Shrub: a fruit, herb and/or spice-infused syrup preserved with vinegar, sometimes referred to as a “drinking vinegar.” Commonly used in drinks, salad dressings or other additions.
I was craving a fresh shrub soda the other day, and oh my goodness I love an icy shrub on a hot summer day! Mixed with club soda and infused with fresh herbs, I am instantly refreshed and ready to tackle (most) anything the day holds.
Interestingly, drinking vinegars date back to ancient times, and Colonial sailors employed its concentrated dose of Vitamin C and antibacterial properties to prevent sickness while onboard. Derived from the Arabic word sharab, shrub concoctions have stood the test of time–and with good reason!
Surprisingly versatile, most anything can be made into a shrub: cranberries, apples, basil,
turmeric, grapefruit, rhubarb–the possibilities are truly endless. Use shrubs in cold drinks, salad dressings or glazes this summer, and you might just find yourself creating new combinations of flavors with tasty health benefits on the side. Below are 3 shrub recipes to get you started…
Prep ingredients: chop fruit, slice roots, roughly chop or muddle herbs
Combine shrub ingredients in a non-reactive bowl such as glass or stainless steel.
Add sugar and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover and chill 2 hours or overnight.
Remove from refrigerator and leave at room temperature, stirring occasionally 2-7
days. The longer the ingredients are combined, the more concentrated the flavor will be.
Strain remaining solids and add vinegar. Stir to combine.
To serve: Pour 2 ounces of shrub into the bottom of a glass. Layer with ice and 6
ounces of club soda or unflavored seltzer water. Add fresh mint, basil or herb of your
choice. Stir to combine and enjoy!
Summer may officially be over, but some of our garden vegetables happily are refusing to acknowledge it as they continue to provide us with a daily abundance of fresh produce. Among our favorites are beautiful multi-colored tomatoes, not only gorgeous to behold but luscious to enjoy.
Likewise our herb gardens continue to thrive producing sturdy plants of vibrant green flavorful offerings to enhance our food. Basil a favorite of so many has become the ingredient of choice along with a few other seasonings to combine with fresh buttermilk as a special dressing for lovely sliced tomatoes.
A winner with many of our sisters and special guests, why not give it a try?
This past week at Via Sacra, we have been thanking God for His incredible protection over us. The earthquake that hit a large portion of central Italy was only about 2 hours from us. Our community reached out to the Monks of Norcia to inquire of their safety. They told us that, miraculously, the monks had been up early for prayer on the morning of the earthquake (3 am) since it was a solemn feast day. When the tremors started, most of the town fled to the piazza where there is a statue of St. Benedict. The townspeople knew they would be safe there with Benedict’s prayers protecting them. An update on the monastery can be found here.
Restaurants all over Italy (and all over the world) have been serving a dish that is traditional to Amatrice, one of the towns destroyed. It is called Pasta all’Amatriciana, and proceeds from this dish are going to the recovery efforts. Last weekend would have been the celebration in Amatrice for their annual food festival. You’ll find many different versions of the traditional dish; some use onions and garlic and some don’t. We decided to and loved the results.
Join us in prayer by creating this delicious and spicy pasta dish in your home and if you do, use this hashtag to join millions of others who are as well: #unamatricianaperamatrice
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.
Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch saute pan or dutch oven make the sauce.
Combine the olive oil, pancetta, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes; set over low heat and cook until the onion is softened and the pancetta has rendered much of its fat, about 12 minutes.
Leaving about 1/2 cup fat in the pan, add the pureed tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano and balsamic vinegar.
Turn up the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and allow to bubble for 10 min to 1/2 hr (the longer it cooks the better it tastes!). Adjust seasonings if needed.
While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in the boiling water for about a minute less than the package directions, until al dente; drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water (if needed later).
Add the pasta to the simmering sauce and toss for about 1 minute to coat (add some of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick). Divide the pasta among four heated bowls and serve immediately, topped with freshly grated pecorino, a dash of olive oil if desired, and a sprig of fresh basil to garnish.
