All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2014





Sunday, November 16, 2014

mousse au chocolat





Novemberrrrr.  As in brrrr.  We have had one morning with hard frost on the ground - and the windshield, and another with a coating of snow.  I had been working on a magazine article for January/February, which made me feel even colder, but then, a little magic.

I think I found my original mousse au chocolat recipe!  Long ago, when I worked in a French restaurant in Cambridge, that was often how my morning started - making a tray of this creamy, light but wonderfully chocolate dessert.  Somehow, I misplaced the original recipe, and tried many others, but it was never the same.  Today, I am over the moon with happiness, and the memories come flooding back.


A few months ago, I found a picture from that time:  Nick the waiter - who was still in high school, I think.  Another reminder of that lovely, airy little restaurant, where I worked the day chef shift .  The first several hours were mine alone, following the list the owner Sally had left for me the night before:  start two stocks, make the mousse, make a soup or two, prep the veg, check the vegetable and fruit delivery, maybe make a chocolate cake or roulade.

There was magic in those quiet hours in the kitchen.  A few times I had the evening shift, which was busy and noisy and the kitchen jammed with waiters and chefs, neighbors dropping in (including Julia Child, who sat on the garbage pail and chatted with us) , music playing:  nope, not for me.  For me, the kitchen is almost a meditation, though there are times I cherish friends and family in the kitchen, like Thanksgiving, or birthdays, or breakfast with the grandchildren.

Mousse au Chocolate (chocolate mousse):
This makes about 2 1/2 cups of mousse.

To make:
3 extra large eggs, room temperature, separated
pinch of kosher salt
4 ounces (1 bar) Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons cold water
1-2 teaspoons dark rum or triple strong coffee
2 tablespoons sugar

Place egg whites in a very clean mixer bowl, reserving yolks in a small bowl.

Break up the chocolate (reserving a small piece to grate on the top of the mousses) and place chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe china or glass bowl.  Add the 3 tablespoons water to the chocolate pieces and microwave 2 minutes, or until chocolate is melted.

Carefully stir the egg yolks into the warm (not hot!) chocolate and mix well, then add the rum or coffee and stir again.

Beat the egg whites on high using the wisk attachment, and adding the pinch of salt to the egg whites.  Continue beating, adding the sugar a little at a time to the egg whites.  Continue beating until the whites are stiff and slightly glossy.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the whites and carefully fold again and again until the mousse is well blended. 

Spoon or ladle the mousse into ramekins or glasses, cover gently with plastic wrap, and place in fridge to chill.  Grate with the reserved piece of chocolate bar just before serving.

This makes about 5 servings, depending on the size of the ramekins or glasses.

Hope you are all staying warm!





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

carrot soup with fresh ginger




Here it is, almost mid-November, and in spite of a frost yesterday, a few herbs are still green and growing next to the granite front steps.  Amazing.  I bring in bits and bobs of mint and thyme, the gone-to-seed parsley, and the fragrant lavender to put under my pillow at night and to remember any greenery in the next few days, before the Polar Vortex descends on us.  Thinking of you all to the west of us, especially my grandchildren in Minnesota.

I got up this morning thinking of this bright and cheerful carrot soup, happily had the ingredients, and start to finish, I was done in an hour - just in time to go get my flu shot.  So good!  Carrots are so bright and cheery, and blended into a soup, are earthy and sweet at the same time.

I most often use this recipe with thyme, dill and fresh and dry ginger, but have also made various combinations using fresh orange juice, or even curry powder - it's really up to you and what you like (or even more important, what you don't like).


Carrot Soup with ginger and dill

2 cups water 
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups peeled, sliced carrots
1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger root
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon dried dill, or 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1 cup sliced celery (about 2 stalks)
salt and pepper to taste
extra water or stock for thinning the soup

In a large saucepan, add the water, stock, carrots, celery, ginger root, ginger, dill, and the salt and pepper.

Simmer covered until the carrots are very, very soft.
Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree.  If it seems too thick, add small amounts of water or stock to thin it to the consistency you want.

This makes 3-4 servings.

I hope your day is beautiful !

ps/  I keep the ginger tuber in my freezer in a ziplock plastic bag and just cut off pieces at I need them.  I do trim off the outer brown peel, but often just grate the frozen ginger into whatever I'm making.  For this recipe, I cut off a chunk, peeled it, and minced it.  I am tempted to start growing it in a pot though:  you can find instructions here .  I'd love to hear from you if you do try to grow it, especially if you have a cooler house in a cold climate.








