Braised Fennel

When I spent time at our mission house in Italy, I fell in love with fennel. For many, this might be a vegetable you see in the grocery store and have absolutely no idea what you would do with it. It is an underutilized vegetable and during the doldrums of winter, it might just become your new favorite. It looks a bit like it might be a member of the celery family or some sort of cabbage, but instead, it’s a flowering plant of the carrot family. The flavor is subtle, slightly sweet and has hints of anise, but don’t worry, you won’t be eating a Twizzler when it is cooked correctly. It can be eaten raw – thinly sliced in a salad or slaw or carmelized and used in a soup or stew. In this simple recipe, we’ll show you how to take this lovely vegetable and transform it into a velvety and flavorful side dish.

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Braised Fennel
SERVINGS
6
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
15mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut each fennel half into 3 wedges. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fennel; cook 7 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add wine, stock, salt, pepper, minced garlic and thyme sprigs; bring to a ­simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Increase heat to medium-high; cook, uncovered, 1 minute or until liquid is slightly thickened. Remove thyme sprigs from pan; discard.
  3. Melt remaining 1 Tbsp.butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley and cheese. Arrange fennel wedges on a plate and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Beautiful zucchini and yellow summer squash continue to come in from the gardens every day, and while they do it would be a shame not to have a nice stuffed zucchini boat meal before the season slips by. This is what last night’s convent cook thought as she prepared to make our dinner. She wanted to do something a little different from what we usually do and she turned out a meal that brought applause from the entire sisterhood even though we have had quite a few zucchini meals this summer. Using a combination of sweet and hot Italian sausage and a generous mixture of favorite Italian cheeses she succeeded in satisfying even the most discriminating pallet that evening.

The two things, I think, that put this dish over the top was the combination of cheeses (she used Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, Asiago and Gorgonzola) any of which give a distinctive taste, and then the generous use of fresh garden herbs like basil, oregano and Italian parsley.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Zucchini Boats
SERVINGS
2people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
25-30 minutes
PREP TIME
15 minutes
READY IN
40-45 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Blanch the zucchini in a large pot of boiling water, 7 minutes, then place in cold water 5 minutes. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, then scoop out all but ¼ inch of flesh. Brown the sausage in a small skillet, breaking the pieces into small bits, 5 to 6 minutes, then remove the meat from the skillet.
  3. In the same skillet, on medium heat, add the onion and sauté until soft. Add garlic and sauté 1 additional minute (add a little bit of olive oil if the pan is dry). Add the meat back to the skillet along with the cream cheese, zucchini pulp and bread crumbs and stir until the cheese has melted. Taste and add salt and pepper or other seasonings as desired; fresh basil, oregano and parsley are nice.
  4. Place the zucchini boats on a small sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fill with the meat mixture. Top with tomato halves and grated cheese.
  5. Place in oven and bake 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts and starts to brown. Garnish with basil.

zuc-tomatos

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

If there is any dish that speaks to me of autumn, it is a tasty baked stuffed squash. Filled with a flavorful mixture of sausage, onions, celery, apples, bread crumbs and seasonings, this dish can be a hearty accompaniment to a full course main meal or served on its own, with a roll and salad as a most satisfying lunch. In either case, it always pleases the eater to have their own individual squash.

Remember Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and any self-respecting roast turkey would be proud to show himself off beside a platter full of these cunning little specialties on your Thanksgiving buffet table.

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Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash
SERVINGS
2
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
45-70mins
PREP TIME
25mins
READY IN
70-95mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Prepare the squash for roasting: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the lower- middle position. Slice the squash in half from stem to root and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Transfer the squash to a baking dish: Place the squash halves cut-side-down in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to fill the pan by about 1/4 inch. Cover the dish loosely with foil and place the dish in the oven.
  3. Roast the squash: Roast the squash until very soft and tender when poked with a fork or paring knife, 30 to 50 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size and variety of your squash.
  4. Prepare the filling: While the squash is roasting, prepare the filling. Depending on the size of your squash, 2 to 3 cups of combined ingredients is usually sufficient. Sauté raw vegetables and apples. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust the spices, salt, and pepper to your liking.
  5. Stuff the squash halves: Flip the cooked squash halves so they form bowls. Rub the inside with a little butter and sprinkle with onion salt and pepper and brown sugar. Divide the filling between the halves — it's fine to really stuff the wells and also to mound the filling on top.
  6. Bake the stuffed squash halves until bubbly: Re-cover the pan with the foil and bake the halves for another 15 to 20 minutes until both are hot and bubbly. Remove foil. Top with buttered bread crumbs and bake uncovered at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until golden.

