“Torta di porri” (Leek Pie)

If you visit any one of Tuscany’s Trattorias, you will most likely find this on the menu as a “contorni” or side dish. Leeks, parmesan and a light sprinkling of nutmeg — all the flavors of Northern Italy combine to make this savory pie a wonderful addition to beef or veal. This past weekend, we served this as a side to Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Vinegar to our Oblates on retreat. As we venture into Lent, this meatless side dish could actually become a main dish for lunch. It’s one of my favorite recipes to share with you. Our prayers are with you for a very blessed Lent.

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"Torta di porri" (Leek Pie)
SERVINGS
8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
20-30minutes
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
1 1/2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Make your pastry and leave it to rest in the refrigerator for an hour before rolling out.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pastry into a 8" pie plate and blind bake it. Click here for instructions on blind baking a pie crust.
  3. Prepare your filling. Strip away any damaged tough parts of the leek and top extreme ends, and slice the leeks into thin slices.
  4. Put them into a bowl of cold water and swish them with your hand to remove any dirt remaining. Transfer to a colander to drain.
  5. Put the olive oil into a saucepan to heat and add the leeks. Saute gently to soften, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. When the leeks become lightly golden, add the wine and continue cooking over low heat until most of it has evaporated and the leeks are softened. If the leeks are still hard and the wine has evaporated, add 1 cup of hot water and saute for another 10 min. or so until the leeks are soft and there is only a little liquid left in the pan. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cool slightly.
  7. Lightly whip the eggs in a bowl and add the cream, parmesan cheese and a dash of nutmeg. Add the cooled leeks and stir well. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. Pour the mixture into your par-baked crust, shifting the leeks evenly with a wooden spoon.
  9. Return the tart to the oven for about 20-30 min. until the top is lightly golden and the filling is set.
  10. Cool slightly and slice into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Upside Down Pear ​Ginger ​Cake

I’ve heard it said that the sense of smell is the earliest and strongest to develop in humans. I remember once at a restaurant there was a special on oysters that came from the town where I grew up. I splurged and ordered them just for fun. When they arrived and the fresh, salty smell wafted up to me, tears came to my eyes along with so many wonderful memories of my childhood there on the water.

I think it’s the same for many of us at Christmas. There are certain scents that transport you directly into this season of celebration and joy. Take ginger for instance! I love baking days here at the Community — as you cross the common, in addition to the beautiful lights and wreaths and garland, the smells drifting from the kitchen put smiles on everyone’s faces. It actually seems like another way to spread the good news: Christmas is coming! Jesus is on his way, and we’re getting ready — with Ginger Cake!

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Upside Down Pear ​Ginger ​Cake
SERVINGS
8 - 10people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
60minutes
PREP TIME
25minutes
READY IN
1hour, 25 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Start with your ingredients at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9" springform pan​ or ​a cake pan that's at least 2½ inches deep.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar; mix well and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Tilt the pan a little from side to side to help the mixture spread all the way to the edge.
  3. Arrange the sliced pears side-by-side over this brown sugar mixture, making sure that they cover the entire bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a whisk until airy and fully combined. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of your stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, beat the the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs and beat again until pale and airy.
  7. Incorporate the apple sauce and molasses, mix until well combined, and then add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated, no more.
  8. Pour over the pears and spread all the way to the edge.
  9. Place a piece of aluminium foil under or around your pan to catch any eventual leakage and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes or until it's cool enough to be handled safely then flip it onto a rimmed cake plate.
  11. Serve warm, garnished with vanilla ice cream, chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey or caramel sauce, if desired.

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Butternut, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup

As we enjoy these cool crisp days, my taste buds long for a creamy soup to warm my body. This soup is a treasure. The smell of it is a potpourri to scent your entire house! It has become our favorite soup for the season. Recently, we served this as the first course to the luncheon we hosted pre-performance for Elements Theater Company’s performance of “All My Sons”. We received so many recipe requests, we thought we should share it. We are filled with gratitude for each of you. Happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!

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Butternut, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup
SERVINGS
6-8
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
45minutes
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
1 1/4hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper to pot. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes or more.
  3. Turn off the heat. Add the diced apple and purée the soup with a handheld immersion blender until very smooth and creamy. Pour the blended soup into a clean pot.
  4. Add the honey, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg and heavy cream and stir. Bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you like a sweeter soup, add more honey.

Note: This soup thickens as it cools. If necessary, add a bit of cream to thin it back to desired consistency.

With thanks to Once Upon a Chef for inspiration of this recipe!

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​Old Fashioned Creamy Rice Pudding

