Stamping the snow off of my boots I came into the convent from the windy cold outdoors. As I shed my coat, I thought “Nothing could be more comforting than the warmth of being indoors right now.” But then I entered the refectory where I was met with something else even more comforting. It was the unmistakable aroma of one of our favorite meals, simmering in the skillet. Cooked with just the right combination of spices and seasonings, few, if any can resist this Southwestern chili especially on a chilly night like this.
As mealtime arrived the Sisters all gathered in the dining room where a glowing fire crackled in the fireplace. Each of us had a bowl of chili with our own favorite choice of toppings. Nothing could have warmed our hearts or satisfied our pallets more. We ate our meal with gladness and gave God thanks for all His many, many blessings to us.
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Make-ahead note: The flavors continue to develop as the chili sits, so go ahead and make it up to 2 days in advance and refrigerate it in a container with a tight-*fitting lid. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
Sauté the vegetables, ground beef, and spices, then put the mixture into the Crockpot or covered skillet along with tomatoes and kidney beans. Simmer until it’s thickened and has a nice beefy flavor, and then stir in jalapeños. We like this served with cornbread.
To use dried beans in place of canned, start with 1 cup dried beans, soaked and cooked to yield 3 cups.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin, stir to coat the vegetables, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ground beef and measured salt and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces, until the beef is browned, about 7 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker or covered skillet, add the diced tomatoes and their juices, tomato sauce, and beans, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on lowest possible heat until the chili thickens and the flavors meld, adding small amounts of the beer and coffee as needed to keep mixture from sticking. Stir in the jalapeños or green chiles. Taste and season with salt as needed.
Years ago when I was just a teenager one of my jobs in my father’s restaurants was to type up the daily menus. Some of the menu items have stuck in my mind more than others, as favorites of those who regularly ate there. Welch Rarebit was one of them, (Perhaps because I liked it so much myself). In any case, I sometimes feel sad that it seems to have disappeared from the memory of people my age and is completely unknown to a lot of others. Although usually served over crispy toast I have often used it in other ways as well, so for Thanksgiving I thought I’d like to incorporate it into a vegetable side dish. So I came up with this Welch rarebit Cauliflower.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and cheese, whisk until well combined and smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce.
Place a steamed whole head of cauliflower in deep serving dish, pour rarebit over it and top with homemade golden buttery toast crumbs (crumble two slices of white bread – sprinkle lightly with oil and brown in 400 degree Fahrenheit oven about 5-10 minutes), crispy bacon bits, and red pepper flakes.
Garnish with fresh herbs or other vegetables as desired.
There’s something about squash blossoms that always brings a smile to my face. Their color is like a bright summer’s day and they are …whimsical, that’s the word! I had a “Julie and Julia moment” this summer, where I made it my mission to try out as many recipes as I could to find the perfect fried squash blossom. Their season is short in Italy, so I purchased them at every opportunity. I only wished that if we had a kitchen garden, I would have that true Tuscan garden-to-table experience. Since they make a wonderful antipasti, I served them to different groups and guests that came to the Villa — each time they were greeted with great delight. Morning is the best time for harvesting squash flowers. Flowers from summer squash, zucchini and late-season pumpkins and winter squash can be used. The plants produce both male and female flowers; the female blossoms will become the vegetable, so in order to preserve your harvest, it is best to pick the male blooms. Male squash blossoms are hairier and have a thin base where they attach to the stem. Females have a thick bulge, where they grow from the plant. Pick the squash with about 6 inches of the stem attached. The wonderful thing about them is that they are very inexpensive! If you have a garden with zucchini, then voila!, you have an appetizer for lunch at your fingertips. The recipes are endless – blossoms stuffed with ricotta, fresh herbs and lemon zest and then baked; blossoms cut open and filled with seabream; or a chiffonade of squash blossoms served over pasta. I think my favorite is just the simplest form – Fried Squash Blossoms. The following recipe is almost like a tempura batter. Light and airy, it clings to the blossom and after being fried, creates a magical sensation with your taste buds. Since zucchini is plentiful in the States this time of year, I recommend a jaunt to your garden to make this simple recipe! This recipe can also be used with other vegetables and whole sage leaves.Andiamo mangiare!
When it is a Sister’s big birthday at the Convent we try to make it as special as we can. Last week for her 60th birthday the Sister celebrating it chose for a theme “Spring on Cape Cod.”
Decorations included a variety of spring flowers and plants, forsythia and pussy willow and beautiful sea shells.
The menu was “Fish and Chips” served in divided little baskets. The atmosphere was purposefully casual with lots of fun and merry making. The food owed its success to this simple yet “Special Beer Batter” used for frying.