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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!

Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce

Many years ago, we had a cookbook from Maine that had the most extraordinary apple pie recipe. It had a layer of crushed graham crackers and caramel sauce underneath the apples. We lost that cookbook in the move to our new kitchen, but every fall when the apples are being harvested I think back to this recipe. This year, I decided to re-create it in an apple crisp. It sure took less time than making a pie, but the flavor combination was there. 
 
For gluten-free cooking, try substituting gluten-free cookies for the graham crackers and brown rice flour for the flour. I think you might be pleased.
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Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
SERVINGS
9servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
50-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. ​​Lightly grease 8x8” square baking dish​
  2. Filling: Toss apples together with brown sugar, cinnamon,​ flour, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and the melted butter.
  3. Topping: Melt butter in a medium bowl and add all other topping ingredients. Mix until crumbly and evenly mixed.
  4. Sprinkle over apples and pat down lightly. Bake at 350º for about 30-40 minutes, until apples are soft​ and the filling bubbles and the crisp is golden.​​
  5. Meanwhile make Salted Caramel Sauce​: Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium​ saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. ​It's okay if the sugar begins to ​form clumps​-​ keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
  6. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, it will be around 350 degrees F.​ Watch this step very carefully!​
  7. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
  8. Slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will bubble up ferociously.
  9. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel ​or kosher salt ​and whisk to incorporate.
  10. Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour int​o jars. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
  11. ​Serve crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce.

Garden-Fresh Basil Buttermilk Dressing

Summer may officially be over, but some of our garden vegetables happily are refusing to acknowledge it as they continue to provide us with a daily abundance of fresh produce. Among our favorites are beautiful multi-colored tomatoes, not only gorgeous to behold but luscious to enjoy.

Likewise our herb gardens continue to thrive producing sturdy plants of vibrant green flavorful offerings to enhance our food. Basil a favorite of so many has become the ingredient of choice along with a few other seasonings to combine with fresh buttermilk as a special dressing for lovely sliced tomatoes.

A winner with many of our sisters and special guests, why not give it a try?

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Garden-Fresh Basil Buttermilk Dressing
SERVINGS
1cup (4-6 servings)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cup (4-6 servings)
COOK TIME
10mins
PREP TIME
5mins
READY IN
15mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Whisk buttermilk and mayonnaise in a bowl
  2. Transfer to a blender and add garlic, onion salt, and scallions. Blend until the scallions resemble finely minced pieces
  3. Add chopped basil and blend a few seconds more to combine
  4. Transfer back to the bowl and refrigerate (covered) overnight to allow flavors to develop
  5. Serve drizzled over freshly sliced tomatoes and enjoy!

Fairy Tale Eggplant Fans

This lovely and simple dish can be made with any size of eggplant! The inspiration for this dish came from a Facebook recipe video (with Russian directions) shared on Facebook by Peter Jermihov, the conductor for the recently released All Night Vigil, a collaborative recording between our choir, Gloriæ Dei Cantores, and members of three additional choirs. Facebook and Pinterest offer a wonderful way to connect with friends and to find recipes from different countries and cultures.

At this time of year, our garden is bursting with mini eggplants. Earlier in the season at planting time we received a donation of seeds for this specialty vegetable and it has indeed been a bumper crop. This dish can be prepared with a single eggplant for a personal size serving, or in a cast iron or ovenproof dish for a family as you see below. You may enjoy watching the video below which offers three additional ways to serve eggplant. Although the directions are in Russian, the pictures are universal! Once you have made the dish, you may want to share your picture with your Facebook fans and friends!

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Fairy Tale Eggplant Fans
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
25mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
40mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Starting at the thin end of the eggplant, slice each eggplant into 5 or more slices, leaving the eggplant connected at the top, to make a ‘fan.’
  3. Place several tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the skillet or dish and arrange the eggplant in a pinwheel pattern (see photo!).
  4. Slice buffalo or regular mozzarella thinly and place between each eggplant slice.
  5. Slice tomato thinly and add that to the mozzarella between each eggplant slice.
  6. Sprinkle salt and pepper over whole dish. Fresh basil (chop or chiffonade) can be added here if desired.
  7. Drizzle olive oil over the dish.
  8. Sprinkle shredded parmesan over entire dish.
  9. Bake at 400 for 15 - 25 minutes or until eggplant is soft and cooked through.

