Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup Shot

In the Benedictine charism, true hospitality is a “holy event”, not just a social happening where only people’s bodies are nourished. No, Benedictine hospitality requires much more than feeding people and sending them on their way. Chapter 53 of The Rule of Saint Benedict makes it very clear just what is asked: in true Benedictine hospitality, “All guests who arrive should be received as Christ.”  – Cynthia Bertelson

Entertaining has long been an important part of the outreach of our community.  At this time of year, we have about four events happening simultaneously, so we are always searching for creative ways to do things without adding a lot of extra stress and work, but still maintaining the level of excellence we need to do all things to the glory of God.  This recipe can be used as an appetizer or first course, for your next holiday gathering.  A simple two toned soup shot, hearkening back to the flavors of summer.  The soup can be easily made ahead and then assembled at the last minute so you can enjoy more time with your guests.

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Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup Shot
SERVINGS
6
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
90minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degree farenheit
  2. Toss the tomatoes, onion, garlic and one sprig of rosemary in a non-stick roasting pan with the olive oil and season with salt
  3. Roast for 90 minutes, or until tender (covering the pan with foil if it starts to get too dark); discard the rosemary
  4. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender and process until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a saucepan, discarding the solids.
  5. Pour in the stock and hot pepper sauce (optional*).
  6. Check the seasoning and chill until ready to serve or leave at room temperature.
  7. To make the basil cream, whisk together the basil and cream until slightly thickened.
  8. To serve, moisten 6 shot glass rims with a lemon wedge. Turn the moistened rim into a plate lined with sea salt to coat the rim. Fill each glass ½ to ¾ with soup and top with a dollop of the basil cream. Garnish each with a rosemary sprig and serve immediately.
Cooks Note *
  1. For a milder version, simply omit the smoky pepper sauce and add an extra ½ cup of heavy cream instead.
  2. Chiffonade is a chopping technique in which herbs are cut into long, thin strips. This is accomplished by stacking the basil on top of each other, rolling them tightly lengthwise, then slicing the leaves thinly and perpendicular to the roll.
  3. You can make this soup the day before and chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Last week we started “putting the gardens to bed” for the season.
This end of an era always seems to creep up on us before I expect it
to.  For me it is always accompanied with a certain sadness.  No more
beautiful early morning sights of garden tubs overflowing with choice red
tomatoes, crisp green lettuce and chard, gorgeous shiny eggplants and
colorful summer squashes  ushering in the new day. What did arrive
this morning were some wonderful prizewinning heads of cabbage, a goodly
amount of green beans and plenty of assorted tomatoes.  So tonight we
will enjoy  a favorite old  world classic for our dinner:  Stuffed
cabbage rolls with fresh garden tomato sauce along with tender whole
green beans.

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
SERVINGS
4-6
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
1hour
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
1.5hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut up tomatoes and simmer with olive oil, onion salt, oregano and sugar until reduced to 1 cup or 8 ounces of sauce. Can be done while preparing cabbage.
  2. Leave cabbage whole, but cut around the stem, and parboil for 5 minutes; let steep for another 5 minutes. Remove cabbage from water and drain; separate cabbage leaves. Chop the small inside leaves and the core and use to line a Dutch oven.
  3. Combine all the stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place 1 tablespoon stuffing on each of the larger cabbage leaves, fold ends of leaves over the stuffing, and roll leaves.
  4. Arrange the stuffed cabbage leaves in rows in Dutch oven; sprinkle each layer with olive oil, tomato sauce, and crushed bay leaf. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; add remaining tomato sauce, beef broth and enough water to cover. Place a plate on top of cabbage rolls, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Serve the cabbage rolls with the pot sauce pored over them.

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Eggplant Parmesan

Our gardens are bursting at the seams with eggplants.   I just love the shiny purple beauties and feel slightly sorry for the bad rap they get from opinionated palates!   Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to attempt to set those opinions straight and give you some trusted recipes that will transform this ordinary vegetable into an extraordinary culinary delight.

In writing this, I am reminded of a wonderful book I read many years ago as a young Sister when I was exploring my Jewish roots.  The book, To Life!  by Rabbi Harold Kushner, is filled with wonderful insights into human nature and God.   I underlined over and over as I read through the book.  One particular quote has remained with me, the author says, “To be human is to choose to be good; to take something unholy and make it holy, something ordinary and transform it into the extraordinary. To sanctify the world and live a Godly life”.

Praying that co-working with God today will begin to make the ordinary extraordinary.

