Near the first of June, everything is accelerated here in the Community of Jesus, including special events. Attention to gardens, increased numbers of guests and events require increased work. Sisters from our convent kitchen are called on to help with the cooking and serving in our retreat kitchen and guest house. Still, every effort is made to maintain care in preparing meals at the convent with the same attention to details and care.
One of the tricks to doing this is to come up with menus that are as time-saving as possible to prepare but are still healthy, flavorful and appealing. Our menu planners are great at this, as proven by this Asian chicken meal we had for dinner last night. Because the chicken and it’s sauce was so flavorful we served it with plain white rice and fresh rainbow chard sautéed in a little olive oil and fresh garlic.
- Preheat oven to 500°Fahrenheit
- Whisk together all ingredients except chicken, then coat chicken all over with sauce.
- Arrange pieces, skin sides up in 1 layer without crowding, in a foil-lined large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep).
- Roast in upper third of oven until chicken is cooked through and glaze is brown, 30-40 minutes- basting several times.
Leaving the noon church service today I got into a conversation that resulted in my late arrival for lunch. As I entered the refectory I heard happy exclamations regarding the meal…”What a great lunch! I loved this…so fresh and beautiful so colorful and tasty.”
What was it they were raving about? It was a brand new crisp, crunchy tofu recipe and it was all they described it to be! Truly sensational and remarkably satisfying.
Citrus Cabbage Salad with Crispy Tofu
- Drain tofu of excess water. Let sit 20 minutes to drain.
- While waiting for tofu, mix together the first 7 ingredients and set aside.
- Heat a skillet on medium with about a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil inside. While heating, slice tofu into 1/2" slices, then cut each slice into thirds. Coat each cube lightly with cornstarch using a sifter and then place into pan until browned and crispy. You may have to turn up the heat under the pan a bit. Remove from frying pan sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and set aside on paper towels.
- Wipe pan clean with paper towel and add sesame oil, onions, and
chopped ginger. Cook about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add sauce mixture to pan, bring to a boil, and simmer about 2 minutes. Add tofu back to mixture, toss to coat. Top with green onions if desired.
- Put the cabbage in a large bowl, with the celery, cut the skin and pulp from the oranges ...slice them into wheels (cut out any seeds) and add to the cabbage. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, balsamic and oregano and salt and pepper and pour over the cabbage.
- Mix well. Let it settle then mix through a few more times so that it is completely coated. Toss prepared tofu over salad before serving.
My favorite time of day is early morning especially whenever I am able to spend any of that time out in the gardens. The thrill of discovering something fresh and new poking up through the soil, opening of buds and unfolding of leaves all give me incentive for the day. It makes me expect good things to happen and encourages me to look for new life developing around me. Right now we are harvesting mostly lettuce. Big, full, beautiful leafy heads — Boston bib, Buttercrunch and several other red leaf types for variety of texture and flavor.
There is no end to the beautiful salads that can be created with these crisp tender leaves and we’ve been using them in that way for most of our meals. We also enjoy them for a main meal in the form of Asian lettuce wraps, a favorite at the convent year-round, but especially nice in this warm weather.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
- Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not to tear them.
- Set aside.
- In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 Tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary.
- Drain, and set aside to cool.
- Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir.
- Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, sesame oil, and cooked beef; continue until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.
- Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center.
- To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf.
- Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!