Saturday, November 1, 2014

pears baked in cream






Happy November!  To celebrate, Mother Nature is sending us another nor'easter in the next day or so, and I heard the *snow* word for the first time on the weather report.  I rearranged my cookbooks the other day, in part because of the changing season, but also because I never seemed to be able to find the one cookbook I was searching for. 

Flipping through Martha Stewart's Quick Cook, I was struck by a gorgeous photograph of fresh pears baked in cream.  I had a pear in the fruit bowl, and I had heavy cream, so of course I made it.  I am so familiar with Martha's recipes and way of cooking, I felt comfortable making a few changes as I went along, but the kudos belong to her.

Pears Baked in Cream

2 Bosc pears, unpeeled, halved, and cored (I use a melon baller for that)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of kosher salt
a few sprigs of thyme

1/2 cup heavy cream
a drop or two of good vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter an ovenproof baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.  Sprinkle the bottom of the dish with 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

Place the cored pears, cut side down, in the dish.  Arrange the thyme sprigs around the pears, then sprinkle the pears with the salt and the last tablespoon of sugar, and dot the pears with the remaining butter.

Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Mix the cream and the vanilla together and pour over the pears.  Return the pears to the oven and bake uncovered for another 20 minutes.  Serve warm in shallow bowls with soup spoons - the creamy, sweet sauce is SO good!  Even better, this is a great gluten-free dessert for the chilly months ahead.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Dorie's custardy apple cake




Yesterday morning I was circling the kitchen, trying to decide what to do with the bowl of apples from the orchard up the hill.  Pie?  I like apple pie, but I usually end up leaving most of the pie crust on the plate.  As I blankly looked at my idea board on the wall, I suddenly saw the ripped out Wednesday Boston Globe food section from last week, and there it was: an interview with Dorie Greenspan and a recipe for her Custardy apple squares.  I checked the ingredient list and I had everything but a square pan.  I pulled out one of my professional grade 8 inch cake pans - the one with the nice rolled rim and 2 inch height.  That would have to do.

It came together like a dream - it was almost too easy to make.  I shared half the cake with my friendly taste-testers, but over the course of the day regretted that, as I wistfully polished off the last slice.  Today I made it again for my neighbor , and I'm thinking after a run to the store for more vanilla, I may just make a third one.  And I'm also thinking this could easily be made gluten-free, since it only uses 1/2 cup of flour.  If you do make a GF version, please let me know what you used, so I can pass it along to Izzie, my GF granddaughter.


Dorie's Custardy Apple Cake

Preheat oven to 375F.

Butter or vegetable shortening for the pan.
Parchment circle for the bottom of the pan (I just trace and cut from a roll)
3 medium fresh apples - enough to make 2 cups apple slices
A mandoline for slicing the apples, or a sharp knife and lots of patience
1/2 cup all purpose King Arthur flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 extra large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons good vanilla extract
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 or 2 pinches of kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioner's sugar for sprinkling on top of the cake

Butter the cake tin, trace a circle on parchment and cut out and press into bottom of pan.
Peel and slice the apples very thinly, using a mandoline .  Set aside.
Measure the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.
In mixer bowl, add the eggs,sugar and salt and beat for two minutes, then add the milk and vanilla and the melted butter.  Mix briefly.
Add the flour and baking powder to the egg mixture and mix briefly.
Add the apples to the batter, and gently fold in the apple slices with a rubber spatula until they are coated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean, and the top of the cake is golden.  It will continue to bake as it cools in the tin.
Let cake cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake.  Quickly flip cake onto another cooling rack, place another rack on top, and flip over so cake is right side up.
Cut the cake into 6 or 8 triangles, and dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving.

Adapted from Dorie's book:  Baking Chez Moi






Monday, October 20, 2014

egg timbales with chopped herbs







I have finally torn myself away from walking in this autumn wonderland - what a beautiful Fall it's been , every day glowing with bright oranges and golden yellows - and for once the lack of rain has lengthened leaf-peeking season.

To celebrate Monday, I decided to again make Craig Claiborne's egg timbales, which are  creamy, custardy unsweetened puddings with a generous amount of finely chopped herbs.  It's been years since I've looked up that recipe!  The only thing I was wishing I had added was a tablespoon of good Swiss cheese, but that's an indulgence  - I do love cheese. The timbales are very mild and soothing, and elegant enough for a brunch.

