Recently four of our young sisters were invited to a neighbor’s house in our community for a special dinner. The next day when I asked, “So how was the dinner?”
the response was, “Phenomenal!” That didn’t surprise me knowing that the menu had featured a choice tenderloin of beef, which they all liked and
we rarely have at the Convent. What did surprise and amuse me was that each of them individually wanted to tell me about one special dish
that had put the meal “over the top” and sent it “out of the park.”
This was a savory bread pudding that included leeks, fresh mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, pancetta, and sherry. Well then, why wouldn’t that
impress anyone as a phenomenal dish? And because our brave leeks are still holding their own out in the garden, why shouldn’t we give
it a try here at home? Well, we did, and sure enough it scored a home run with the whole sisterhood. Why not try it yourself and see
what kind of a rating it gets at your house?
Phenomenal Savory Bread Pudding
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender.
- Stir in the mushrooms, sherry, 1 tablespoon onion salt and 11/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere.
- Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid.
- Stir well and pour into a 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.
Last week we started “putting the gardens to bed” for the season.
This end of an era always seems to creep up on us before I expect it
to. For me it is always accompanied with a certain sadness. No more
beautiful early morning sights of garden tubs overflowing with choice red
tomatoes, crisp green lettuce and chard, gorgeous shiny eggplants and
colorful summer squashes ushering in the new day. What did arrive
this morning were some wonderful prizewinning heads of cabbage, a goodly
amount of green beans and plenty of assorted tomatoes. So tonight we
will enjoy a favorite old world classic for our dinner: Stuffed
cabbage rolls with fresh garden tomato sauce along with tender whole
- 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.
- Leave cabbage whole, but cut around the stem, and parboil for 5 minutes; let steep for another 5 minutes. Remove cabbage from water and drain; separate cabbage leaves. Chop the small inside leaves and the core and use to line a Dutch oven.
- Combine all the stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place 1 tablespoon stuffing on each of the larger cabbage leaves, fold ends of leaves over the stuffing, and roll leaves.
- Arrange the stuffed cabbage leaves in rows in Dutch oven; sprinkle each layer with olive oil, tomato sauce, and crushed bay leaf. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; add remaining tomato sauce, beef broth and enough water to cover. Place a plate on top of cabbage rolls, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Serve the cabbage rolls with the pot sauce pored over them.
“Ooh” I gasped under my breath as the waiter deftly lowered my plate, carefully centering it in front of me. Before I could gain my composure he had swept away with an enthusiastic injunction to me to “enjoy”.
I had been taken to lunch by a friend who was convinced that I would love the fabulous salmon salad this restaurant was known for. This was years ago just when blackened salmon was just becoming a new sensation. Although I’d heard of it, I’d never yet seen it, nor was I at all expecting my salmon at this lunch to be blackened, but here it was before me…..and very black indeed..
Determined to make this a positive experience for the sake of my friend I bravely, though skeptically, took my first taste, and with that taste I became a fan. Now, years later I now have developed my own version, somewhat modified but very flavorful. I highly recommend it to all salmon lovers, especially at this season of the year.
- Heat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
- In a shallow bowl, combine the paprika, cayenne, thyme, teaspoon of the onion salt.
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 ½ tablespoons of the butter. Add the lemon juice.
- Working with 1 salmon fillet at a time, dip the top and bottom halves first in the lemon butter, then in the spices.
- Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon until blackened to your liking about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven for 8 minutes.
I never cease to be amazed at the number of Sisters who love to bake bread or want to learn how. It always results in a most satisfying experience for all, both those who make it and those who eat it. So we bake and serve a wide variety of breads for the convent and for our guests. But like every other category of foods, there are always some that have more appeal than others and become old standbys. This is the case with our SAVORY dill bread , which is a favorite all year round, but especially at this time of year when fresh dill is flourishing in our herb garden.
This is a flavorful soft textured dough that can be formed into loaves for slicing or various shaped rolls to accompany salads or dinners. Whatever shape they are baked into they are sure to please.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water; add milk, sugar, onion, dill, salt, eggs, shortening or margarine, and 6 cups of flour. Mix well.
- Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.
- Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
- Punch down and form into rolls or loaves. Place on a greased pan and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes for rolls or 20-25 minutes for loaves.
This salad is a lovely and light “one platter” meal for those hot summer days. The warmth of the cutlets over the chilled baby spinach, cooks the leaves slightly, allowing you to bite into a refreshing combination of textures — soft and crunchy. I first served this on a hot day in Italy, and was taken by not only the beauty of the fabulous colors on the platter, but also the lemony and nutty flavors of the greens. Arugula can be substituted for the spinach, which will give it a more “peppery” flavor. Accompanied by a freshly made basket of rolls, you now have an elegant lunch. Andiamo Mangiare!
Summertime Spinach and Turkey Cutlet Salad
- Make your coating for the cutlets according to instructions above
- Salad Dressing: Mix all ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Coating for Cutlets: Combine all of the above in a blender until fine crumbs are made – adjust seasonings to taste
If cutlets are thick, pound with meat hammer until the cutlets are about ¼” thick. Put coating mixture in a small pan and coat both sides of the cutlets well with the crumbs.
- Coat the bottom of a cast iron or other heavy duty skillet with olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of butter (to prevent burning) and heat. Once sizzling, reduce the heat to medium, add the cutlets and brown on both sides. Tip: don’t turn the cutlets over until they are ready to “release” from the pan or else all the coating will come off the cutlet!
- Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables and fruit for the salad (slicing etc)
- Fill the bottom of your serving platter w/ the baby spinach and toss lightly with the dressing and then a sprinkling of onion salt and fresh parmesan cheese (or dress in a bowl and transfer to platter afterwards).
- Once the cutlets are cooked and while they are still warm, lay them over the bed of baby spinach, overlapping slightly to create some height in the center of your platter. Your baby spinach is going to cook slightly from the heat of the warm cutlets.
- Creatively, arrange your fruit and vegetables on top of the meat, and finish with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese and red onion.
- Serve while the cutlets are still warm.
Our community hosted a retreat day recently for Deacons from a local parish. We served this wonderful sandwich combination which was inspired by the flavors of Italy. Everyone raved and took pictures. Afterwards, the retreatants told us that this place was going to become their annual quiet-day destination. (We hope it wasn’t just based on the food, but we do know it plays a special part!)
As a young sister and chef-in-training, I was taught to pray before my menu preparation. Often the Holy Spirit will nudge us to serve food that triggers memories for people; either of their childhood, their nationality, or maybe a comfort food that would bring healing in a special way. To be used by God in this way is a blessing.
As Brother Lawrence so aptly put it, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Bethany Sun-dried Tomato and Turkey Panini
In Italian the word panino [pa'ni:no] is the diminutive form of pane (bread) and refers to a bread roll. Panino imbottito (stuffed panino) refers to a sandwich, but the word panino is also often used alone to refer to a sandwich in general. The plural form of "panino" in Italian is panini.
- To make the Sundried Tomato Mayonnaise, blend all ingredients together in a Cuisinart until smooth – adjust seasonings as needed
- Toast the Panini Bread
- Generously spread both sides of bread with the sundried tomato mayonnaise
- Layer the sandwich ingredients in this way:
Onion Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Red Onion, if desired