As our State is starting to reopen the economy, part of me is going to miss this “time at home.” I’ve realized how much I’ve recognized, appreciated and enjoyed the simple things of life so much more over these last couple months. I was emailing a few of my other monastic friends across the country and we have similar stories. We’ve spent more time just being, praying the offices on behalf of the world, quieting ourselves down and trying to listen more to His voice. I hope I don’t lose what I’ve gained from this experience! I’ve also had time to do some festive cooking. This weekend I decided that our travel ban didn’t refer to in house international cuisine. So, here’s a yummy, fresh and healthy recipe that can be used to cool you down on a hot summer’s day. If you’re a vegan, substitute the shrimp with some red pepper or thinly julienned beet. It will be just as delicious. Enjoy!
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Vietnamese Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Thin with warm water if desired. This recipe will make more peanut sauce than you need, so store in a clean jar in the refrigerator for another use.
Take one rice paper wrapper and dip it into warm water in a pie plate for 10 seconds to wet it and make pliable. Lay the wrapper down on a clean work surface (wooden cutting board works great here)and smooth it out with your damp hand.
Take a leaf of lettuce and tear it into large 5-inch pieces and place it along the bottom half of the wrapper (see image) Place some rice noodles on top of the lettuce followed by a couple thin slices of avocado. Place a few carrots and cucumbers beside the lettuce, 2 pieces of scallion (or more) and then your shrimp sliced in half across the middle, pink side down. If desired, add some mint, basil or cilantro.
To roll, gently fold over the left and right sides of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Then fold the bottom part of the wrapper over the filling and gently but tightly roll up the spring roll, burrito style. Repeat steps 1 to 3
Chill until ready to use. Serve with peanut sauce or another favorite dipping sauce
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!
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.
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.