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Melanzane alla parmigiana – Eggplant Parmesan
SERVINGS
6
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
20-30min.
PREP TIME
1hr.
READY IN
1 hr30 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

Sauce
  1. Heat the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a heavy (non-aluminum) saucepan.
  2. Add the onion and half of the basil, the Italian seasoning and the salt.
  3. Allow to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cook until the onion is translucent and then add the garlic.
  5. Add the tomatoes, cover with a lid, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and have melted into a sauce.
  6. Add the sugar to taste and adjust seasonings.
  7. Continue cooking so the sauce can thicken and add tomato paste, if desired for a thicker sauce (you don’t want your sauce to be watery!).
  8. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Eggplant
  1. Cut the eggplant into slices and sprinkle with salt. Put them in a colander and leave for 30 min. while the bitter juices drain away.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Rinse the eggplant slices and pat dry on a paper towel lined sheet pan. Mix the flour in a separate pan with some salt and pepper and lightly dust both sides of the eggplant with flour.
  4. Heat enough olive oil in a heavy cast iron skillet, or other heavy pan, and fry the eggplant in batches until golden brown on both sides (watch your heat so the oil doesn’t burn – lower is better!). Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil, and repeat.
  5. To assemble: spoon a little of the tomato sauce into a 12” oven dish, or 13x9” pan. Cover with a layer of eggplant slices. Add a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce, then a layer of the mozzarella cheese. Add the remaining basil leaves. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and repeat the layers to use up the ingredients, ending with the cheese.
  6. Put into the oven and bake for 20-30 min. or until the top is slightly golden and crusty. Cool slightly before cutting into servings. If you are using a cold, ready-made sauce, allow a little extra cooking time (if sauce is not already hot). Serve hot or at room temperature.

It works well to make this the day ahead.    Cover the casserole with foil and heat in a low oven for about an hour or until heated through.  This also freezes well – assemble in a pan and freeze uncooked.  When ready to use, thaw, and bake as above.  You will enjoy this during the winter months if you have a harvest now.  Andiamo mangiare!

Goulash soup

This is definitely the season for soups and we are adding them to our menus at the convent every week. There are so many kinds to choose from, they are so much fun to make, and so satisfying to eat. One of the suppers which sisters most love is a big hearty soup served right out of the skillet in which it has been prepared and then simmered a good part of the afternoon. Each person goes by and dips out a bowlful just to their liking to take back to their table where home baked bread and salad is waiting for them. This simple experience almost always puts everyone in a jovial mood that makes for a good time at the table with a warm “homey” atmosphere filling the refectory. One of our most popular choices is this goulash soup with a light Hungarian accent.

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Goulash soup
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
42-45mins
PREP TIME
30 mins
READY IN
1 hr15 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the meat, onion, garlic, and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until lightly colored. Add the cabbage and bell pepper and cook stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle in the flour and paprika and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the vegetable stock, a little at a time. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Season to taste with salt, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat, re-cover the pan, and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the sugar, if necessary. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, swirl a little sour cream or shredded cheese on top of each, and serve immediately.

Savory Roasted Apple Bourbon Bird

Autumn is apple time, and our trees are laden with gorgeous fruit — apples that are being turned into applesauce, apple crisp, apple fritters and all things apple! This is the time to have fun with them when they are so plentiful and at their best.

Last week we decided to give our chicken meal of the week an autumn touch by incorporating some apples into it and we were quite pleased with what resulted…..our Savory Roasted Apple Bourbon Bird. All we did was rub our chicken all over inside and out with a great mixture of tasty spices and herbs, stuffed it with some apple and yam quarters and a few shallots and roasted it as usual but basted it with our unusual cider bourbon glaze giving it a beautiful rich finish that was breathtaking to behold and luscious to taste. It is really worth trying and equally as good with a pork roast.

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Savory Roasted Apple Bourbon Bird
SERVINGS
4people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
105minutes
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
135minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine fresh garlic, onion salt, 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, cracked pepper.
  2. Rub well into chicken all over inside and out.
  3. Quarter a large apple, 6 shallots and stuff into cavity along with a handful of fresh thyme and a stalk of celery.
  4. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Roast the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and continue roasting until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 30 minutes to 45 minutes more.
  7. Baste chicken with glaze about every 5 minutes for final 15 minutes of cooking.
Bourbon Glaze
  1. Reduce the apple juice down to about ¾ cup then add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Heat the mixture until dissolved then add 1 cup bourbon and let boil for about 5 minutes or until mixture reduces to about 1 cup of liquid.
  3. Baste chicken with glaze about every 5 or 10 minutes for final 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. **Add 3 quartered apples, 2 yams cut to size of apples, and a dozen shallots to roasting pan stirring from time to time until all are tender.
  5. Remove and hold when done.

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!​