Blueberry, Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad

“​​When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the Angels eat.” —Mark Twain

​Have you ever wondered how to pick that perfect watermelon? Well, I have! Faced with a bin of green striped beauties, I never quite​ know​ where to start. ​L​et me share some tips with you that I recently discovered​, and then​ go and​make this delicious ​and refreshing ​Watermelon, ​Mint, ​Blueberry and Feta Salad​ — a great side dish for a hot summer day.

1. When viewing watermelons, the first thing that sticks out are those weird white spots. However, these spots​,​ called field spots​, are quite natural. The field spot is the area where the watermelon rested on the ground. While every watermelon has a field spot, the best watermelons have creamy-yellow or even orange-yellow spots. Go for the gold.

2. The webbing of a watermelon indicates the amount of times that bees touched the flower. The more pollination, the sweeter the watermelon is.

3. Watermelons have genders. The “girl” watermelons are more round and stout​ — these​are the sweeter ones. The male are oblong and tend to be more watery.

4. The ​best watermelons are average-sized. Don’t go for too small or too big, but just right.

5. The tail of a watermelon indicates its ripeness. Go for the watermelons that have dried tails for the best taste.​

​6. ​Tap the underbelly of the watermelon. A ripe one will have a deep hollow sound. Under-ripe or over-ripe melons will sound dull.​

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Blueberry, Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
20mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and diced red onion.
  2. Add the diced watermelon, blueberries, mint and feta cheese to bowl. Gently toss to coat.​ Serve immediately.

Pesto Sauce

The Sisters have been rising with the sun over the past couple of months to get our gardens going for summer. We have six different vegetable gardens in plots of land all over our community. Some cover acres of land and others are smaller plots, but they all need the love and care it takes to get them going. As we were working this morning, putting the last of our basil seedlings in the ground, I was getting excited about the prospect of harvesting and cooking some of my favorite dishes. Who doesn’t love a big bowl of steamy pasta tossed in pesto and sprinkled with parmesan cheese?

This recipe is one of my favorites for pesto. It’s a bit lighter and more of a sauce. It’s loaded with flavor and makes an elegant dish when used with tortellini, fettucini or one of the other heartier pastas that can stand up to pesto. It introduces the aromatic flavor of parsley with the basil and the lemon juice helps keep the herbs vibrant. If you’re making a regular pesto, I was taught in Italy to throw an ice cube in when blending the basil as this also helps keep the color bright and green. This can be refrigerated or frozen indefinitely for future use; just warm it up at room temperature – do not cook or heat.

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Pesto Sauce
SERVINGS
2pints
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
pints
COOK TIME
0mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
15mins (or less)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Put all the ingredients except the basil into a blender and grind thoroughly.
  2. Add the basil and grind until creamy texture is achieved. No cooking is needed.
  3. This amount of sauce is enough for 1 pound of pasta of your choice.

Beef Tips with Mushrooms and Sherry

Here’s a tasty and classy recipe that we served to our guest in Bethany tonight. The prep time is minimal. You can make the marinade ahead, add the steak tips, seal in a zip lock bag and freeze until ready to use (skip to step 2). We recommend buying steak tips when they are on sale. All of us love comfort food, and this is the perfect recipe for a busy family. The marinade is also our new favorite for steaks and grilling as we head towards summer – a teriyaki kind of flavor. We got rave reviews from our guest, so give it a try!

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Beef Tips with Mushrooms and Sherry
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
35 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a shallow bowl, make the marinade by combining soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, ginger and pepper. Coat beef tips with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs.
  2. Remove steak tips from marinade and pat meat dry. Reserve marinade.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with oil. When oil is hot and begins to smoke, add the beef and brown 3 min. on each side. Do not overcook. Remove when evenly deep brown and reserve on a plate.
  4. Add remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil to skillet, heat until oil ripples then add mushrooms and brown 7-8 min. Add garlic after 5 to 6 min. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook a few minutes more.
  5. Add sherry, reduce 1 minute. Add 1 cup of reserved marinade (strained). Reduce heat and cook, reducing liquid until thickened.
  6. Add beef tips, their juices and mushrooms to the pan, cook for 2 min. Serve with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables on the side.

Spring Citrus Mint Vinaigrette

Now that the warmer weather is definitely here, most people are wanting lighter meals and a menu that includes more salads. With this in mind we wanted to come up with a light “Warmer Weather” salad dressing. This was a first attempt that most of us felt succeeded at doing just that.

First we chose a light olive oil and a mild rice vinegar as our base. To this we added a touch of spring from our herb garden by blending in a bit of fresh mint and several tender young green scallions. Into this, a little onion salt, some frozen orange juice concentrate, and just a hint of lemon zest gave our mixture just the right touch of brightness we were hoping for.

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Spring Citrus Mint Vinaigrette
SERVINGS
1.5cups
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cups
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
5minutes
READY IN
5minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients together. Toss with your favorite salad greens and veggies.

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.