All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Monday, June 30, 2014

roasted grape tomatoes with rigatoni, basil, and parmesan

There's something about watching my baby tomato plants grow, oh, so ever sloooowly that makes me impatient.  All six varieties I bought are just barely blooming today.  So, of course, a quick visit to the market was necessary if I wanted to make this simple roasted tomato and pasta supper.  As I rummaged through my jars of pasta shapes, I chose my very favorite, rigatoni, though there are lots of others that may jiggle your pasta passion.  Check out THIS page to find your favorite!

I roasted the tomatoes, first tossing them in a bowl with olive oil, garlic cloves, olive oil, and basil leaves from my garden.  I added a touch of butter ( I do love butter!), and salt, a pinch of sugar, and roasted for 40 minutes or so.  As they cooled, I boiled up the pasta, then quickly drained and tossed.  A shaving of parmesan, a sprinkle of more basil and all was good, and delicious.

You will need:

1 pint little grape tomatoes
1 or 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thin
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3-4 little basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
parmesan cheese grated on top after cooking

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Toss the whole grape tomatoes in the oil, salt, and basil
Add the butter and sugar and toss again.

Roast the grape tomatoes for 40 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and tender, stirring them once or twice and adding more oil if they are too dry.

Smush a few of the tomatoes with a spoon, and roast another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 2 cups dry rigatoni.  Let simmer/boil for 8 minutes, then drain.

Toss the tomatoes and pasta with the juices from roasting, then serve with a shaving of parmesan on top, and a grinding or two of fresh pepper.

Happy almost July!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

homemade herb cheese for summer everything!

I used to describe this as a "boursin-style" herb cheese, but it's so much better in every way - creamier, herby, garlicky ( if you want it), and great on everything from burgers to steaks, fish to grilled chicken, baked potatoes, hot pasta - and even as a dip for those gorgeous veggies from your garden or baked tortilla chips.  It is also amazing on sandwiches.

Even better?  It whips up in your mixer bowl (or food processor) in minutes, though using a Cusinart processor can leave the herb cheese with a distinct green hue, not that that bothers me in the least.  It really is a condiment of wonder.

 I keep extras in the freezer or the fridge, but you need to let it warm to room temperature when it reaches that creamy consistency - but then again, one of its ingredients is cream cheese, so don't leave it out for hours .

You can thin it with buttermilk or plain yogurt for dips .  To avoid double-dipping, I usually spoon a few inches of  thinned herb cheese into large plastic cups, fill with a rainbow of vegetables (carrots, sugar snap peas, colorful sweet pepper strips, slim sticks of celery, and bright radishes with an inch or two of green tops , which was my snack today as I dozed under a canopy of beautiful trees.


Boursin-style herb cheese

8 ounces good cream cheese, softened
1 stick (4 ounces) room temperature unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 t. Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1-2 tablespoons minced chives ( you can also use scallions, but they aren't as strong)
1 heaping teaspoon dried tarragon, which I like better than fresh, or 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1-2 cloves medium garlic, pressed or finely minced
kosher salt - to taste.  I find 1 teaspoon is about right.
freshly cracked pepper

Place all the ingredients in mixer bowl and mix to a smooth consistency.  Store in a covered container in the fridge.

Happy summer-is-here!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Julia's clafouti with strawberries

Of course, Julia does not have a strawberry clafouti in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1), but berries or cherries both suit themselves well to this custard.  I have tried many versions, but this is still my favorite, scented with a generous tablespoon of good vanilla and a sprinkle of nutmeg.  And it's made in a blender, so quick to put together.

I cannot believe how good the strawberries are this year, lucky us!

I used a 9 1/2 inch ceramic tart pan, so the baking directions are for that -  so if you make individual ones or use a different kind of pan, baking times may be different.

Clafouti with fresh strawberries:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter a 9 1/2 inch ovenproof dish , or individual ovenproof souffle dishes, set aside.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour ( I use King Arthur)
1/3 cup sugar
3 extra large eggs
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon good vanilla
pinch of nutmeg

2 cups of fresh strawberries, cut into quarters

an additional 1/3 cup of sugar for sprinkling over the strawberries

Place the cream, milk, flour, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and nutmeg in a blender and blend on high until ingredients make a thick batter.

Pour an even coating of the batter on the bottom of the dish, then bake 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle the strawberries evenly , then sprinkle with the extra 1/3 cup sugar.

Slowly pour the rest of the batter on top of the berries, then bake 30 minutes, or until custard is set.  It will continue to cook as it cools.  If you want it to brown and puff a little, bake an extra 10 minutes.

Scoop out servings into small bowls using a large spoon.

A neighbor gave me a spectacular bouquet of all kinds of peonies from her garden - this is one of my favorites, but they are all heavenly!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

roasted strawberries with oats and brown sugar topping

I woke up this morning just after a summer rainstorm had passed through  -  the morning breeze was cool and fresh :  perfect weather for this idea I had for a warm strawberry breakfast.

