Cookies are baking in Carla Hall’s kitchen. The 5-foot-eleven accountant-turned-model-turned chef almost forgets them as she shows visitors her century-old home’s original fireplace and still-working pocket doors. Then, graceful as a dancer, she leaps back to the kitchen to pluck the chocolate-cherry gems from the oven just in the nick of time.
Between catering events, teaching and special appearances, Hall seldom has time to cook at home. “What I like for dinner is what my husband Matthew cooks,” she quips, praising his red curry with chickpeas and potatoes. For breakfast during the week, Hall usually downs a smoothie or oatmeal with fruit. But on weekends, she insists, “I’m in charge of the pancakes.”
She and husband Matthew Lyons, an FDA attorney, recently remodeled their kitchen, working with kitchen designer Shimon Garibi to create a space that marries her taste for traditional with Lyons’s contemporary style. “I like neutral colors but, just like in my food, there’s always a surprise,” says Hall, who trained at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. “I call it ‘oompah.’”
CAN’T COOK WITHOUT
A good stove; plenty of counter space, drawers and cabinets; a raised hood to accommodate her height; deep sink.
ALWAYS IN KITCHEN
Plugrá butter; eggs from the farmer’s market; olive oil.
Sea bass en papillote with roasted tomatoes, capers and gremolata butter.
The launch of the made-to-order Cookie Collection from Alchemy Catering, available online.
STYLING: Ugo Arinzeh, Arinzeh Interiors, Washington, DC .KITCHEN DESIGN: Shimon Garibi, Elite Kitchens, Rockville, MD. CABINETS: Leicht. STOVE: KitchenAid. REFRIGERATOR: Fisher & Paykel. BACKSPLASH: Oceanside Glasstile through Architectural Ceramics. FLOORING: Porcelain tile through Architectural Ceramics. COUNTERTOPS: Silestone.
CARLA HALL'S FAVORITE RECIPES
Vegetable Tagine with Pistachio and Candied Orange Couscous and Cucumber Sour Cream
When preparing a recipe of a particular cuisine, it helps to know what spices are used in that cuisine. In this case, we're using a Moroccan profile (red pepper, cumin seed, coriander, mint, saffron, anise, cardamom, cinnamon). Now that you have the framework, let your imagination go wild.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups diced tomatoes (roasted, if you find them)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
3 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups each (butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips), diced
1/2 cup diced kalamata olives
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add the onions and cook until soft and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until aromatic, about one minute. Add the spices (cumin, coriander, anise, cayenne, salt, pepper and cinnamon.) Cook until the onions are coated and the spices are nicely toasted.
2. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, bay leaves and chickpeas; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes.
3. While the base of the stew is cooking, heat a large skillet to sauté the vegetables. Toss each vegetable in olive oil and salt. In small batches, sauté the vegetables until they are nicely seared. Add them to the pot as they are finished. NOTE: Start with butternut squash, since it will take the longest to cook.
4. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are nearly tender, about 30 minutes. Add the lemon zest and continue to simmer an additional 15 minutes.
5. Sprinkle with parsley and cilantro, and serve over couscous.
Pistachio and Candied Orange Couscous
2 cups boiling stock (vegetable or chicken)
2 cups couscous
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pistachios
1/2 cup candied orange peel
2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1. In a medium bowl, mix couscous, salt and olive oil. Pour boiling stock over couscous and mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Use a fork to break up couscous.
2. Stir in pistachios, orange peel, mint, parsley, and lemon zest. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Cucumber Sour Cream
1/2 European cucumber, finely diced (not peeled)
8 ounces sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, then season to taste. Chill before serving.
Vadouvan Carrot Soup with Chili Oil
Serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled, sliced
1 rib celery
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons Vadouvan spice mix (see below)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup chilled whipping cream
1. Heat oil on medium-low heat in medium-sized pot. Add carrots, celery, onions, leeks and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Pour in stock and add Vadouvan spice blend. Add lemon juice and sugar. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes
3. Remove pot from heat. In small batches, purée soup in a blender until silky smooth. Return soup to pot and finish with cream. Thin to desired consistency with additional broth, if necessary. Adjust seasoning.
8 ounces vegetable oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 dried chilies
Sauté red pepper in one tablespoon of oil. Add dried chilies and smoked paprika. Pour in remaining oil and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Season with salt. Purée until smooth in blender. Strain through cheesecloth into medium bowl. Store in squeeze bottle.
Vadouvan Spice Mix
2 pounds onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound shallots, halved
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curry leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Pulse onions in 3 batches in food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with shallots, then garlic.
3. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then sauté onions, shallots and garlic (stir often) until golden and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Grind fenugreek seeds in grinder or with mortar and pestle. Add to onion mixture along with remaining ingredients, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and stir until combined.
5. Transfer to a parchment-paper lined sheet pan and spread as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake, stirring occasionally with a skewer to separate onion, until well browned and barely moist, about one hour to 75 minutes.
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