Since the 1970’s, we have prepared hundreds (if not thousands!) of meals here at the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod, and at our mission house, Villa Via Sacra, in Barga, Italy. We believe that food nourishes body, soul, and spirit, and that even the simplest meal, prepared with love, can change your life. At the heart of our call to kitchen and table lie the words of Saint Benedict: “Welcome all as Christ.” This premise has led us on many culinary adventures, which we now gladly share with you!
With the holidays just around the corner, you might be looking for a new and unusual crowd-pleasing side dish to wow your guests. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, introduced to me by Tessa Kiros in her wonderful cookbook: Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book. She introduces the readers to the twelve months of Tuscan cooking and seasonal ingredients. When I’ve served at our mission house in Tuscany, I would cook through this book and this recipe became one of our house favorites. As Tessa says, “pastry-less baked vegetable pies are very common and are made with various vegetables depending on the season, such as green beans, artichokes and spinach.” You can also use broccoli in place of cauliflower.
We just served this last night for the opening to our Gregorian Chant Retreat and received great compliments. This would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you want to make it gluten free, just substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour in the the béchamel sauce.
Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees/ Wash the cauliflower and trim away the hard stem. Put it into a pot of boiling salted water and boil for about 10 min. or until it has softened.
- Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce:
1) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
2) Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
3) Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
- Drain the cauliflower and chop it up finely or roughly puree it. Put into a bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 cups béchamel, parmesan cheese, a grating of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, adjusting if necessary. Mix well with wooden spoon.
- Butter an oven dish or loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs to line the pan, shaking away the excess (use gluten free breadcrumbs if making gluten free). Pour in the mixture and sprinkle the surface with the remaining breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.
On our return from town yesterday we were driving down Rock Harbor Road when suddenly, without any notice, up from a woodsy space alongside of the road emerged a huge dark wild turkey. With his enormous tail fully outspread he “took” the stage strutting across the road, with great pomp and confidence. Everyone gasped and our driver jammed on the brakes just in time to avoid running into the rest of the family of 8, which followed the man of the family in very deliberate and perfectly choreographed form.
A not so subtle reminder to start preparing for the holiday ahead!
- Fit a food processor with the center blade, and chop up the cranberries. The pieces should resemble minced cranberry. Put aside in a bowl.
- Put the orange half—including the peel—in the processor and chop it as with the cranberries and add this to the bowl of processed cranberries.
- Add the sugar (or Jello mix) and stir well to combine.
- Put relish in a bowl and cover tightly in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Serve this and colorful relish with turkey, chicken or ham this holiday season—a fresh and easy sidekick to any holiday table!
With all the meals we were serving in quick succession over this past weekend, we looked for a few vegetable recipes that could easily be prepared ahead but still maintain their beauty and freshness. We were so happy with the results of this asparagus dish. It was definitely a keeper – perfect for Christmas or even Easter! Never too early to start planning ahead! Asparagus Cordon Bleu is easy and a lovely addition for a dinner party or any holiday. It can be easily assembled in advance and popped in the oven shortly before serving.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking dish by brushing with melted butter or olive oil
- Prepare an ice bath. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of salt. Drop the asparagus into the salted water. Cook 15-30 seconds or until asparagus turns bright green. Remove and immediately drop into the ice bath. Let cool thoroughly then pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Divide the asparagus into six even bundles. Wrap each in the prosciutto and place in the prepared baking dish.
- Top with grated cheese.
- Bake for 10-15 min. until cheese is melted
- Meanwhile, combine butter and panko in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden.
- Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Can be prepared 24 hours in advance. Assemble and refrigerate. When ready to bake, preheat oven and bake per directions, holding panko to add later.
Recipe adapted from achefskitchen.com
We have had a wonderful summer with food, creating a wide variety of unusual fresh salads of all sorts, interesting new chilled soups, and great ribs, chicken, burgers, and other meats from the grill. Now people are remembering the savory heartwarming dishes of cooler weather, expressing their desire for savory seasonal favorites of the Fall.
