“Spring is on the way!” the kitchen sister sings. Outside the convent door the crocuses agree and now tonight’s evening meal reflects the happy thought by bringing a touch of Spring to the dinner table. During this Lenten season we have been serving lighter meals which have included a wide variety of new soups — mostly vegetable-based and surprisingly successful and satisfying. Our brand new fresh green pea soup is making its debut tonight and we shall see how it tastes.
Today in the bush outside my window I saw a baby robin and now there’s not a doubt that Spring is on its way!
- Sautee onion, celery and garlic in a large pot.
- Dissolve the vegetable stock in the water and add to pot with onion, celery and garlic.
- Add the peas and stir occasionally, bringing everything to a boil.
- Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- When peas are tender, remove from heat and let cool.
- Add mint leaves to the soup and blend with either an immersion blender, or in batches in a counter-top blender.
- Serve either warm or cold and garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.
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.
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
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!
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!
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- 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.’
- Place several tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the skillet or dish and arrange the eggplant in a pinwheel pattern (see photo!).
- Slice buffalo or regular mozzarella thinly and place between each eggplant slice.
- Slice tomato thinly and add that to the mozzarella between each eggplant slice.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over whole dish. Fresh basil (chop or chiffonade) can be added here if desired.
- Drizzle olive oil over the dish.
- Sprinkle shredded parmesan over entire dish.
- Bake at 400 for 15 - 25 minutes or until eggplant is soft and cooked through.
One of the most popular events offered to the public here at the Community of Jesus at this time of the year is our summer dinner theatre.
Interest in this continues to increase every season, which is not surprising. Eating a splendid, perfectly prepared meal out on the patio overlooking the harbor, just in itself, provides a most enjoyable and memorable evening, but having that as well as a spectacular dramatic performance in Paraclete House following it is an exceptional experience in every way.
Today one of the cooking sisters has been perfecting a recipe for the appetizer course of this week’s dinner menu. I came upon her in the kitchen as she was carving up a magnificent watermelon to go into this zesty chilled gazpacho, a refreshing flavorful creation. You yourself may want to consider serving for some meal in the near future!
This delicious meal will accompany Elements Theatre Company’s performance of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney. Follow this link to learn more about the show, and reserve your tickets! https://elementstheatre.org/sylvia/
- Coarsely chop cucumbers, yellow pepper, red onion, basil and parsley. Combine with cubed watermelon and cherry tomatoes.
- Working in batches, put a few cups of ingredients in the blender or food processor to combine. An immersion blender works for this process as well!
- Blend ingredients until just before gazpacho is completely smooth—there should be small pieces of pepper, tomato and herbs visible in the gazpacho.
- Chill overnight or in the freezer for an hour, stirring occasionally. This can be served with a garnish of diced yellow peppers on top. Serve chilled and enjoy a refreshing twist on a summer classic! We recommend pouring the gazpacho into bowls and chilling the bowls in the refrigerator prior to serving.