“Sr. Irene, you just have to taste this!” came a cry from the kitchen. One of our special event cooks had just tried out a new appetizer for an upcoming reception. I could tell from the sound of her voice she was quite happy with it.
“Be there in a minute,” I responded, unable to leave just then. The next day one of the kitchen sisters asked, “Wasn’t that new appetizer just the best?”
Oh no! How could I have forgotten? I chastened myself, vowing to get to the kitchen before the end of the day. When I finally arrived with much embarrassment and was able to locate and ravenously devour the one and only “Tasting Sample” that was left, I could only groan. The caramelized tomato bruschetta with fresh garden pesto was beyond delicious. Why oh why didn’t I get myself there the moment I was first called!
A savory twist on a summer classic, this bruschetta is a great way to enjoy both fresh garden tomatoes and basil!
Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the tomatoes into 1/3 inch slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.
- Place on a cookie sheet or sheet pan and roast in the oven until tomatoes turn a light to medium brown and the sugar is visually caramelized.
- While tomatoes are roasting, brush the flat bread with oil and spread the pesto overtop, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- When tomatoes are finished, carefully remove them from the pan and arrange on top of the pesto and cheese. This is a delicate process as the tomatoes are likely to fall apart after roasting.
- Serve with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and enjoy a taste of summer!
Time to get out the grill and put those fresh garden veggies to good use. This is a terrific recipe that makes a lovely party platter in a matter of minutes.
Eggplant, peppers, zucchini, asparagus, and red onions – marinated and grilled till soft on the inside and charred on the outside, then doused in garlicky marinade, and served with whipped goat cheese on the side.
Marinated Grilled Vegetable Platter with Whipped Goat Cheese
- Cut eggplants, onions, and zucchini in 1/4-inch thick slices.
- Salt the eggplant slices, and leave in a colander for 20 minutes so the bitter juices drain out. Rinse and pet dry.
- Wash the peppers, and leave whole.
- Wash the asparagus, and cut the woody ends.
- Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, garlic and chopped oregano, with onion salt and black pepper, and brush all vegetables liberally with the marinade.
- Grill veggies on medium heat, turning them over once or twice.
- Remove the charred outer skin from the peppers by rubbing off- slice the pepper in half, remove seeds and then continue slicing the peppers lengthwise into 1” slices. Set aside until ready to assemble.
- Remove the remaining vegetables to a plate and drizzle with the remaining marinade and more fresh oregano. Add more garlic if needed - they should have a distinct garlicky, tangy taste.
- With an electric mixer beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the goat cheese, and smashed garlic, and a pinch of salt, then beat until fluffy.
- Arrange the vegetables decoratively on a platter and serve with the whipped goat cheese on the side.
Place left over veggies in a container and pour over a marinade of equal parts apple cider vinegar and olive oil, plus lots of pressed garlic and salt. They will taste great the next day, and will keep in the fridge for a long time.
Recipe adapted from www.victoriastable.com
One of the beautiful things that I am learning about Italian cooking is that each ingredient is to be savored. So many times, we take wonderful ingredients and throw them all together and miss appreciating them as they were meant to be.
As I walk along the streets of Barga with the dogs in the morning or on my way to the Pannificio to get our bread for the day, I often take photographs of the menus hanging on the restaurant windows. When I return to the Villa and have a moment, I try to find a recipe and recreate them.
A featured item on the menu in the Garfagnana district, and much of Tuscany, is Pecorino pere e miele – Pecorino with pears and honey. Pecorino is a cheese made from sheep’s milk and each district or town here is very proud of their own version of the cheese. The taste of the cheese changes depending on what type of grass the sheep are fed and how the cheese is aged. Most popular and well known are those produced in Sardinia. A good Pecorino Stagionato is often the finish of a meal, served with pears and walnuts and drizzled with a strong chestnut honey or one of the lighter acacia honeys farmed locally. Their food is simple, but in this simplicity can be found tremendous beauty and taste. Savor the moment.
