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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!

Cran-Apple Compote with Meringue and Caramel Sauce

I had just finished my evening rituals with Gratsie (my Maine Coon cat) and was about to leave the family room when our guest cook sister entered the room waving her camera at me with a look in her eye that told me she was pleased with something she wanted to show me…

With one innovative idea she had succeeded in transforming our popular summer tart into a Fall/Winter version using apples and cranberries laced with caramel sauce, replacing the usual summer strawberries, peaches and nectarines.

A graceful (and delicious) transition from one season to another with an amazing result! We both smiled as the cat swished her tail, and we all went to bed purring.

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Cran-Apple Compote with Meringue and Caramel Sauce
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
2hrs
PREP TIME
35mins
READY IN
2 hrs35 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

Meringue
  1. Separate one egg at a time into a small bowl, letting the white fall into the bowl and discarding the yolk. If there’s any trace of yolk in the white, discard the white and start over. If it’s yolk-free, transfer to a clean medium mixing bowl. Repeat with the remaining 2 eggs.
  2. Add cream of tartar to the whites and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
  3. Slowly add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar has been added. Continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds more.
  4. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place a small amount of the meringue under each corner of the paper to secure it to the pan.
  6. Fill a 1-quart sealable plastic bag (or pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip) with the meringue. Seal the bag almost completely, leaving a small opening for air to escape from the top as you squeeze.
  7. Snip off one corner of the bag with scissors, making a 3/4-inch-wide opening. Fold the top of the bag over a few times, then gently push the meringue down to the snipped corner.
  8. Working with the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe the meringue into 2-inch-diameter tarts, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.
  9. Bake the tarts until dry and crisp throughout, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the tarts cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Apple-Cranberry Compote
  1. Peel and chop the apples of your choice. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning and set aside. For this recipe, we used Golden Delicious.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and add the chopped apples on medium heat.
  3. Add the sugar and seasonings to the apples and cook until fork-tender. Keep an eye on the apples and sugar, reduce heat if needed. The sugar should melt into a consistency similar to syrup. Turn the heat down if sugar starts to caramelize.
  4. Add the whole cranberries and cook a few minutes more until the cranberries start to burst. If you prefer, cook a bit longer to cook the cranberries a little more, adding sugar as necessary, depending on how tart the berries are.
  5. Remove from heat, set aside and arrange the meringues on a plate or serving platter.
  6. Gently heat the caramel sauce and spoon into the center of the meringue, tumbling the Cran-Apple compote on top. Drizzle with extra caramel sauce if desired.
  7. Serve at room-temperature and pair this tangy-sweet seasonal dessert with a steaming cup of tea, coffee or pressed cider!

Serve with your favorite Caramel Sauce!

Mini Puff Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Fresh Blueberries

One of my favorite meals to make is breakfast. In our guest house, breakfast is a veritable feast and a pleasure for the eyes. Our latest twist on puff pancakes (or dutch babies) made their debut on a cold fall morning. There’s nothing like bringing a little sunshine to the table to brighten up one’s day. Surprise your loved one with this easy breakfast made for two!

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Mini Puff Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Fresh Blueberries
SERVINGS
2-4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
25mins
PREP TIME
5mins
READY IN
30mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425º F (220ºC)
  2. Add eggs, flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and lemon zest to a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Place butter in two heavy cast iron skillets (5-6" in width) (or one large skillet) and place in the oven until butter has melted. Pour half the batter into each pan, return them to oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pancakes are puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake five minutes longer.
  4. Remove pancakes from oven, serve individually if using mini skillets, or cut larger dutch baby into wedges and top with a spoonful or two of lemon curd and blueberries and a dusting of confectioners sugar. If desired, garnish with lemon slices and a sprig of fresh mint.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Our Gregorian Chant Retreat has just come to a close today, ending on a very positive and productive note, with a number of first timers wanting to return! Always a rewarding finale to any retreat.

In addition to the new faces in attendance were a number of new menus that brought many sincere compliments from the eaters. One of the new dishes was this warm autumn salad, featuring golden roasted butternut squash topped with smooth soft goat cheese.

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Warm Goat Cheese Salad
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15-20mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
25-30mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine butternut squash, pecans, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and brown sugar.
  2. Spread on rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and cool on pan.
  4. Assemble salad by topping mixed greens with squash mixture, dried cranberries, goat cheese, and green onions.
  5. Drizzle with maple mustard vinaigrette.

Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)

​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.

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Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
55mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 3​50 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.

Fresh Cranberry Relish

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!

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Fresh Cranberry Relish
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
10mins
PREP TIME
5mins
READY IN
15mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Fit a food processor with the center blade, and chop up the cranberries. The pieces should resemble minced cranberry. Put aside in a bowl.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the sugar (or Jello mix) and stir well to combine.
  4. Put relish in a bowl and cover tightly in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Serve this and colorful relish with turkey, chicken or ham this holiday season—a fresh and easy sidekick to any holiday table!

Asparagus Cordon Bleu

​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.

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Asparagus Cordon Bleu
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
20mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
35mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking dish by brushing with melted butter or olive oil
  2. 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.
  3. Divide the asparagus into six even bundles. Wrap each in the prosciutto and place in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Top with grated cheese.
  5. Bake for 10-15 min. until cheese is melted
  6. 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.
  7. 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