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!
Most of the sisters enjoy having falafels whenever they are put on the menu, but we have one sister who absolutely loves them. Just mention the word…her eyes light up, her face beams, and she’s ready to reach for the garbanzos to whip some up! “How did you acquire such a passion for them?” I asked. This was her reply:
“Picture,” she said “a dusty winding street in the heart of Jerusalem that leads to an intriguing shop. The walls are covered with hand-woven rugs, and the atmosphere is alive and warm with people sitting all around on the floor on cushions sipping mugs of tea and eating falafels. Here it was that I first fell in love with them.”
Well, you may not be able to go all the way to the Holy Land to become acquainted with this food, but you may learn to love it yourself by trying out this simple recipe right here at home as so many of us have!
- Blend together egg, onion, cumin, salt and pepper and fresh parsley.
- In a separate bowl, coarsely mash the cooked garbanzo beans, leaving some whole.
- Add egg mixture to garbanzo beans. Stir in ½ cup panko crumbs, and chill for 10 minutes.
- Remove garbanzo beans from the refrigerator and form into a ball, using about 1 tablespoon per ball. Roll in remaining panko crumbs.
- Fill a deep sided skillet with 1 inch of oil, and heat over a medium-high heat.
- Gently drop the falafel balls into the oil and fry until golden, turning occasionally for about 6 minutes. Remove falafel balls from oil and set on a paper towel to drain.
- Serve in a pita pocket with shredded cabbage or lettuce and a savory dressing, top a garden salad, or just eat it plain alongside vegetables, and enjoy!
We continue to enjoy the harvest from our gardens over these summer months. This week we had an abundance of beautiful lettuce, so we expanded our repertoire and tried out some new combinations for our guests at Bethany. The crisp, salty, creaminess of the fried goat cheese paired with the sweet and pungent combination of the blackberry balsamic vinaigrette is the key here. Summer is a wonderful time to experiment with all sorts of combinations in a salad. “The colors of a fresh garden salad are so extraordinary, no painter’s pallet can duplicate nature’s artistry.” Have fun creating, eating, sharing, and enjoying nature’s storehouse!
Blackberry Balsamic Salad with Crispy Fried Goat Cheese and Grilled Chicken
Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- Mix everything well in the blender until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Fried Goat Cheese
- Dredge the goat cheese slices/balls in the flour
- Dip in the beaten egg
- Dip in panko
- Fry in oil over medium heat until lightly golden brown before setting aside on paper towels to drain.
- Marinate the chicken in half of the vinaigrette for 30 minutes to over night before grilling over medium-high heat until golden and cooked through, about 2-5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool and slice.
- Assemble the salad and enjoy!
Note: Best enjoyed while the fried goat cheese is still warm from frying!
Looking for a gift for someone who has everything? Something a bit out of the ordinary that doesn’t come out of a catalog or off of the internet? A gift that will express care and best wishes for the person in a way they may appreciate more than a costly, beautifully wrapped package?
Here’s a suggestion: How about a lovely personalized tea? “Just for two” — or for whatever number of others you know they’d enjoy having it with! Either indoors or outdoors, fancy and elegant, or simple and casual. You’d be surprised at the response you’re apt to get. because it’s a gift for all ages! Young and old and in between… My 12-year-old godchild looks forward to her annual birthday tea every year as much as she did the first time one was given to her at age 7. I know several 80-year-olds who no longer feel up to participating in many activities they used to enjoy, yet, at the mention of a tea, immediately brighten up summoning energy and enthusiasm from some unknown source.
Perhaps this recipe may inspire you with your own ideas for something similar. Just the planning and preparation of such a gift can turn out to be a gift to yourself as you find unexpected enjoyment in creating and preparing it for someone else!
- For each avocado half: mix together 1/4 cup of crumbled crabmeat, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a pinch of onion salt, and fresh lemon juice (to taste).
- Adjust ingredients to desired taste, and add a sprinkle of lemon zest and chopped parsley for garnish. Spoon into avocado half and serve!