Right now I am torn between wanting to serve a great pot roast, while at the same time thinking how happy many people would be to enjoy a tasty old fashioned Shepherd’s Pie…so we do both! For today, we’ll make a great pot roast doubling the amount we would usually cook, and saving the meat for a delicious Shepherd’s Pie in a few days’ time.
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F
- Generously salt and pepper the chuck roast
- Heat the olive oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the halved onions to the pot, browning them on both sides. Remove the onions and set aside.
- Put the carrots into the same pot and toss them until slightly browned, about a minute, and set aside the carrots with the onions.
- Add a bit more olive oil to the pot and place the meat in the pot and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is brown all over. Remove the meat to a plate.
- Deglaze the pot with either red wine or beef broth—about 1 cup—scraping the bottom with a whisk. Place the meat back into the pot and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway.
- Add the onions and the carrots, and fresh herbs.
- Cover pot and roast, about 1 hour per pound of meat. The roast is ready when it can be pulled apart with a fork.
Optional: Top with mashed potatoes and freshly steamed broccoli
- Boil 6 baking potatoes in salted water until fork tender
- Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.
- In a small bowl, mix 2 cups of sour cream, 2 cups of milk and add to the pot of boiled potatoes.
- Mash potatoes with a hand masher, hand held beater or an electric mixer
- Spread potatoes over the meat, sprinkle with Paprika and broil 5-10 minutes.
- Add steamed broccoli and serve warm.
As we finished harvesting all of our winter squash for the season, it only felt appropriate to take a few inside and enjoy a lovely, warm bisque that has all the flavors of fall. By roasting the squash along with all the spices and sugar in this recipe, you’ll bring alive the essential oils buried in them and caramelizing the squash at the same time—achieving a depth of flavor you can’t get by starting this on the stove top.
We are busy bustling around and getting ready for our Arts in Celebration weekend, but remembering how important it is to balance our life with the simple pleasures that God gives us. We do hope you will consider joining us over this next week to experience beauty and the arts, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Ginger Bisque
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Prepare butternut squash and toss in a bowl with 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar
- Spread squash on two parchment or foil lined baking trays and roast in oven for 30 - 35 min. or until tender when pierced with a fork (stirring occasionally).
- While the squash is roasting, prepare your leeks and pears. Place the sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any excess dirt, then remove.
- Heat a large dutch oven with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Saute leeks over medium heat until golden and soft. Add pears and then the roasted butternut squash, scraping all the goodness off the pan.
- Add the broth and bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 min.
- Remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
- Adjust seasonings (add additional 1 tsp. salt) and cream, milk (or additional stock) to the consistency you prefer.
- Serve warm, enjoying the flavors of fall!
“Nothing that’s been given to us should ever be allowed to go to waste.” This has been a strong emphasis in the sisterhood from its earliest days. “No apple drop that has any edible part should be tossed. It should be turned into applesauce or butter.”
One convent sister in particular has a strong passion for turning all of our imperfect fruits into creative preserves. All summer long we have enjoyed a variety of jams and spreads on our breakfast toast, and occasional desserts. Plums, nectarines, peaches, apples have each in their season made their appearance in different forms.
But perhaps the choicest of all was the rich creation that appeared this week and disappeared within days. Made with the last of our pears and laced with rich bourbon this superb pear chutney elevated an already elegant pork loin roast into a spectacular sensation. Yesterday’s lunch cook served it alongside of ham and swiss pinwheels—always a favorite just as they are on their own…over the top with this enhancement!
It suddenly occurs to me that little jars of this would make choice Christmas gifts. Give it a try and see what you think.
- Combine all ingredients in a heavy pot. A Dutch oven or a cast iron pot works well.
- Bring ingredients to a boil, stirring often.
- Reduce heat and let simmer for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
- Serve as a condiment on the side, warm on pork or chicken, or dress up a deli ham sandwich. Enjoy!