All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

fresh cherry scones with lemon zest

When it comes to cherries and strawberries, I usually think fresh.  Fresh fruit salads, green salads with a handful tossed in at the last minute,  cottage cheese with mint, basil and cherries or strawberries.  But for some reason I went searching Pinterest very early this morning for a muffin or scone recipe for that last cupful of pitted cherries.  And I found the almost perfect recipe - except I didn't have any sliced almonds nor almond extract.  You know how it is - you plunge ahead merrily anyway, and I'm happy to say it came out just fine, though I would love to try it with the almonds sometime, nice with a little crunch!

I did change a few measurements - a little less baking powder, a little more buttermilk because the batter was so firm, lemon zest instead of almond extract, and a slightly lower temperature since my oven runs a little hot sometimes.  But all in all, a lovely new recipe for those special brunches.  Many thanks to Table for Two!

Fresh Cherry Scones

Preheat oven to 375F
Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

For the scones:
3 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
zest of half a lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes
1 1/4  cups buttermilk  plus a little more if needed
1 cup halved fresh cherries
sparkling sugar

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
few drops of almond or vanilla extract

Place the flour, lemon zest, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, and salt into the mixer bowl and mix briefly.

Add the butter and use a pastry blender to break the butter pieces down before using the mixer - I've found the dough gets too tough if I use the beater blade too much.

Pour in the buttermilk and mix just until the dough comes together - if it's too thick, add another 1/4 cup buttermilk and quickly stir again.
Gently stir in the cherries quickly and without staining the dough too much.

Use an ice cream scoop to space out 7 scones per sheet and sprinkle scones with sparkling sugar before sliding into the upper third of the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, remove to cooling rack,  then bake the other sheet .  Using a spatula if needed, remove the first scones to a cooling rack to cool completely before icing, then do the same with the second sheet.

When scones are completely cool, mix up the glaze with a small whisk and drizzle quickly over cooled scones, using the whisk or a fork to make zig-zag lines.  Let dry completely before placing on a platter.   This made 14 scones.

I just got a new picture of our Izzie - who has grown SO much I can't believe it!  Minnesota seems to be agreeing with all of them  - and they are constantly biking or hiking, swimming or visiting museums, or taking the Light Rail trains, which Frankie is mad about.  And Noah? Mr. Tractor is finally walking and talking!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Normandy style creme fraiche

I first tasted this creme fraiche a few years ago, when my friend Mme. J, who grew up in Normandy, offered me a taste of her cold seafood salad.  It was chilled, fresh, and creamy, with a smooth sauce of some sort, which she identified as creme fraiche - but it was unlike any creme fraiche I had ever tried - and much better than mayonnaise.  When she offered me the recipe I grabbed a pen - she laughed and said it was very simple.  Equal parts heavy cream and sour cream, shaken in a jar and left on the counter overnight.

I make this a lot in the summer months, and actually prefer it to whipped cream on cold fruit salads and shortcakes.  I use it alongside cold poached fish or crabmeat, summer composed salads and pasta salads, as well, sometimes adding fresh minced herbs.  It has a fresh taste , unlike mayonnaise,  which is far saltier.  It has a smooth finish, without an aftertaste of lemon juice.

Normandy style creme fraiche

In a clean Mason jar measure :

1 cup heavy cream (I used Hood's)
1 cup sour cream (Hood's again)

Stir the creams briefly, then screw on the clean lid.  Tighten and shake for a minute or so, then place the jar on the counter.  Write the time you made it on the lid and let sit at least 12 hours.

Unscrew the lid and spoon out a taste - the creme should be very thick.  Store the jar in the fridge for up to a week.

After a lot of rain the last few days, it's a beautiful sunny day today - hooray for summer!

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!