All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Sunday, January 27, 2013

chicken & celery, tomato, and clementine soup with rosemary and rigatoni

We have been in the deep freeze for the last ten days, with nights reaching 8 below, and days not budging from 10 degrees, in spite of some very welcome sunshine.  The next few days should be inching up slowly, for which I am very, very grateful.  It may sound wimpy, but I didn't go out if I didn't have to, thanks, I think, to the scare I got in the fall with pneumonia.  But today has finally hit 20 degrees, so I'm hopeful we're out of our January freeze.

I've been going to bed early, snuggled under two wool blankets and a down comforter AND long johns and wool socks in the chilly bedroom , but happily occupied with plenty of books and cookbooks.  One of them was a real favorite of mine when I was making soup for a small ski area a long time ago  -  Recipes from the Night Kitchen .  While I often changed the recipes, they were full of fun and imagination.  This one started out as a chicken and rosemary stew, and ended up with clementines, celery, and a handful of pasta stirred into the soup and topped with cheddar.  It's a tangy, perky soup, and the color brightens this icy, snowy day.  

Makes about 4-5 servings.

2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed or minced
1 medium onion , peeled and roughly diced
2 clementines, peeled and sliced in circles
1 cup canned plum tomatoes, cut into large-ish pieces
1 t. thyme
4 six (6) inch springs rosemary, stripped from stem, or just throw in whole and fish out at the end of cooking
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock

2 medium skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 T. butter or olive oil for browning the chicken

3 stalks celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:

2 cups rigatoni
boiling water

Cook until tender and drain

Garnish with shredded cheddar

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed stewpot .  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, then add the clementines, tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf and cook briefly, then add the chicken stock.  Turn heat to low and cook, partly covered, for 40 minutes.

Just before the 40 minutes are up, melt the butter or oil in a skillet and saute the chicken until just cooked.  

Add the chicken, parsley, and celery to the soup, stir and taste, adding more seasonings as needed.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Place a large spoonful of the pre-cooked pasta in the bottom of each bowl, add hot soup, then sprinkle with the cheddar.

Stay warm!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

cherries in january

It feels like it's been winter for a year right now :  ice, snow, mud, wind, ice, cold.  Accent on the cold.  But something did cheer me up when I was foraging at our local small supermarket - I found cherries!  Right in the freezer section, tucked onto the middle shelf, one remaining pouch of plain sweet cherries, which I snatched up doubletime quickly, before anyone else saw them.  And they're delicious.  I've been eating them slightly thawed  most of the time, but today being Sunday, I decided to make a comforting winter dessert - not too sweet, and not sticky, gooey, or fussy.    This cherry clafouti is all those things, and I'm delighted to know I can now make this summery dessert even in the middle of winter.

I've made Julia's traditional clafouti batter, but never made a clafouti with cherries, which was the original fruit for them.  I made blueberry and strawberry clafoutis in the summer, but never cherry, silly me.  I used a different batter, from The Essential Mediterranean cookbook I picked up at Border's before they closed.  I think it cost $4 on the sale table, and the pictures are lovely.

Clafoutis are similar to frittatas, if you've ever made them - not puffy or cakey, but a dense,  light mixture of milk and cream, a little flour and sugar, eggs, and fresh fruit.  They whip up in ten minutes, and bake for 40 minutes , giving you plenty of time to set the table and stir the soup.

To make one 10 inch clafouti:

Lightly butter a pie pan - I used a ceramic fluted pie/tart pan.
Preheat oven to 350F.

1 heaping cup of frozen cherries, pitted
3/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 extra large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk ( I used 2%)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 oz. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
pinch of nutmeg, kosher salt, and about 1/3 t. vanilla
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Spread the cherries over the bottom of the pie pan.

In mixer bowl, add the flour and then the eggs and mix well.
Add the sugar, milk, cream and butter, and the nutmeg, vanilla, and salt, to the flour mixture, just until combined and smooth.  Do not overbeat.

Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is firm when gently pressed.

