This past week, we did a pot-luck lunch at Paraclete Press to celebrate the season and get our company decorated for Christmas. Several of us brought crock pots of goodness to the table – each excited to try someone else’s creation. I think this one received the most ooh’s and aaah’s, as it was completely emptied by the end of lunch and given back to me, clean as a whistle as if begging for more. This is such a great recipe – so easy to make the night before, let the crock pot do the magic during the night and finish it off in the morning. This is a perfect recipe to pull out over the holidays when you want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with friends and family. Blessed Advent!
When I was preparing for my first time to serve at Mount Tabor Center for Art and Spirituality in Barga, Italy, I knew that I needed to immerse myself in learning all I could about Tuscan cooking. Cooking “Italian” had always been one of my favorite methods, but come to find out, there are many different regions in Italy with vastly different cooking styles. I searched the internet for articles, recipes and cookbooks and came up with a real gem – The Twelve by Tessa Kiros, which is twelve months of Tuscan cooking. She organizes the book according to the months and the fruits, vegetables and meats that are available and in season. This is the great thing about Tuscany – there is what there is – you cook what is in season. You learn to appreciate and savor the flavors.
So, this cookbook became my bible of sorts and I cooked my way through it in the three months I was there, and then again, when I went back for another three months. Every recipe was unique, simple and thoughtful, not to mention the beautiful photography and lessons she taught about seasonal cooking.
So, as we were looking towards our grand opening, I knew that I needed a little help to put together truly Tuscan meals for such a special event. That’s when I started my correspondence with Tessa. She was happy to give me input, suggestions, and even serving ideas. It was a joy to learn from such a great master.
Her travels have taken her all over the world. She was born in London to a Finnish mother and Greek-Cypriot father. She has worked in restaurants and with families in London, Sydney, Mexico and Athens – and chose to work with people who really inspired her. They were mentors in her journey through the world of food. On a trip to Italy to study the language and food, she met her husband, and together they have two beautiful daughters.
In 2016 she won the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Book of the Year in food and travel.
Tessa is delighted to be sharing this recipe for Easter with us from her new cookbook ‘Provence to Pondicherry‘ published by Quadrille, Gigot d’Agneau aux Anchois (Leg of Lamb with Anchovies). Photo courtesy of Manos Chadzikonstantis.
“I have such a lovely memory of eating this deep in the countryside one sunny day, under a huge tree that provided shade for the masses…It is good served with a potato gratin or a vegetable tian. Braised artichokes are also very good served either as as starter to this or one side.”
A young newlywed couple from Russia came to Bethany for an extended stay. Alexi, the groom, was delighted to discover that an old friend and former mentor from Russia was unexpectedly going to be near enough to spend some time with him while he was in the States. He immediately extended an invitation to him and his friends for dinner – a real, Russian meal that he himself would prepare for them.
The day of the planned dinner Alexi felt ill and was unable to do any cooking. With his permission I prepared a meal that I thought would be close to what he would have made, and I felt one of the dishes should be stuffed cabbage. I prepared them as I remembered my Ukrainian mother always preparing them.
By dinnertime Alexi was well enough to join his guests and no mention was made of his not feeling well earlier. Everyone enjoyed dinner and Maestro Serge was particularly taken with the stuffed cabbage. “This,” he said to me, “is authentic.” Then he added, “A real Russian can always discern whether or not the Russian food he has been served was prepared by a real Russian.”
Saturdays in the Community call for a lot of physical participation, especially for our band members — 20 of which are sisters. Morning Beehive, the weekly time when all Community members gather to work together on whatever jobs need most to be done, starts at 8 am and continues until noon, with a half hour coffee break at 10 am.
Following lunch our convent band sisters pack up and take off with the rest of the band for a full afternoon of serious rehearsal often requiring considerable concentration as well as physical activity.
Everyone knows that when the band comes home they will come home very hungry and be looking forward to a substantial dinner. That’s why we always plan a hearty meal for that evening for all of us.
This week’s Saturday night dinner cook chose to do pork ribs with creamy polenta, chard, yellow squash and salad, but instead of grilling the ribs as we often do she surprised everyone by choosing to braise them…and…the result? Not a rib leftover and she has now been branded “Best Saturday night convent dinner cook!”
This is a glorious time of the year for garden lovers. 5:30 am finds sisters weeding, tilling the soil and harvesting “fresh from the earth” vegetables. We have been enjoying beautiful varieties of lettuce, scallions, snow peas and chard for a while, and now zucchini and yellow squash are rapidly rolling in every day.
One of our enterprising Sisters turned out a quick and easy way to prepare a zucchini dish that met with lots of happy responses from the Sisters at last night’s dinner. Who would not love their vegetables prepared like this? Beautiful to behold! Scrumptious to eat! You absolutely must give this prize winner a try and there could not be a more perfect time to do it than right now.
Meals at the Convent are planned and prepared by the Convent kitchen staff for each day of the week—except Sundays, when rotating groups take turns making dinner. This gives Sisters who don’t normally cook an opportunity to do so, and to select a favorite dish they particularly enjoy. Often these meals turn out to be “fun” or ethnic in nature, such as last night when an abundance of chopping, chatter and laughter resulted in a tasty, colorful Thai meal enjoyed by all.