Being a Benedictine House, we start our day with the office of Lauds followed by Eucharist. As I left the service today, I was struck by just how many years Monasticism has existed and thrived, and how blessed I was to be a part of a living organism that has withstood the passage of time and changed the world in the process.
As I passed through our atrium, I was met with the lovely singing of birds. With the cold winter we’ve had, this promise of spring was a delight to my ears and got me itching to create a light new soup that was both colorful and tasty. I set out for the kitchen to create just that.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, sautee leeks, garlic, and thyme in the butter and olive oil until softened- about eight minutes.
Add diced potato and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the potatoes begin to take on a slightly translucent hue. Meanwhile, prepare asparagus by snapping off the ends and peeling the sides with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1" pieces.
Add broccoli florets to your stock pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add prepared asparagus pieces and cover with 8 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken, whichever you prefer). Stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover your pot and cook until your vegetables are tender about 10 min.
After 10 minutes, uncover the pot, turn off the heat and add the spinach. Allow to sit for an additional five minutes.
Cool slightly, and puree using an immersion blender or a countertop blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more broth to achieve the desired thickness or add some cream. Re-heat and serve. Makes 14 cups of soup.
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.
The crispness of fall is all around us. This past Monday, the Sisters rose early to put our gardens to bed for the winter. It’s always bittersweet for me, as working in the earth, getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of our labor and God’s creative act are moments that I treasure. We decided not to put our “chef garden” to bed, as the tomatoes, chard, beets and kale are still growing, and a late crop of peas is sprouting their heads above the earth. So, as a tribute to summer, I wanted to share this wonderful recipe with you. You can use any vegetables for grilling, so don’t feel limited by the ingredients here. If you’re anything like me, your grill stays outside until it snows! Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and enjoy.
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Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Grilled Vegetables
Marinate chicken with pesto, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt at least 1 hour, or overnight for best results.
Mix oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl.
Heat a grill over medium-high, be sure grates are clean and well oiled to prevent sticking.
Brush oil on each side of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Put vegetables on 1 large grill tray or directly on grill, and cook, turning constantly until the vegetables are cooked and golden, about 6 to 10 minutes. Set aside on a dish.
Put the chicken on the grill and cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side until grill marks appear and the chicken is cooked through. If you prefer to finish them off in the oven, I suggest a grill pan or cast iron skillet - cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Transfer the chicken to a platter with the vegetables and pour the balsamic dressing over everything and serve.
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.
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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.
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.
Springtime is asparagus time! When I was just a young novice one of my most favorite morning responsibilities was to check the asparagus patch. What a way to start the day! The sight of new spears shooting up through the soil was an absolute delight. Then to calculate how many would reach their full height by the end of the day was a “lifegiving” exercise.
Because their growth is so rapid and so obvious from hour to hour, it is unlike most other growing edibles except perhaps mushrooms. In any case, the sight, as well as the taste, of asparagus still pleases me to no end.
Whether it be out in the garden straight from the soil, whether it be simmered and slightly salted right out of the pot at the stove or topped with hollandaise at the dinner table, I always welcome them.
Now that they are so popular roasted I have come up with this simple version that many people seem to like ……bacon wrapped and roasted with a touch of brown sugar and crispy crumb topping.
Heat oven to 400º Fahrenheit. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Add parsley, lemon peel; toss well.
Microwave bacon till fat is melted and the slices are easy to roll around the asparagus.
Divide asparagus into 4 equal bundles. Loosely wrap each bundle with one slice of bacon. Press brown sugar onto bacon. Press crumbs onto sugared bacon. Place prepared asparagus into shallow baking dish. Brush asparagus tips with oil. Bake uncovered until bacon is crisp – 15”-20”.