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 some time now, our theater group, Elements Theater Company, has been doing their theater productions with a dinner added prior to the show. Traditionally, this has been a plated meal tying in with themes from the play. This summer, the show was unique – Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. This award-winning series of solo pieces is considered a classic of contemporary drama, universally hailed for its combination of razor-sharp wit and deeply felt humanity. The menu for this production conjured up images of an upscale Cape Cod pub food feel with a classy fish taco. I started searching for recipes, and the one I hit on was just the right one. The result was a colorful “box” dinner with the best fish taco I have ever tasted. Filled with crunchy cabbage, spicy mayonnaise, sweet and sassy mango salsa and a light and crispy panko- crusted cod – this is party food at its best – all served up in a glossy black box. Accompaniments included sweet potato fries, fresh corn and bacon salad and a homemade coleslaw. I’d recommend this for any summer gathering.
Prepare the mango-radish salsa. Remove the peel and pith from the limes and cut between the membranes to remove the segments. Put these "supremes" into a bowl and squeeze over the juice from the membranes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix. Season and refrigerate until ready to use. You can also place all of the ingredients into a food processor and puree for a smoother salsa.
Prepare the pink chile mayonnaise. Put the chipotles in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, adobo sauce and lemon juice and continue to process until the mixture is consistent and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the fish. Cut the pieces of fish into 1-ounce strips or to your liking. Set up a breading station of flour, lightly beaten eggs with water, and seasoned panko bread crumbs. Season all with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces of fish in flour, egg then bread crumbs. Once all the fish is breaded, deep-fry in small batches in (375 degrees F) oil. Drain on paper towels and season with salt. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Place tortillas on a damp towel on a single layer on a cookie sheet, cover with another damp towel and place in a warm oven until ready to use.
To serve, set up the tacos "family-style". Start with your warmed flour tortillas, assemble the fish in a pile on a plate; the pink chile mayonnaise in a bowl; and mango-radish salsa in another. Set a pile of shredded cabbage, cilantro leaves (opt) and lime wedges next to the fish. Have fun building your own tacos.
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.
I had an unexpected surprise this week. I was invited to one of our Advent Teas for a friend’s special birthday. I have always loved the teas and this one was especially lovely. So beautifully and tastefully decorated for the season with rich colors, varying shades of red and burgundy with a pomegranate tucked in here and there. Just sitting in the room drinking in the beauty and listening to lovely music presented by the string players was so enjoyable that I almost forgot food was going to be served until I spotted the menu.
In addition to the plated selection of special tea sandwiches and scones, a lovely variety of choice desserts was also offered. It was a hard decision to make but after carefully surveying each of the various elegant creations, I chose the Lemon glazed sponge cake garnished with fresh raspberries and was so happy that I did…. a perfect ending to a perfect tea, and a perfect dessert to keep in mind when you may want something that’s not overly rich yet luscious and attractive for a holiday meal.