To me, the perfect sandwich is one that awakens all the senses at once: the crunch of the lettuce, the creaminess of the cheese, the zip of the spice, and the smokiness of the grill. This recipe fits that bill and has become our favorite summer ‘go-to’ sandwich. It’s a feast for the eyes and easy to prepare, packed with flavor. If you can’t get to Italy this summer, let Italy come to you!
This week, we have five young women working as sous-chefs in our kitchen to help us with a week-long retreat. They’ve had some great lessons as they’ve learned how to: pick the proper herbs, chiffonade basil, properly dice tomatoes (yes, it’s a technique!), grill chicken so it is moist and delicious, and many others. I expect them to return to their families with some great new recipes and skills at the end of this week. We hope you enjoy this sandwich for one of your functions this summer. It’s going to be a staple on our menu!
Tip: make a jar of the pesto sauce to have on hand in the freezer any time you need it!
Summer Grilled Chicken and Bruschetta Sandwich
- Make bruschetta topping: in a medium sized bowl. Combine the red onions, garlic, tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil, oregano, and basil. Set bruschetta to the side. Drain slightly before using.
- Grill your chicken: season with salt and pepper and rub with about 1 tsp. of olive oil and grill over low flame until 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Meat is ready to turn when it no longer sticks to the grill. Do not overcook
- Split your rolls in half then stack back together, lay on a sheet pan and toast for 5 min in a 350 degree oven.
- To assemble, spread pesto sauce on each half of the roll, then layer with lettuce or arugula, mozzarella, grilled chicken then drizzle with balsamic reduction and top with the bruschetta topping. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately.
There are certain tastes and flavors that never leave our memories no matter how much time may have passed since we first experienced them. Such is the case with me and the aromatic Greek rice my mother so often made for our family when I was growing up.
As with almost all of her cooking, she seldom, if ever, referred to a recipe. She simply relied on an innate sense that never seemed to fail her. One of my favorite foods she frequently made in this manner was this garlic flavored rice. Here’s what she did: Into a favorite skillet she simply poured some olive oil, heated for a minute or so, added some dry rice, few cloves of fresh garlic, let it sizzle, then a few cups of water pinch of salt and a generous fistful of fresh chopped parsley, lowered the heat, put the lid on, and left it alone till she was ready to serve it to us.
We loved this with lamb which we often had, and also enjoyed having it as the stuffing for a whole roast chicken.
- Heat olive oil in skillet until hot, add dry rice and stir until it becomes slightly golden.
- Add garlic cloves and let cook until softened, crush with fork; add water, and parsley.
- Cover tightly and let slowly simmer till desired doneness. Add pepper to taste.
“When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the Angels eat.” —Mark Twain
Have you ever wondered how to pick that perfect watermelon? Well, I have! Faced with a bin of green striped beauties, I never quite know where to start. Let me share some tips with you that I recently discovered, and then go andmake this delicious and refreshing Watermelon, Mint, Blueberry and Feta Salad — a great side dish for a hot summer day.
1. When viewing watermelons, the first thing that sticks out are those weird white spots. However, these spots, called field spots, are quite natural. The field spot is the area where the watermelon rested on the ground. While every watermelon has a field spot, the best watermelons have creamy-yellow or even orange-yellow spots. Go for the gold.
2. The webbing of a watermelon indicates the amount of times that bees touched the flower. The more pollination, the sweeter the watermelon is.
3. Watermelons have genders. The “girl” watermelons are more round and stout — theseare the sweeter ones. The male are oblong and tend to be more watery.
4. The best watermelons are average-sized. Don’t go for too small or too big, but just right.
5. The tail of a watermelon indicates its ripeness. Go for the watermelons that have dried tails for the best taste.
6. Tap the underbelly of the watermelon. A ripe one will have a deep hollow sound. Under-ripe or over-ripe melons will sound dull.
Blueberry, Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
- In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and diced red onion.
- Add the diced watermelon, blueberries, mint and feta cheese to bowl. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.