Many years ago, we had a cookbook from Maine that had the most extraordinary apple pie recipe. It had a layer of crushed graham crackers and caramel sauce underneath the apples. We lost that cookbook in the move to our new kitchen, but every fall when the apples are being harvested I think back to this recipe. This year, I decided to re-create it in an apple crisp. It sure took less time than making a pie, but the flavor combination was there.
For gluten-free cooking, try substituting gluten-free cookies for the graham crackers and brown rice flour for the flour. I think you might be pleased.
Graham Cracker Apple Crisp with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce
- Lightly grease 8x8” square baking dish
- Filling: Toss apples together with brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and the melted butter.
- Topping: Melt butter in a medium bowl and add all other topping ingredients. Mix until crumbly and evenly mixed.
- Sprinkle over apples and pat down lightly. Bake at 350º for about 30-40 minutes, until apples are soft and the filling bubbles and the crisp is golden.
- Meanwhile make Salted Caramel Sauce: Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a medium saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. It's okay if the sugar begins to form clumps- keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
- Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, it will be around 350 degrees F. Watch this step very carefully!
- Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
- Slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will bubble up ferociously.
- Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel or kosher salt and whisk to incorporate.
- Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into jars. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.
- Serve crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce.
Over the last week, we’ve been enjoying plucking the nectarines and peaches off of our trees and enjoying them in a variety of ways. One of our Sisters used to own a peach orchard and enjoys turning the bruised and moldy drops into the most delicious jam. As the peachy smell wafts through the Convent, I pop down to the kitchen to dip my spoon into the bubbly pot. “Sister, this is SO delicious!” I purr, wishing I could bottle up this moment for eternity. Summer is wonderful, because the simple beauty and naturalness of fruit and vegetables can stand alone without being covered up in heavy sauces just to be palatable.
Over this past weekend, I had fun grilling nectarines to accompany an herb rubbed grilled pork tenderloin for our Dinner Theater. Follow these simple steps and add a little nectar to your next savory dish — it’s a beautiful thing!
Grilled Honey Nectarines (or Peaches)
- Heat grill to 400 degrees F.
- Brush nectarines with olive oil on both sides
- Place nectarines face side down on grill
- Wait about 4-5 min, or until the nectarines "release" on their own from the grill and carefully turn over with tongs or long handled spatula
- Grill on the opposite side
- Remove from the grill and drizzle with honey and sprinkle with kosher salt
- Serve as a side to chicken, pork, turkey or with a spoonful of greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream for dessert
To me, the perfect sandwich is one that awakens all the senses at once: the crunch of the lettuce, the creaminess of the cheese, the zip of the spice, and the smokiness of the grill. This recipe fits that bill and has become our favorite summer ‘go-to’ sandwich. It’s a feast for the eyes and easy to prepare, packed with flavor. If you can’t get to Italy this summer, let Italy come to you!
This week, we have five young women working as sous-chefs in our kitchen to help us with a week-long retreat. They’ve had some great lessons as they’ve learned how to: pick the proper herbs, chiffonade basil, properly dice tomatoes (yes, it’s a technique!), grill chicken so it is moist and delicious, and many others. I expect them to return to their families with some great new recipes and skills at the end of this week. We hope you enjoy this sandwich for one of your functions this summer. It’s going to be a staple on our menu!
Tip: make a jar of the pesto sauce to have on hand in the freezer any time you need it!
Summer Grilled Chicken and Bruschetta Sandwich
- Make bruschetta topping: in a medium sized bowl. Combine the red onions, garlic, tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon olive oil, oregano, and basil. Set bruschetta to the side. Drain slightly before using.
- Grill your chicken: season with salt and pepper and rub with about 1 tsp. of olive oil and grill over low flame until 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Meat is ready to turn when it no longer sticks to the grill. Do not overcook
- Split your rolls in half then stack back together, lay on a sheet pan and toast for 5 min in a 350 degree oven.
- To assemble, spread pesto sauce on each half of the roll, then layer with lettuce or arugula, mozzarella, grilled chicken then drizzle with balsamic reduction and top with the bruschetta topping. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately.
The Sisters have been rising with the sun over the past couple of months to get our gardens going for summer. We have six different vegetable gardens in plots of land all over our community. Some cover acres of land and others are smaller plots, but they all need the love and care it takes to get them going. As we were working this morning, putting the last of our basil seedlings in the ground, I was getting excited about the prospect of harvesting and cooking some of my favorite dishes. Who doesn’t love a big bowl of steamy pasta tossed in pesto and sprinkled with parmesan cheese?
This recipe is one of my favorites for pesto. It’s a bit lighter and more of a sauce. It’s loaded with flavor and makes an elegant dish when used with tortellini, fettucini or one of the other heartier pastas that can stand up to pesto. It introduces the aromatic flavor of parsley with the basil and the lemon juice helps keep the herbs vibrant. If you’re making a regular pesto, I was taught in Italy to throw an ice cube in when blending the basil as this also helps keep the color bright and green. This can be refrigerated or frozen indefinitely for future use; just warm it up at room temperature – do not cook or heat.
- Put all the ingredients except the basil into a blender and grind thoroughly.
- Add the basil and grind until creamy texture is achieved. No cooking is needed.
- This amount of sauce is enough for 1 pound of pasta of your choice.
This past week, we invited artists to step away for a few days of retreat as they enjoyed renewing their vision and sharing together, in an atmosphere of Benedictine hospitality on the shores of beautiful Cape Cod Bay. Each day was punctuated by two lectures given by renowned art historian, Msgr. Timothy Verdon. He shared his passionate love of art, with beautiful images—both familiar and unknown—in a series of seven post-Easter lectures. Art lovers had the opportunity to fellowship together, while Msgr. Verdon discussed what it means to see with artistic understanding. It was a treat for our entire community and a privilege to be behind the scenes creating meals for them to enjoy. (Read more about the retreat here!)
Oscar Wilde said, “The artist is the creator of beautiful things.” Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, I believe that you are. Every one of us wishes to create beautiful things out of nothing. Take this Lemon-Almond Butter Cake for example…
- For the curd, combine zest, juice, sugar, salt and eggs in a heatproof bowl, and beat well.
- Add butter, and place over a saucepan full of simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until mixture thickens into curd, about 5 minutes.
- Strain into a bowl, and press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, at least 1 1/2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon flour, shaking out excess.
- With an electric mixer, cream the remaining butter and 1 cup sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt, and stir in.
- In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until they start to foam. Do not overbeat or the cake will be tough. Add eggs and ground almonds to batter, and mix well.
- Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Drop 8 individual tablespoons lemon curd around perimeter of batter, leaving a 1-inch border, and taking care to space drops evenly.
- Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons curd into center of batter. Refrigerate remaining curd for another use. Sprinkle cake with toasted almonds and 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on taste.
- Bake until cake is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into cake (not curd) comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
- Let cool on rack 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan, and cool completely.
- Whip cream with almond liqueur. Present cake at table, and offer whipped cream on the side.
(Recipe adapted from the New York Times)