Here's the recipe I made today:

1 cup whole milk or light cream, scalded (which means heated to just under simmering or boiling)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten with a fork
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced scallions, greens included
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill (you can also use parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Swiss cheese, grated, 1 tablespoon (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F.
Heat a kettle of water to just boiling.
Butter 3 standard ramekins or small ovenproof cups.
Add the scalded milk or cream to the eggs, whisking, then add the salt, herbs, scallions and the cheese, if desired.
Ladle the mixture into the ramekins.  Since they do not puff up, you can fill to just under the top of the ramekins.
Place the cups into a deep sided pan (I used a small cake pan with 2 inch sides), then pour the simmering water into the pan no higher than 3/4ths up the sides of the ramekins.
Set in oven for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the ramekin comes out clean and the mixture is firm.

Serve with toast, English muffins, or a thick slice of buttered French bread.
Makes 3 servings.



Today I am sealing my bedroom floor, which is beautiful old wood - but after 150 years or so, has shrunk, leaving large cracks that let the cold air (and the mold) straight into my bedroom.  After that can I put down a rug or carpeting so no more cold feet in the winter:)




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

busy day chicken soup with greens and pasta






What a wild morning!  When I woke up, the rain was pouring, a soft wind blowing, trees shaking and waving, the dark clouds racing across the sky towards the coast.  Two hours later the sun came out and all that is left of the storm is a pretty carpet of leaves in the front yard.

Busy day, busy day!  Articles to write, pictures to take, recipes to double check.  As I was making one dough, and wrapping another for the fridge, I saw the leftover chicken, the lovely fresh kale, the herbs in the drawer still (surprisingly) firm and green. Which gave me an idea.

I pulled out a pot, and, in between mixing and measuring the tart and pie dough, quickly washed and trimmed and cut and tore the vegetables and the chicken, into the pot.  In with the stock, the sprig of rosemary, and last of all the pasta bubbling away.  This was the easiest lunch to pull together in some chaos of sorts, and I'm grateful to sit down to a big bowl of it in a half hour.


Busy Day Chicken soup with greens and pasta

2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sliced scallions (green onions)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, rough chop
1 cup sliced celery
1 teaspoon thyme
pinch hot pepper flakes if desired
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 or 2 cups leftover cooked chicken, cut in chunks
3/4 cup macaroni or small pasta.  I used large ditali from Italy

1 cup packed torn kale greens, set aside to add at the very end

bring the water and stock to a rolling simmer and add everything but the pasta/macaroni and the kale.
Simmer fifteen minutes, then add the pasta.  Cook until pasta is soft, take off heat, and stir in the torn kale.  Taste for seasoning and serve with bread and curls of parmesan cheese, if you want. (which I definitely wanted!)

Have a wonderful day!








Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Northern bean soup with kale, tomatoes, oregano and cumin

While Sunday was what we call "that holy moment" - that day when the temperature is still warm, but the leaves are turning bright orange in the sunshine - Monday was chilly and damp, and that brilliant light was gone.  No matter, it was a perfect day for this hearty soup.  

In the past, I've made this with lentils, but that bag of Great Northern beans (similar to cannellini beans, but larger) was too enticing to ignore.  Instead of soaking the beans overnight, I put them in a pot covered with water, bring just to a simmer, then take off the heat to soak several hours.  Then I drain the beans, rinse cold water over them, and put them back in the pot to proceed with the recipe.  They do seem to keep their shape well using this method, instead of turning mushy too quickly.  I also avoid adding salt to the beans until they're cooked, which can toughen the beans.








Prepare 2 cups dry Great Northern beans as above.  Place the plumped beans in a stockpot and cover with half water, half chicken or vegetable stock.

Add to the plumped beans:

1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, cut up, with the juices
1 clove garlic, minced


5-6 cups torn kale greens, no stems.  The kale is added just before serving, so set aside.

Simmer the herbs, onion, olive oil/butter, garlic, beans and tomatoes until the beans are soft, adding more water or stock if needed to keep the beans covered.

Taste the soup for seasonings and add kosher salt to taste.

Just before serving, turn off the heat and stir in the torn kale. Cover the pot for a few minutes, then serve the soup in big bowls, with a nice crusty bread and some sweet butter.

Enjoy these beautiful days!