“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.
Just out of High School I was working in our city’s leading flower shop. The owner of the shop was Jewish and from time to time his mother would surprise all of us employed there with one of her home cooked Jewish dishes. Her chicken Matzo Ball soup with its distinctive flavor was my favorite.
When the sister cooking our convent lunch this week agreed to make this for us I could not have been happier. For many of the sisters this was a brand new taste experience. For me it was a reviving of one of my happiest early life memories.
Original Streits Matzo Ball Recipe
- Beat eggs in a bowl. Then add water, margarine/oil, salt and pepper to the beaten eggs. Mix well. Add Matzo meal and stir.
- Refrigerate at least one hour.
- Form into balls and drop into pot soup or boiling water. Cook 20 minutes.
- Mince the garlic and dice the onion, celery, and carrots.
- Sauté the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots with the vegetable oil in a pot
- until the onions become transparent.
- Add chicken broth, 2 cups water, pepper, and one or two sprigs of dill to the pot.
- Place a lid on the pot and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
- After the soup has simmered, add the shredded chicken breast to soup.
- Add matzo balls to the soup and let them simmer for 20 minutes without removing the lid.
- Garnish with fresh dill before serving
All the convent sisters continue to work on preparations for Spirit of America Band’s participation in the Dubai workshops at the end of this month. Whether or not they play an instrument or are even going on the trip themselves every sister is very involved and supportive of the endeavor in whatever way they are able to contribute.
Last week the emphasis was on sewing. All who could helped with the job of fitting, altering and adjusting each uniform. This week when the participants from all over the country come together for rehearsal, we will be feeding about 200 people for the entire weekend; so much help will be needed in Paraclete House Kitchen. One of the meals that has hit the spot with most of the group and received a lot of praise is this hearty beef stew that not only provides them with needed energy but also satisfies their taste buds in a special way.
- Place in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
- Add half of beef to skillet; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
- Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high.
- Repeat procedure with remaining beef.
- Add wine to skillet; scrape to loosen browned bits from bottom of pan.
- Bring wine to a boil, and cook 1 minute.
- Add to slow cooker.
- Stir in tomato paste, salt, pepper, carrots, garlic, celery, onions, and 2 cups beef stock.
- Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
- Cover and cook on LOW until beef is tender, 7 1/2 to 8 hours.
- Whisk together flour and remaining 1/2 cup stock.
- Add flour mixture and to slow cooker.
- Increase heat to HIGH; cover and cook until bubbly and thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
- Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Spring on the Cape is at its peak this week, with trees budding, boats going back into the water, gardens being cultivated, summer cottages being opened and the pungent smell of salt water filling the air. Clamming licenses are being renewed, and fishermen are painting and repairing their boats – it’s an exciting time to live on Cape Cod!
The beauty and stillness that I found as I walked along the harbor boardwalk yesterday was palpable. “It’s time to make chowder”, I thought to myself. A visit to Cape Cod just isn’t complete without a steaming bowl of chowder. If you can’t get to the beach this summer, try this recipe to bring the beach to you!
- Place the salt pork or bacon in a heavy 5 quart sauce pan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is brown and crisp (don’t burn!). Remove the bacon bits w/ a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Add the onion, celery, bay leaf and thyme to the drippings and sauté until they are wilted and golden.
- Add the flour and cook for about 1 minute, then add the potatoes and clam juice (both the bottle juice and the liquid reserved from the clams). Set the kettle over medium high heat and bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 min until the potatoes are tender.
- Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the cream and heat, uncovered, without allowing the mixture to boil.
- When the mixture is hot, add the clams and the bacon bits and cook for another 5 minutes without boiling. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately, putting a pat of butter on the top of each bowl of chowder w/ a small piece of bacon and a sprinkling of paprika to garnish. Don’t forget the chowder crackers!
If you are trying during Lent – as many households are! – to make your meals simpler, less indulgent, and more in keeping with the Lenten spirit, you will want to consider adding these crispy baked seafood patties to your menu. Last week at the convent we made these with tuna, but any seafood of choice (such as salmon or crabmeat) would lend itself perfectly to this recipe. High in taste and low in fat, these golden little cakes made a very satisfying, yet healthy meal which we all thoroughly enjoyed. For the sake of those who prefer a little touch of decadence we offered a modified version of tartar sauce to dress them up a bit. However most of us found them delicious without any added enhancement. Once you try them I’m sure you will agree they should not be reserved just for Lent, but enjoyed all through the liturgical year.
Crispy Baked Seafood Patties
- Mix together and shape into patties.
- Place on lightly greased baking pan.
- Cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown on both sides, about 20 minutes.
- Combine together ingredients for sauce.
Our Lenten journey has begun. The church has been dressed in violet and our promises to God for these forty days have been made. The chants for the season speak of hope, transformation and a return to God. In the monastery, it is traditional to simplify life, not only in our work but also in our attitudes and our eating. Many monastic houses fast from meat during Lent – a simple soup and bread for lunch and dinner are the norm. As we harvest the last of our winter squash from our garden, this simple yet hearty soup is the perfect beginning to this special season of the church year.
Vegetable and Lentil Soup from a Monastery Kitchen
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the diced leeks, celery, carrots, parsnips, butternut squash and a small amount of the dill and parsley and sauté until golden and the vegetables are beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat so the vegetables are sauteing, but not burning.
- Add the lentils and continue to sauté for a few more minutes.
- Add 6 cups of hot chicken or vegetable stock and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- Cook for about 8 min. over medium heat, simmer, but do not boil.
- Add the diced zucchini and continue simmering until the lentils are cooked and the vegetables are softened, about 15 min.
- Remove from heat and add the baby spinach, the herbs and the lemon zest and juice and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If desired, serve with grated parmesan cheese.