Waking up on these cold, crisp fall mornings with frost on the ground, my alarm clock begs to be put on snooze for those last 5 minutes of shut-eye. But in Convent life, that’s not what we’re called to; instead, a quick prayer of thanks to God, and our feet hit the cool ground as we dress for Lauds. I sometimes imagine God smiling at our groans, the creaks in our bones, and the selfish moments we want to steal for ourselves before spending time with Him. I’ve recently experienced the transparent love that God has for me and I think these waking moments are no different! After Lauds, we have a silent breakfast together in our refectory. Silence is essential to our spiritual life because it allows us time to listen to God’s voice preparing us for the day, and not our own. I have to admit that I battle doing my own mental checklist during this time; fragile as we are, God smiles!
The change of season also brings its own collection of recipes, both old and new. Warm custards and puddings, soups and stews, root vegetables, apples and pears. I particularly love rice pudding, and this old fashioned recipe (so similar to the one that my grandmother used to make) is lovely to enjoy warm for breakfast or with whipped cream for a cold evening’s dessert.
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​Old Fashioned Creamy Rice Pudding
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
1-2hours
PREP TIME
15minutes
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F and grease a 9x13" glass pyrex pan or 8 cup ovenproof dish with butter.
  2. Rinse the rice under cold water and place in the dish.
  3. Place the cream, milk, sugar, and a generous grating (or 1 tsp) of nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla beans into the milk mixture (if using) or add the vanilla.
  4. Heat gently until almost simmering, then remove from the heat and pour over the rice, stirring well.
  5. Dot the butter over the top and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring after the first 30 min. At this stage, you can add an extra grating of nutmeg if you like.
  6. If the pudding still seems very runny, return to the oven, checking every 10 min., until it is loosely creamy but not runny (the rice should be cooked, but the liquid will continue to be absorbed once you take it out of the oven).
  7. When the pudding is golden brown on top and has a soft,creamy texture, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 min. before serving.

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Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake

This week at Villa Via Sacra (Mount Tabor Centre for Art and Spirituality), we’ve been hosting Gabriel V Brass Ensemble as they participate in a-two week musical exchange with the world renowned Gomalan Brass Quintet. It’s always a great privilege and joy to “be in the background” serving these groups as they work hard to perfect their art, learning and discussing the music and seeking to bring it alive through both their personal and corporate vision. Music is a wonderful communicator — even though these groups speak two totally different languages, communicating has not been a problem at all. If you are in Tuscany, following the week of study with Gomalan Gabriel V will present a free concert at the Duomo di San Cristoforo in Barga, Italy on Oct. 6 at 21,00. We hope to see you there!

Benedictine hospitality is at the heart of our mission, and we enjoy “spoiling” the artists with great food as they work tirelessly at their art day after day. Pears are in abundance now in Italy, so I made this wonderful cake for lunch yesterday. It’s quick and easy to throw together, and the moistness of the pears doubled with the homemade caramel just begs to be eaten with a big dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg.

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Caramelized Pear Upside-Down Cake
SERVINGS
8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45 minutes
PREP TIME
20 minutes
READY IN
1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch round pan with removable sides (like a cheesecake pan).
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, then remove from heat. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Arrange the pears over the butter mixture and press down.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until very smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, and beat 10 seconds. Pour in the milk and beat just until the batter is evenly moistened, about 1 minute. Pour the batter over the pears, then carefully lift the pan and bang back down on the counter once or twice to release any air bubbles.
  5. Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Run a knife along the outer edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Place a plate over the cake, then flip it over to invert the cake onto the pan. Let the cake cool completely before serving.
  6. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Thank you to "Living Well Spending Less" for this wonderful recipe!

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Good Friday Hot Cross Buns

Good Friday marks the second day of the Triduum (from the Latin for ‘three days’), the day on which we commemorate the Lord’s crucifixion and death. The Good Friday liturgies at our monastery (and many others around the world) mark our observance of Christ’s final hours, picking up from Maundy Thursday Eucharist, and continuing through the Holy Saturday Vigil, the Great Vigil of Easter, and carrying us all the way to Easter morning.

In keeping with the solemnity of the day, we remember Christ’s death by bringing to the liturgy of the hours the full range of spiritual depth and beauty found in the ancient texts; we participate in the veneration of the cross, and chant Gospel Passion Narrative. It is a special and holy time, filled with moments of silence, listening, reflection and conviction, as well as a time of joy-filled anticipation.

This day of the Cross marks us with God’s presence, and He marks us for his own.

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Good Friday Hot Cross Buns
SERVINGS
1dozen buns
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen buns
COOK TIME
25mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the very warm water and add a pinch of sugar to activate.
  2. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until about 100 degrees F. (but no more than 110 degrees)
  3. In a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warmed milk to the yeast mixture.
  4. Plump the raisins (or currants) and citron in the microwave with a little orange juice; cool and set aside
  5. To the yeast & milk mixture add the remaining sugar, melted butter, egg yolk and extract.
  6. Add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to the mixture and continue kneading.
  7. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  8. Remove the orange juice from the raisins and citron and discard.
  9. Add the raisins and citron to the dough and mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky and not dry.
  10. Knead until soft and elastic, about 8 min. Shape into a ball.
  11. Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hr. 30 min. **
  12. To form the rolls: Pam a 9x13” pyrex pan. Turn the dought out of the bowl and roll into a log. With a dough cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each of these pieces into a round bun shape, tucking the edges under.
  13. Place them seam side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each roll. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 min. or longer.
  14. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare your egg wash.
  15. Prepare glaze: In a mixer, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla or almond extract and oil until smooth (the oil will give it a high gloss). The icing should be quite thick. If too runny, add more powdered sugar. Transfer icing to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.
  16. Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the rolls and brush the buns with egg wash. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, about 25 min. (an instant read thermometer inserted into the roll should read 190 degrees F.)
  17. Ice buns with a thick cross shape on the top of the warm buns and serve.

** Please note:  This dough might take a long time to rise, but be patient...it is worth the wait because they will come out nice and light!