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.”
- 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. If using cooked rice cut final cooking time in half.
- Serve the cabbage rolls with the pot sauce poured over them.
Salad bars are a real favorite at the Convent. They always bring a happy response from the sisters. With a variety of so many healthy wholesome food to choose from, everyone is sure to find something they like. Recently we roasted fresh beets intending to use them in a familiar salad. While they were being cut up my eyes fell on some beautiful oranges nearby- loving the colors of both I could not resist the urge to combine them. The result was a very different dish from what it started out to be! Not only did the rich colors complement each other, so did their flavors. Baking beets brings out their flavor as no other way of cooking them can. Combining them with fresh orange zest and fruit, red onions and red wine vinegar gives them a surprising zip and mouthwatering brightness.
- Place beets in a foil lined pan and roast for an hour or until tender. Cool. Peel and cut into wedges.
- Place oil and vinegar into a mixing bowl.
- Grate 1 tablespoon full of the red onion into the bowl.
- Zest 1 tablespoon of orange rind into the bowl.
- Add finely chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon onion salt, freshly ground black pepper and marmalade.
- Whisk together and pour over beets. Cut rind off from oranges and cut fruit into slices or wedges. Combine with beets.
Exciting as it is to try brand new recipes, there is also a certain thrill to reviving old favorites. That’s what we did this Easter at the convent when we chose Cumberland Chicken for our Easter dinner.
This was something we served to guests and retreatants and at several events over many years, and having it on Sunday brought back many memories that provided much of the table conversation. It was like having an old friend among us again for this special day.
This recipe takes a plain chicken breast and transforms it into a buttery corn-crusted bundle of goodness that is enhanced with an unexpected sparkling red currant sauce. We served it with fresh
asparagus and a lovely medley of wild rice. It could not have been a more welcomed choice…a perfect springtime meal followed by many requests to please not wait so long to serve it again.
- Sprinkle onion salt and pepper over the chicken breasts, dip in melted butter, roll in stuffing crumbs, and place in shallow pan.
- Bake approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and serve with Cumberland Sauce.
- Combine sauce ingredients until smooth, warming if necessary to melt the jelly.
If you are trying during Lent – as many households are! – to make your meals simpler, less indulgent, and more in keeping with the Lenten spirit, you will want to consider adding these crispy baked seafood patties to your menu. Last week at the convent we made these with tuna, but any seafood of choice (such as salmon or crabmeat) would lend itself perfectly to this recipe. High in taste and low in fat, these golden little cakes made a very satisfying, yet healthy meal which we all thoroughly enjoyed. For the sake of those who prefer a little touch of decadence we offered a modified version of tartar sauce to dress them up a bit. However most of us found them delicious without any added enhancement. Once you try them I’m sure you will agree they should not be reserved just for Lent, but enjoyed all through the liturgical year.
Crispy Baked Seafood Patties
- Mix together and shape into patties.
- Place on lightly greased baking pan.
- Cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown on both sides, about 20 minutes.
- Combine together ingredients for sauce.
Sometimes an interesting or unusual side dish can turn an otherwise plain or ordinary meal into a memorable one and take it to another level. This happened recently when I was preparing dinner for a guest who was on a very limited diet. She had requested plain broiled fish with no sauce and steamed vegetables. Along with this we offered her our crispy roasted lime infused sweet potato wedges, that had been brushed with marmalade just before going into the oven. “My meal could not have been more satisfying,” she told someone. “What I asked for was cooked perfectly to my liking. But what made it so extraordinary was that special and surprising taste sensation of those zesty citrus sweet potato wedges.” These are also great with a beef or pork roast, ham or chicken.
Zesty Citrus Sweet Potato Wedges
- Wash potatoes leaving skins on and cut into wedges. Marinate in the juice from the lime and it’s zest.
- Toss in oil with onion salt and pepper to taste. Spread out on baking sheet.
- Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes or until crispy and golden on outside and tender inside.
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.