The organic strawberries I've been getting lately have been so sweet, so ruby-hued, so essentially strawberry that I've been eating them all day.  But still, the thought of roasting or baking intrigued me.  Not a cobbler, really, but just a granola sprinkle of oats and butter, brown sugar and lemon zest.  Perfect for this glorious morning, I thought.  

As the strawberries were bubbling in the oven, I had the sudden thought of using almond meal along with the oats,  but of course, it was too late (never mind that I didn't actually HAVE almond meal). If anyone has used almond meal, I hope you'll let me know if you think that's a good idea and I'll zip off to the grocery store to stock up. 

To make two servings:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Two cups loosely packed whole medium sized strawberries
zest of half a lemon
a few drops of lemon juice squeezed over the berries

1/3 cup whole rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch or two of kosher salt.

Trim the berries and cut in half before adding to a small (I used a 5 1/2 inch by 4 inch by 2 inch (height) ovenproof ceramic casserole dish.  Grate the zest over the berries, then squeeze some lemon juice over the berries.

Add the oats, brown sugar, butter and salt to a food processor and whizz briefly, until the mixture is mostly free of whole oats and well incorporated.

Sprinkle the topping on the berries and roast uncovered in the oven for 25 minutes.

Remove and let cool a bit before serving.  Creme fraiche or sour cream is always nice if you have it.  There's a lovely intensity to the berries that is very different from eating them fresh.

As a passionate collector of textiles and linens, I found this tea towel in a thrift shop, embroidered with "BP" in red thread.  So far, I'm stumped beyond "B is for beautiful".


Yesterday I came home to a lovely package of fresh herbs on the front step:  thyme, tarragon, oregano, and sage leaves, all now hanging from a rafter for drying, and two little cups of thyme plants - heaven.  Many thanks to my friend Pamela - I love them!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

avocado and plum tomato salad with chive blossoms and Italian parsley

A few warm days teased us into thinking summer was here.  But the last few mornings have been chilly although checking the garden and herbs proved the chive plants like this weather, sending out fat lavender blossoms I love to nibble on.  

Most years I pick the blossoms and make chive blossom vinegar, but I found I still had plenty in the fridge from last year.  Instead I made a summer salad sprinkled with chive blossoms I plucked apart, instead of using my usual sliced red onions.  The flowers have a delightful mild oniony flavor that doesn't overpower the delicate avocado.

Even though I'm sitting down to a summer-y lunch wearing a turtleneck and jeans, I'm barefoot and thinking I just might get out my bathing suit today.  I saw several children swimming at the pond yesterday, splashing and shrieking with delight - so it can't be so cold after all.  

Avocado-Plum Tomato salad with Chive Blossoms

1 large garlic clove, sliced in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (dried is fine if that's all you have)
4 basil leaves, sliced
6 large chive blossoms
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley

2 large avocados
2 or 3 large plum tomatoes, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Use a melon baller to scoop out the avocado ( thus avoiding the few bruised spots I found when I cut mine open) into a small bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice and set aside.

Rub the serving bowl or dish with the cut sides of the garlic clove.  Discard the cloves.
Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well with a fork.
Add the herbs to the dressing - the oregano, basil, parsley.  Pluck the petals from three of the chive blossoms and add to the dressing.

Just before serving, add the avocado balls and the diced tomatoes to the dressing and toss very gently.  Garnish with a few chive blossoms and serve with crusty bread and butter.

Happy June!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

tangy glazed Italian lemon cookies and summer days

Summer is here!  The days are warm and full of birdsong, and down at the pond, the little beach is filled with children splashing and swimming.  I thought this day would never come, but here we are.  How heavenly is that, after a, challenging winter, with way too many days with the thermometer stuck on 15 degrees below zero?

The hemlocks are sending out their several inches of new growth, with light green fingers celebrating Summer.  And I made a fresh fruit salad to toast the new season of sunny, summer weather, as well as a new recipe for the most wonderful lemon cookies I found here.  These are so wonderful to serve along with ice cream, fruit, or a nice little creme brulee or chocolate mousse.  Wish my sister was here to enjoy them - though she really loved chocolate anything:)  

I did change the recipe a bit, but it's easy as pie - no sticking the dough in the fridge for a few hours.  Just whip it up, bake, mix up a quick icing, and you're done.

The dough:
 1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups King Arthur flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
two pinches of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Fit two baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add eggs, lemon zest, and  lemon juice and mix.
Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix very briefly, just until mixed.
Using a small ice cream scoop ( I used a 1 1/4 inch scoop) scoop out little balls of dough, (if you want bigger cookies, just add 5 or 6 more minutes if you're using a 2 inch scoop)  onto baking sheet, two inches apart.
Bake 12 minutes in preheated oven.

While the cookies are baking make the icing:

1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup confectioners sugar

Whisk ingredients well, set aside.

When the cookies are done, set onto cooling rack to cool completely, then dip tops of cookies into the icing, letting the icing drip slowly back into the icing bowl.  When it stops dripping, set on a rack to dry.

Let cool completely before storing in a container - if they last that long!