openings, last minute plunges into a social life of sorts, sidesteps, and the pleasure of watching the little ones grow and blossom.  Walking into a silent house, I never knew my beloved Domino made so much noise with her greetings, her mouse chases in the night, her rumbling purr of welcome, her cranky days.  Life marches on, without her.  Old photos pop up of my father, and a few of me in my twenties, twitching me off guard.  I would never trade who I am now, for who I was then.  And having a 6 year old and an 18 month old around now and then centers you right properly, until you break a toe taking a photograph of a stunning violet twilight sky.  Which explanation had the doctor laughing.

On my daughter's birthday, she requested our favorite cake:  freshly shredded carrots, pinch of cinnamon, a mound of our favorite cream cheese frosting with the zing of fresh lemon juice, and once again, all was right in the world.  We feasted on rosemary chicken, roasted potatoes, and shredded golden beets and romaine salad, and laughed a lot.  So many blessings.  If you've never made this cake, you're in for a treat.

I made this in an 8"x 8" square pan, but doubled the recipe and used 3 six inch round cake pans for the birthday cake, which promptly fell over.  My advice is to stick with two 8 inch round cake pans if you double the recipe.

The Carrot Cake:

Grease an 8"x8" square pan with shortening.  Press a long piece of waxed paper into the pan, leaving a good 4 or 5 inches of wax paper overhanging.  This will assure you can remove the cake without it sticking, badly.  Grease the waxed paper as well and set aside.

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or light olive oil
1 1/4 cups King Arthur flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots ( I use the fine grater cone that came with my KitchenAid mixer)

In mixer bowl, beat the eggs and sugar and canola oil.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and carrots.

Scrape into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when gently pressed in the middle.  Remove to cooling rack for 15 minutes.

Run a dull knife around the sides of the cake pan, then gently lift the cake out by the waxed paper overhangs.  Remove to another cooling rack until completely cooled.  The frosting will melt if the cake is not completely cool.

The cream cheese frosting:

1 large package of cream cheese , room temperature
1 stick of soft unsalted butter
juice of a lemon
1 box confectioner's sugar (3 cups)

Whip ingredients well in mixer bowl .  Fit a pastry bag with a star tip and fill the pastry bag, then pipe away.  You can also use a knife or spatula to spread the frosting.  You will have some frosting left over, maybe.  It freezes very well, but because it's so amazingly delicious, you probably won't have any left over.

Happy End of Summer!