As Sr.Irene mentioned last week, our gardens are just starting to burst with vegetables. This week brought in fava beans and my mom gave us a beautiful basket of her home grown kohlrabi (which immediately sent me “Google-ing” for recipes!). But the majority of our yield so far has been zucchini and yellow squash. Time to be creative with recipes!
It’s a tradition in our Convent for Sunday night dinner to be prepared by the Sisters who share a common bedroom. Our rooms sleep 6-8 sisters. We usually choose our room by lot and switch up every once in a while. That means, there is a mix of personalities and gifts in each room; younger sisters with older ones, cooks with calligraphers, night owls and early birds. Our biggest crosses can become our greatest blessings. We live in Community and that’s how we roll!
Enjoy this crispy and flavorful panini prepared by our Sunday night Sister chefs. A healthy and fun twist on the favorite BLT, this recipe subs out cold lettuce for a piece of grilled zucchini. Enjoy!
Rate this recipe!
"BZT" Panini with Mozzarella, Bacon, Grilled Zucchini, and Tomato
In a large skillet, fry bacon over medium-high heat until golden and crispy, 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
On a baking sheet, brush zucchini strips with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden.
Lay tomato slices on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to soak up liquid.
Place ciabatta halves on a cutting board. Brush insides of loaf with olive oil. Layer bottom half with zucchini strips, bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Top with other half ciabatta. Halve loaf and brush outside with olive oil.
Preheat a panini press. (If you don’t have a panini press, cook sandwich in a large skillet over medium-high heat with a heavy pot or pan on top to weigh it down; flip sandwich halfway through to make sure both sides get cooked evenly.) Place half of sandwich in panini grill and cook, pressing down from time to time, until golden and cheese is melty, 6 to 8 minutes.
Repeat with remaining sandwich half, then serve cut into triangles.
Who doesn’t want to sit down to a fresh, colorful and crispy salad topped with your favorite dressing? The simplicity, the beauty, the different textures all combine to make this lunch time treat such a pleasing and healthy option.
Recently we served this for a retreat, and it received such rave reviews that we thought we’d share our salad bar ideas with you. We haven’t included amounts, because you can make as little or as much as you want. As a guide, people would probably want to plan on 1 Tbsp. of toppings per person. It’s also the perfect “to go” meal – just prep all the toppings, throw them in zip-lock bags or containers and then dish up before serving.
We hope you enjoy some of these ideas as much as we do.
Salad Bar Suggestions:
Lettuce – a blend of iceberg, romaine, bibb and red leaf is nice
diced turkey or chicken
hard boiled eggs
cheese – Havarti, swiss, cheddar – all recommended
tomatoes, wedged or grape or cherry tomatoes
roasted beets, julienned
broccoli and/or cauliflower flowerets
sliced red onion
diced cooked bacon
sunflower seeds, roasted and salted
toasted nuts – such as walnuts or pecans
An Assortment of Homemade Dressings – click on the link for the recipes
Homemade Bleu Cheese Dressing
Green Goddess Salad Dressing
English Garden Salad Dressing
Makes 1 cup (250ml), about four servings
If you can’t get buttermilk, mix one part milk (whole or lowfat) with one part plain yogurt (regular or lowfat) to approximate the taste. Any kind of blue cheese, domestic or imported, should work well.
In a medium bowl, mash the blue cheese with the salt and pepper with the back of a fork until the pieces of cheese are finely broken up.
Stir in the chives, sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice or wine vinegar until well mixed.
Add a few drops of red wine vinegar. Taste, and adjust any of the seasonings to your liking and if the dressing too thick, add a bit more buttermilk.
*Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz
Green Goddess Salad Dressing
Place the mayonnaise, scallions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.
Add the sour cream and process just until blended. Refrigerate the dressing until ready to serve.
English Garden Salad Dressing
Combine all but the oils in a bowl and whisk. Slowly whisk in the oils to combine.
Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, salt, and black pepper together in a glass jar with a lid.
Replace lid on the jar and shake vigorously until thoroughly combined.