General Filling amounts - 2-3 cups total

Rolled Sole with Fennel and Citrus

​Hospitality is an important ministry of Benedictines, but also with that comes the need for a spirit of flexibility!  You never know when a guest can appear needing a meal or a place to spend the night.  Being a Type-A personality and a perfectionist, this “gift” is not something that comes naturally to me. My life at the Villa was a wonderful time for me to breathe and let God take the reins.
It’s a place where I hear the gentle guiding voice of the​ Holy Spirit.

We had some special guests coming to stay​ at Villa Via Sacra​, and as usual, we had many other things that felt equally important going on at the same time.  I thought I should plan a meal that could be prepped, held, and baked at the last minute, so that we could be free to do all of these things, but still sit down and enjoy a meal with our guests, so I prayed about what should be served. Nothing immediately came to mind, which was frustrating!  I needed answers, I didn’t have time to waste, and most importantly, I had to go grocery shopping!  I guess God was teaching me a something…
Then one day, not too long before they arrived, this recipe came to mind, and it felt perfect.  The guests were older, it was a hot day. They would be traveling for a couple hours before arriving, and I knew they would be very tired.  This recipe is light, easy on the stomach, and pleasing to the eye.  It turned out to be a wonderful, relaxing meal and a lesson to me about depending on God’s timetable, not my own.

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Rolled Sole with Fennel and Citrus
SERVINGS
6
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
20mins
PREP TIME
45 mins
READY IN
65 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In medium skilled, over medium-low heat, sauté the diced fennel in the olive oil until barely tender, about 3 min.
  3. Turn off heat and stir in the fennel flowers or seeds, then the garlic.
  4. Stir in the orange sections, and half of the citrus zest (reserving other half for garnish), and 2/3 cup of breadcrumbs. Remove from stove.
  5. Top each fillet with a layer of fennel mixture, gently roll up and secure with a toothpick if desired.
  6. Arrange the rolls in a 6 x 9 inch baking dish.
  7. Drizzle with the melted butter and ¼ cup of wine, and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake uncovered for 20 min. or until the sole has white edges and the crumbs are browned. Do not overcook!
  9. While the sole is baking, combine the juices of the lemon and orange along with the remaining ¼ cup of wine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and let the sauce reduce for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove the fish from the oven. Spoon the citrus juice mixture on top of the fish and garnish with the reserved zest and fennel fronds or parsley, and serve immediately. Andiamo Mangiare!​

Zucchini Stuffed Tomatoes

I cannot remember another year when our tomato crop has ever been more bountiful than it has been this summer… absolutely beautiful pickings of the healthiest and tastiest fruits each day, and we enjoyed them in so many different ways. My favorite way being sun warmed straight off the vine.

One of the ways in which they are most often requested at the convent is stuffed with a zucchini, onion, breadcrumbs and cheese mixture. I started making these years and years ago and they have never lost their appeal. They are beautiful to serve and a most flavorful addition to any meal. You must be sure to make some before the season comes to a close.

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Zucchini Stuffed Tomatoes
SERVINGS
4
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
10-15mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
40-45mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut tops off tomatoes, scoop out pulp, and drain upside down on paper towel or a rack.
  2. Grate squash and onion. Mix in salt. Let sit ½ hour; squeeze out liquid and sauté in small amount of olive oil until soft. Set aside 4 teaspoons each of Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Add remaining cheese, bread crumbs and white pepper.
  3. Cook squash mixture in frying pan until liquid is absorbed.
  4. Fill tomatoes. Sprinkle tops with reserved Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10-15 minutes or until hot and golden brown on top. Do not overcook.

Salisbury Steak

“Please, could we have Salisbury steak for dinner sometime?  My mother made it all the time and I love it.”  I found this note on the convent kitchen counter a few days ago.

Now how does one ignore a request like this? Immediately, we set out to find a good recipe for this old favorite, and served it a few nights later. I’m not sure it was exactly like “Mom made it,” but it certainly made the sister who requested it, as well as many others, very happy. We served it with mashed potatoes (as they always do down South), roasted carrots and zucchini.

How long has it been since you served Salisbury steak?

Salisbury Steak

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Salisbury Steak
SERVINGS
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
1 1/4mins
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, black pepper, onion salt, Worcestershire Sauce, bread crumbs and egg.
  2. Mix well. Shape into 4 equal patties.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat for about one minute, and then add butter.
  4. Place meat patties in skillet and brown on both sides for about 4-5 minutes each. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Add the sliced onion to the skillet, right on top of the browned bits.
  6. Reduce the heat and cook the onions on medium-low heat until the onions turn translucent and brown. Don’t rush this step: Cook the onions low and slow for about 20-25 minutes
  7. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of flour over the onions. Stir.
  8. Let cook and brown for about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups beef broth. Stir well.
  9. Raise the heat back up to about medium. Stir well.
  10. Place the meat patties back in the pan. Cover.
  11. Reduce heat just a little and let simmer for about 15 more minutes.
  12. Remove from heat and serve warm.