- 1 pears
- 4-5 oz. pecorino fresco, semi-stagionato or stagionato (fresco is a mild and soft form, semi-stationato is also soft but sharper and stagionato is the hardest and sharpest form)
- 1/4 cup honey
- walnuts either in the shell or toasted halves - as many as you prefer
- Slice the pear in quarters from top to bottom and remove the core carefully with a pairing knife. Then slice each quarter into three or four thin slices, depending on the thickness you prefer.
- Slice the cheese into small thin wedges.
- Fan the pears on the cutting board or serving plate with the cheese slices in between the pear.
- Set a dish of honey in the center of the board and place your walnuts around.
- Enjoy sharing this with your friends and family. Andiamo mangiare!
Easter! A day of joy! A day of celebration! That’s why we have been planning a festive Easter Sunday brunch this year. And that’s why we have been experimenting with a number of fresh new ideas to make this an uplifting meal of praise and thanksgiving that will set the tone for the week ahead.
One of the new dishes we put together is a colorful asparagus fritatta. This starts with a tasty potato and onion crust that is filled with a mixture of eggs, cheese, and bacon bits, and then topped with fresh asparagus spears, strips of zucchini, and colorful peppers. To dress it up we garnished it with a couple of crisp bacon curls. We were very pleased with its appearance and we loved its combination of flavors. It is definitely now on our menu, and I am almost certain once it has made its debut in the convent on Easter Sunday it will return for many repeat performances in the days ahead — not only as a brunch or breakfast dish, but as a lovely spring lunch or light supper.
Festive Asparagus Frittata
- Drizzle oil over the base of a 9 inch quiche dish, then spread with onions and top with potato slices.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until potato is tender.
- Steam asparagus until tender.
- Arrange asparagus spears and red pepper and zucchini strips like the spokes of a wheel onto top of potato, then pour over eggs and season with black pepper to taste.
- Scatter with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until frittata is firm.
Recently four of our young sisters were invited to a neighbor’s house in our community for a special dinner. The next day when I asked, “So how was the dinner?”
the response was, “Phenomenal!” That didn’t surprise me knowing that the menu had featured a choice tenderloin of beef, which they all liked and
we rarely have at the Convent. What did surprise and amuse me was that each of them individually wanted to tell me about one special dish
that had put the meal “over the top” and sent it “out of the park.”
This was a savory bread pudding that included leeks, fresh mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, pancetta, and sherry. Well then, why wouldn’t that
impress anyone as a phenomenal dish? And because our brave leeks are still holding their own out in the garden, why shouldn’t we give
it a try here at home? Well, we did, and sure enough it scored a home run with the whole sisterhood. Why not try it yourself and see
what kind of a rating it gets at your house?
Phenomenal Savory Bread Pudding
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender.
- Stir in the mushrooms, sherry, 1 tablespoon onion salt and 11/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere.
- Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid.
- Stir well and pour into a 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.
Winter has finally hit Cape Cod. With our first snow flurry and single digit temperatures, I felt it was time to create new twists on some old recipes, to warm and delight the cockles of our guests’ hearts: a summer favorite bundled up and served on a puddle of roasted red pepper sauce, giving it just that bit of flair. From the comments I heard, I believe we struck it right with this recipe.
Hot Chicken Salad Bundles with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Prepare the Chicken Salad
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Mix all of the chicken salad ingredients together in a bowl and set aside
- Roll out two puff pastry sheets to 11 x 11” and cut into 2- 5 x5 “ squares (removing one inch of the border – the pastry needs to be this measurement to be thin enough)
- In the center of the square put about a ½ cup of chicken salad and draw the sides up to create a bundle, twisting and pinching the top to secure.
- Place the bundles on a parchment lined pan and brush with egg wash
- Cook for about 15 min. or until golden and cooked through
Meanwhile prepare the pepper sauce
- Heat the oil in a saute pan.
- Add the shallot and cook until soft.
- De-glaze the pan with white wine and cook 1 minute longer
- Add the stock and the drained roasted red peppers. Cook 5 min.
- Cool slightly, and puree in the blender
- Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper and transfer to a small saucepan to reheat a few minutes before serving.