Our Lenten journey has begun. The church has been dressed in violet and our promises to God for these forty days have been made. The chants for the season speak of hope, transformation and a return to God. In the monastery, it is traditional to simplify life, not only in our work but also in our attitudes and our eating. Many monastic houses fast from meat during Lent – a simple soup and bread for lunch and dinner are the norm. As we harvest the last of our winter squash from our garden, this simple yet hearty soup is the perfect beginning to this special season of the church year.
Vegetable and Lentil Soup from a Monastery Kitchen
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the diced leeks, celery, carrots, parsnips, butternut squash and a small amount of the dill and parsley and sauté until golden and the vegetables are beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat so the vegetables are sauteing, but not burning.
- Add the lentils and continue to sauté for a few more minutes.
- Add 6 cups of hot chicken or vegetable stock and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- Cook for about 8 min. over medium heat, simmer, but do not boil.
- Add the diced zucchini and continue simmering until the lentils are cooked and the vegetables are softened, about 15 min.
- Remove from heat and add the baby spinach, the herbs and the lemon zest and juice and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If desired, serve with grated parmesan cheese.
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.
Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup Shot
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 degree farenheit
- Toss the tomatoes, onion, garlic and one sprig of rosemary in a non-stick roasting pan with the olive oil and season with salt
- Roast for 90 minutes, or until tender (covering the pan with foil if it starts to get too dark); discard the rosemary
- Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender and process until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a saucepan, discarding the solids.
- Pour in the stock and hot pepper sauce (optional*).
- Check the seasoning and chill until ready to serve or leave at room temperature.
- To make the basil cream, whisk together the basil and cream until slightly thickened.
- 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 *
- For a milder version, simply omit the smoky pepper sauce and add an extra ½ cup of heavy cream instead.
- 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.
- You can make this soup the day before and chill in the fridge until ready to use.
After a dramatic religious conversion, young soldier Nicholas Herman decided to devote his life to following God and learning more about Christ. He joined a monastery and took the name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. There, he spent the rest of his life working in the kitchen and repairing his brothers’ sandals. But during his decades of doing seemingly menial jobs, Brother Lawrence discovered a profound truth about having a relationship with God: Experiencing His presence can—and should—happen everywhere. He spent his life serving others. His letters were later compiled into the now classic book The Practice of the Presence of God.
“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” ― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Brother Lawrence's Stuffed Turkey Cutlets
- Between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, pound your turkey cutlets with a meat hammer until thin. Melt 2 Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil in a stove to oven safe skillet such as Calphalon or cast iron. Add your sliced onion and saute until lightly golden and soft. Add baby spinach, sun dried tomatoes, herbs and cook over low heat until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic (if desired) and wine. Cook over low heat until the flavors absorb into the tomatoes and onions.
- Lay your turkey cutlets on a cutting board. Zest the lemon over each one. Lay your mozzarella cheese on one end. Spoon the onion mixture over your cheese, and then top with a generous grating of fresh Parmesan. Starting w/ the cheese end, roll up each cutlet tightly. Sprinkle some bread crumbs into a shallow bowl, and roll each cutlet in to coat.
- Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and olive oil back to your pan, melt over medium heat and add the cutlets. Sautée each side of the cutlets until golden and then place the skillet in a 300 degree oven for about 12-15 min. to cook through.
- Take the remaining spinach,and microwave for about one minute until just limp. Sprinkle with onion salt and lay on a platter. Place the cutlets on top of the spinach to serve. Pour the juices along the sides of the cutlets just before serving.
Current surveys show that Italian food still ranks highest in popularity on restaurant menus across the country. With so many other ethnic foods gaining interest in the food world this surprised me a little when I recently found it out. I know it is true in our convent (that’s why we have Italian night on Friday of every week) but didn’t expect it was on such a large scale. This being the case let’s consider some more Italian versions of favorite meals and perhaps something other than provincial tomato sauce dishes that usually come to mind when we think of Italian cooking.
This week I experimented with chicken using some very typical Italian ingredients with the exclusion of tomatoes. I came up with a beautiful and flavorful Italian chicken featuring citrus fruit as well as figs, olives, garlic and herbs and seasonings all native to Italy.
Roasted Chicken with Citrus, Herbs and Olives
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large roasting pan, season chicken with salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Squeeze lemon and orange over chicken, then add fruit to pan. Add wine, orange juice, and thyme or oregano. Roast 25 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven; rotate chicken pieces if browning unevenly. Add olives and whole garlic cloves. Roast until a thermometer inserted in chicken breast (avoiding bone) registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, about 15 minutes more.
- Transfer chicken and citrus to a platter.
- Place roasting pan over high heat, until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 3 minutes. Pour over chicken; serve.
I am a cold weather girl. Yesterday was one of those crisp fall days, and I was actually cold! It’s a promise of things to come — apples being picked and pumpkins rolling in — so I do look forward to it. I love autumn! This year we have a bumper crop of pears. Last year was plum year — we had hundreds of pounds of the purple beauties. I don’t think we have as many pears, but it is a respectable harvest, enough that one starts wondering how many pears a person can eat? I love pears off of the tree, and I love to make upside cakes, poached pears, and pear muffins…. I also love chutney, so I decided to make up a few jars of a fiery pear one. Perfect for pork, or ham, turkey or chicken. Great in a ham and cheese sandwich on the griddle, or in the oven. But be warned — this one has a kick!
- Cook the pears in enough water to cover until they are medium soft.
- Drain, saving the water, then make a syrup of the water in which the pears were cooked and the brown sugar by boiling in a large nonreactive pot until thick, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the syrup is boiling, add the remaining ingredients to the pears, then mix everything together and cook for about 30 minutes or until the raisins are softened, the onions are transparent, and the chutney has a good thick consistency.
- Transfer to sterilized jars and seal, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or store in refrigerator.
- (Quatre – Epices: equal amounts of white pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves and ground ginger. Cinnamon can also be added, but for this recipe I left it out.