Leg of Lamb with Anchovies (Gigot d’Agneau aux Anchois)

When I was preparing for my first time to serve at Mount Tabor Center for Art and Spirituality in Barga, Italy, I knew that I needed to immerse myself in learning all I could about Tuscan cooking. Cooking “Italian” had always been one of my favorite methods, but come to find out, there are many different regions in Italy with vastly different cooking styles. I searched the internet for articles, recipes and cookbooks and came up with a real gem – The Twelve by Tessa Kiros, which is twelve months of Tuscan cooking. She organizes the book according to the months and the fruits, vegetables and meats that are available and in season. This is the great thing about Tuscany – there is what there is – you cook what is in season. You learn to appreciate and savor the flavors.

So, this cookbook became my bible of sorts and I cooked my way through it in the three months I was there, and then again, when I went back for another three months. Every recipe was unique, simple and thoughtful, not to mention the beautiful photography and lessons she taught about seasonal cooking.

So, as we were looking towards our grand opening, I knew that I needed a little help to put together truly Tuscan meals for such a special event. That’s when I started my correspondence with Tessa. She was happy to give me input, suggestions, and even serving ideas. It was a joy to learn from such a great master.

Her travels have taken her all over the world. She was born in London to a Finnish mother and Greek-Cypriot father. She has worked in restaurants and with families in London, Sydney, Mexico and Athens – and chose to work with people who really inspired her. They were mentors in her journey through the world of food. On a trip to Italy to study the language and food, she met her husband, and together they have two beautiful daughters.
In 2016 she won the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Book of the Year in food and travel.

Tessa is delighted to be sharing this recipe for Easter with us from her new cookbook ‘Provence to Pondicherry‘ published by Quadrille, Gigot d’Agneau aux Anchois (Leg of Lamb with Anchovies). Photo courtesy of Manos Chadzikonstantis.

“I have such a lovely memory of eating this deep in the countryside one sunny day, under a huge tree that provided shade for the masses…It is good served with a potato gratin or a vegetable tian. Braised artichokes are also very good served either as as starter to this or one side.”

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Leg of Lamb with Anchovies
SERVINGS
6servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
75minutes
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, anchovies, rosemary and thyme leaves with 2 T. of the oil. Drizzle 3 T. of the oil into the base of a not too large roasting pan that will fit the lamb and tomatoes.
  2. Make 3 incisions, about 3/4 in. deep, on each side of the lamb. Stuff the herb mixture into the incisions and rub all over the lamb. Rub the surface with a little salt (not too much as the anchovies are salty) and a generous grinding of pepper, then put the lamb in the baking dish, presentation side down.
  3. Surround the lamb with the tomatoes. Lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper and drizzle with the last tablespoon of oil. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the lamb is golden and the tomatoes are starting to look gooey.
  4. Turn the lamb over, move the tomatoes around if necessary and check that nothing is burning. Add 1/2 c. of the wine, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and roast for a further 30 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining wine to ensure that the sauce around the lamb is jammy and tomatoes are not blackening and roast for a final 10-15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how well done you want the lamb, and on the size of the leg of lamb. I like this dish with the meat cooked through, and with a jammy, gooey sauce.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the lamb and tomatoes to a platter and serve warm.

“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.

Stuffed Cabbage

A young newlywed couple from Russia came to Bethany for an extended stay. Alexi, the groom, was delighted to discover that an old friend and former mentor from Russia was unexpectedly going to be near enough to spend some time with him while he was in the States. He immediately extended an invitation to him and his friends for dinner – a real, Russian meal that he himself would prepare for them.

The day of the planned dinner Alexi felt ill and was unable to do any cooking. With his permission I prepared a meal that I thought would be close to what he would have made, and I felt one of the dishes should be stuffed cabbage. I prepared them as I remembered my Ukrainian mother always preparing them.

By dinnertime Alexi was well enough to join his guests and no mention was made of his not feeling well earlier. Everyone enjoyed dinner and Maestro Serge was particularly taken with the stuffed cabbage. “This,” he said to me, “is authentic.” Then he added, “A real Russian can always discern whether or not the Russian food he has been served was prepared by a real Russian.”

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Stuffed Cabbage
SERVINGS
4-6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
1hour
PREP TIME
30minutes
READY IN
1hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut up tomatoes and simmer with olive oil, onion salt, oregano and sugar until reduced to 1 cup or 8 ounces of sauce. Can be done while preparing cabbage.
  2. Leave cabbage whole, but cut around the stem, and parboil for 5 minutes; let steep for another 5 minutes.
  3. Remove cabbage from water and drain; separate cabbage leaves. Chop the small inside leaves and the core and use to line a Dutch oven.
  4. Combine all the stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon stuffing on each of the larger cabbage leaves, fold ends of leaves over the stuffing, and roll leaves.
  6. Arrange the stuffed cabbage leaves in rows in Dutch oven; sprinkle each layer with olive oil, tomato sauce, and crushed bay leaf.
  7. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; add remaining tomato sauce, beef broth and enough water to cover.
  8. Place a plate on top of cabbage rolls, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. If using cooked rice cut final cooking time in half.
  9. Serve the cabbage rolls with the pot sauce poured over them.

Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread

We have quite a number of Sisters in the Convent who have celiac-sprue or gluten allergies. Buying gluten free bread can be extremely expensive and well, frankly, you might as well be eating cardboard! We have wanted to find a recipe for quite a while that is healthy, inexpensive to make and tastes like real homemade bread. This recipe fits the bill. It’s high in fiber from the oat content, easy to make and tastes wonderful! It’s especially lovely toasted with butter and jam. Most oats are gluten free — check the label to be sure. The only reason they wouldn’t be is if they are manufactured in a factory where they also make products with gluten. We are so fortunate to have a company that supplies us with oats, so this bread costs literally nothing to make. You can find xanthum gum in the health food aisle of the supermarket — don’t leave it out — it’s an “all natural” emulsifier and you need it as a binding agent when baking without gluten.

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Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread
SERVINGS
2loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
45minutes
PREP TIME
20-30minutes
READY IN
2hours

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the hot tap water in the bowl of a standing mixer and let sit for a few minutes, until the yeast is active and bubbles start to form on the surface.
  2. If you're using whole oats, blend them in a food processor or blender until they're pretty fine (as fine as you can get them) to make the oat flour.
  3. Once the yeast is active, add the oil, honey, corn starch, white rice flour, xanthan gum, and oat flour to the mixer and beat until combined.
  4. Add the salt and eggs and beat for a few minutes until fluffy.
  5. Pour into two well greased 9 inch loaf pans and allow to rise for about 45 minutes until doubled (only fill the loaf pans about 2/3 - 3/4 full - any excess can fill up a smaller loaf pan). Sprinkle the top of the loaves with some oats.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Once the loaves have risen, cut a few slits in the top with a serrated knife.
  7. Bake for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.

Festive Christmas Cauliflower

Last week one of our convent dinners included a whole head of cauliflower covered with a flavorful cheesy topping that was most enjoyable. Eating this prompted me to begin speculating about a possible Christmas cauliflower creation that might enhance a holiday dinner table. I envisioned something a little more dressed up with a stylish bit of sparkle and festive flare.

Here is what resulted from my culinary day dreaming: One saucy Head of cauliflower steamed whole, then covered with a combination of mayonnaise, etc., adorned with a skirt of rich dark green kale that has been slightly braised in oil and stylishly fluffed out around it. This basic beginning would then be tastefully embellished with bright red jewel like roasted cherry tomatoes. Thus attired my plain head of cauliflower would be stylishly prepared to make her special appearance at a very special meal.

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Festive Christmas Cauliflower
SERVINGS
6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
45minutes
PREP TIME
10minutes
READY IN
50minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Steam or boil cauliflower until soft but still firm about 20-25 minutes.
  2. Combine cheese, onion, pimento, and mayonnaise. Spread over cauliflower completely and place in a baking dish or pan.
  3. Put in a high oven (400 degrees) for a long as it takes to gain a nice golden glaze.
  4. Let rest a while.
  5. Toss the tomatoes with a little olive oil and lay out in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  6. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
  7. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until tomatoes are soft.
  8. Chop kale and sauté in oil and garlic.
  9. Place cauliflower on a bed of kale. Scatter or place tomatoes around it as desired.

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Hearty Italian Chicken and Autumn Harvest Veggie Stew

Every now and then when our convent dinner is some kind of a one dish meal, Sisters like to have it served right from the big skillet in which it has been cooked. This is especially so as the weather becomes cooler. When we are a little chilled around the edges nothing comforts one as much as a piping hot bowl of savory soup or stew. Today was such a day, cool, wet and rainy out of doors. Warm, dry and welcoming inside, with the aroma of a tasty combination of the day’s harvested vegetables.

Our convent chef has been eager to make a hearty chicken stew with an Italian twist. Using the last of our autumn garden vegetables she produced a most flavorful dish and chose to serve it from the skillet, which gave everyone a warm comforting sense of generously being cared for in a special way. A along with some crusty home baked bread and a beautiful kale salad we shared a dinner which magically lifted our spirits and pleased us all.

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Hearty Italian Chicken and Autumn Harvest Veggie Stew
SERVINGS
4as a hearty entree, or 6 small bowls
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
as a hearty entree, or 6 small bowls
COOK TIME
80minutes, approx.
PREP TIME
45minutes
READY IN
1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Place the split chicken breasts on the baking sheet, and drizzle them with a little oil, and a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the tops off of the heads of garlic, drizzle each head with a little oil, plus a pinch of salt and pepper, and wrap each head in a small piece of foil; place on the baking sheet next to the chicken.
  4. Roast the chicken, along with the garlic, for 45 minutes; then allow both to cool until they can be handled.
  5. Once they are cooled, shred the chicken, and set it aside; then, squeeze the roasted garlic from the papers, and using your knife or a fork, make the cloves into a paste; set the paste aside for a moment.
  6. Place a medium-large pot over medium to medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil, plus add in the tablespoon of butter; once melted together, add in the onion and allow it sweat for about 3-4 minutes, until translucent and softened.
  7. To the onion add the roasted garlic “paste”, and stir it in to combine.
  8. Next, add in the diced carrots, parsnips, celery and butternut squash and stir to combine; add in the Italian seasoning, plus a pinch or two of salt and black pepper, and the red pepper flakes, and stir to incorporate.
  9. Add in the tomato paste and stir, and allow it to cook with the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes, or until the “raw” flavor of it is cooked out of it.
  10. Next, add in the chicken stock and stir, cover with a lid and simmer very gently on low for about 20-22 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
  11. Turn off the heat, if using; add in the kale and stir to incorporate it, and allow it wilt into the soup for a few minutes; then, finish the soup by adding in the shredded chicken, the basil and the parsley (also, check your seasoning at this point to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed).
  12. To serve, add about ¼ cup or so of cooked gnocchi to your bowl, and ladle some of the stew over top; garnish with some grated Parmesan, if desired, and serve with warm bread.

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