Garden Herb Focaccia Bread

It was 45 minutes till dinnertime, and we were in pretty good shape toward getting the meal completed and served on time (barring any unforeseen circumstances). No sooner had I had this thought, than one of our number spoke up excitedly and said, “Wouldn’t it be great to add fresh baked bread to the dinner?”

“Oh NO!” was my immediate response.

Provide fresh baked bread for 63 people in 45 minutes! I felt like one of the disciples when Jesus told them to feed the hungry multitude with one little boy’s lunch! However, knowing this sister as well as I did, I knew it was no use trying to discourage her from making this happen; once her heart was set on something, nothing was apt to change it, so no one even tried. The result? Fresh baked bread in less than 45 minutes, beautifully golden on the outside and perfectly textured and filled with fresh garden herbs inside…a miracle for all!

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Garden Herb Focaccia Bread
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
35mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
45mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 1/2 cup of the water; do not stir.
  3. Let stand 1-2 minutes or until the surface becomes bubbly.
  4. While yeast is bubbling, combine flour and table salt in a large bowl.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  6. Stir with wooden spoon or mixer, and add remaining 1/4 cup.
  7. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-7 minutes, adding small spoonfuls of flour if necessary.
  8. Spread dough into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place (low oven, heating pad) 10-15 minutes.
  9. Let rise in a warm place- about 80-85 degrees - until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
  10. Using the end of a wooden spoon, indent the dough every 1-2 inches.
  11. Combine remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil and herbs until leaves are broken up and oil is fragrant.
  12. Pour over dough. Rub gently into surface. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes, in a 375 degree oven.
  14. Let cool and cut into wedges.

Note: The speed of this bread is due to the quick rising in a warm place. I like using the oven light or a heating pad. If you don't have a warm place, no problem, just let it rise more slowly on your kitchen counter.

 

Grilled Honey Nectarines

Over the last week, we’ve been enjoying plucking the nectarines and peaches off of our trees and enjoying them in a variety of ways. One of our Sisters used to own a peach orchard and enjoys turning the bruised and moldy drops into the most delicious jam. As the peachy smell wafts through the Convent, I pop down to the kitchen to dip my spoon into the bubbly pot.  “Sister, this is SO delicious!” I purr, wishing I could bottle up this moment for eternity.  Summer is wonderful, because the simple beauty and naturalness of fruit and vegetables can stand alone without being covered up in heavy sauces just to be palatable.
Over this past weekend, I had fun grilling nectarines to accompany an herb rubbed grilled pork tenderloin for our Dinner Theater. Follow these simple steps and add a little nectar to your next savory dish — it’s a beautiful thing!
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Grilled Honey Nectarines (or Peaches)
SERVINGS
4servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
10mins
PREP TIME
READY IN
10mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat grill to 400 degrees F.
  2. Brush nectarines with olive oil on both sides
  3. Place nectarines face side down on grill
  4. Wait about 4-5 min, or until the nectarines "release" on their own from the grill and carefully turn over with tongs or long handled spatula
  5. Grill on the opposite side
  6. Remove from the grill and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with kosher salt
  7. Serve as a side to chicken, pork, turkey or with a spoonful of greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream for dessert

Mid-Summer Israeli Couscous Salad

If you were a Moroccan housewife planning a family meal, in all likelihood it would include couscous. This inexpensive yet highly nutritious food, often thought to be a grain, is actually made from wheat. Rich with religious and symbolic meanings, the making of it traditionally is a female activity during which prayers are said invoking blessings and prosperity.
It is a very time consuming, labor-intensive task involving much hand labor: sifting, rolling, and re-rolling again and again until granules of similar sizes appear. Then it is sun dried and stored until its time of cooking. Fortunately most of us can simply purchase it at any grocery store in its ready-to-cook form at any time and its popularity rapidly continues to increase in the food world.
As in many other countries it is served differently from one area  to another. My favorite way is simply hot with a little oil or butter and onion salt. However guests who had it at last weekend’s dinner theatre with many added seasonings and various vegetables and herbs as we are showing it today said it was the best ever!
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Mid-Summer Israeli Couscous Salad
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
30-40mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
45-55mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dressing by whisking 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and lemon peel in small bowl and put aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until most of couscous is godlen brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth, incease heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pot, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender (about 10 minutes). If couscous is not fully cooked and seems dry, add more broth by tablespoonfuls until couscous has cooked all the way through.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over high heat. Add remaining garlic, onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and sauté until tender (about 3 minutes).
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer vegetables to large bowl and add chopped mango.
  5. Add couscous to bowl with vegetables and mango. Drizzle with dressing and toss with chives and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.