Remove to cool, then cut into slices and dust with confectioner's sugar.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Spinach and Sweet Potato soup with butter-braised spinach and cheese toasts

My two very favorite vegetables are spinach and sweet potatoes, so naturally it occurred to me yesterday that they might make a mighty fine soup for lunch.   And was I right !   It's a lovely, smooth soup, with lots of flavor and a hint of hot pepper and thyme.

I had been reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, and came across Julia's recipe for  Canapes aux Epinards, which is braised spinach mixed with swiss cheese ( thinking goat cheese would be wonderful, too) and piled on buttered, toasted bread, so I made that as well.  A delicious spinach feast for a late lunch, sitting in the sun, watching the snow melt.

For the Spinach and Sweet Potato soup:

Serves 3 or 4.

4 cups packed, washed spinach, stems ok
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup slice white of leek
1/2 cup peeled, diced sweet potato (large dice)
heft pinch of thyme
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of hot pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon unsalted butter stirred in at the end

In large saucepan, place stock, sweet potato, and leek white.  Simmer until potatoes are tender.

Add the thyme, nutmeg, hot pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the potatoes, then add the spinach.  Simmer a few minutes, take off the heat, stir, then cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  

Uncover the soup and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup, then add the butter.  Serve immediately with spinach and cheese toasts.

The spinach and cheese toasts:

There are two steps to making these  - first you cook and drain the spinach, then braise it in a little butter. then you saute the spinach with cheese and the toasts in butter ( or oil), then heap them , sprinkle more cheese on, and run them under a broiler.  I used a toaster oven since I only made 8 little toasts.

2 cups fresh, washed spinach, firmly packed, stems removed
a saucepan of boiling water

Place all the spinach in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, then run cold water over the spinach to retain the color, and drain again.

When the spinach is cool, take handfuls of the spinach and squeeze all the moisture out.  It's amazing what you end up with - a handful of spinach!

Chop the spinach finely.

In skillet, melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, then add the spinach and stir until the spinach absorbs the butter.  Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg  and salt and take off heat, scraping into a bowl.

For the toasts:

3 slices or so of white bread ( I use Pepperidge Farm), trimmed of crusts if desired, and cut into quarters 
3 T. unsalted butter and/or olive oil

Toast the bread in the butter or oil in a skillet, on both sides, removing when golden.


Place the spinach back in the skillet with a little oil or butter.
Grate about 1/4 cup Swiss cheese ( or use another cheese).
Sprinkle a tablespoon or so on the spinach and stir.
Place a spoonful of spinach on each toast, topping with a pinch of cheese.
Place under broiler just before serving just until cheese melts.

The toasts also make wonderful appetizers for a party - enjoy!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

rich and creamy homemade hot chocolate

We've had a LOT of snow lately.  And cold, as in zero degrees, which of course made getting around a little slippery.  Ice dams, icicles, snow melting, then freezing, and then more snow.  It's a real winter this year - and once again I came in from a walk thinking of the hot chocolate I like to make on days like this.   

It's silky.  It's rich, and thick, and when you lick the last of the chocolate from the rim of your cup, the inside is glazed with it.  

I adapted this from a wonderful recipe of Sherry Yard's, but reduced the milk so that the hot chocolate was even thicker.  A demitasse is enough for me ( if I had a demitasse cup, which I don't) - I only pour a third of a cup at a time, and that's just enough.  It reheats beautifully on low heat - what a treat for breakfast this morning!

To make about 4 smallish servings:

4 oz. coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60%)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Toss the chocolate into your food processor and whiz it until the chocolate looks like little crumblike pellets.  Place the chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.

Heat the cream to boiling, pour over the chopped chocolate, and let sit 2 minutes,  then stir with a spoon until chocolate is melted.

In another pan, heat until hot:

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

Whisk in:
1 T. good unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Ghirardelli again)
and the bowl of melted chocolate ganache.
You can also add a tablespoon or so of Godiva Chocolate liqueur, if you want.

Serve immediately in warmed cups with a little whipped cream dusted with cinnamon - but  I love it straight, hold the cream.

Happy Winter!