Our community looks forward to autumn for many reasons, but chief among them is harvesting fruit from our orchards: apples, pears, stone fruit, and grapes from the vines. The abundance is truly something to be grateful for as we compare the delicate spring blossoms to the bountiful fall harvest that we enjoy into the first frosts of winter…an annual miracle!
Recently, we tried this simple recipe for our supper as a twist on the classic avocado toast–this time with sun-ripened pears and fresh ricotta with milk from our cows. Drizzled with honey, this may well become another reason to look forward to autumn.
Oops! We apologize to our readers who received this new recipe via email with the subject line: Tortellini Salad.
As we finished harvesting all of our winter squash for the season, it only felt appropriate to take a few inside and enjoy a lovely, warm bisque that has all the flavors of fall. By roasting the squash along with all the spices and sugar in this recipe, you’ll bring alive the essential oils buried in them and caramelizing the squash at the same time—achieving a depth of flavor you can’t get by starting this on the stove top.
We are busy bustling around and getting ready for our Arts in Celebration weekend, but remembering how important it is to balance our life with the simple pleasures that God gives us. We do hope you will consider joining us over this next week to experience beauty and the arts, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Prepare butternut squash and toss in a bowl with 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar
Spread squash on two parchment or foil lined baking trays and roast in oven for 30 - 35 min. or until tender when pierced with a fork (stirring occasionally).
While the squash is roasting, prepare your leeks and pears. Place the sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any excess dirt, then remove.
Heat a large dutch oven with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Saute leeks over medium heat until golden and soft. Add pears and then the roasted butternut squash, scraping all the goodness off the pan.
Add the broth and bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 min.
Remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
Adjust seasonings (add additional 1 tsp. salt) and cream, milk (or additional stock) to the consistency you prefer.
“Nothing that’s been given to us should ever be allowed to go to waste.” This has been a strong emphasis in the sisterhood from its earliest days. “No apple drop that has any edible part should be tossed. It should be turned into applesauce or butter.”
One convent sister in particular has a strong passion for turning all of our imperfect fruits into creative preserves. All summer long we have enjoyed a variety of jams and spreads on our breakfast toast, and occasional desserts. Plums, nectarines, peaches, apples have each in their season made their appearance in different forms.
But perhaps the choicest of all was the rich creation that appeared this week and disappeared within days. Made with the last of our pears and laced with rich bourbon this superb pear chutney elevated an already elegant pork loin roast into a spectacular sensation. Yesterday’s lunch cook served it alongside of ham and swiss pinwheels—always a favorite just as they are on their own…over the top with this enhancement!
It suddenly occurs to me that little jars of this would make choice Christmas gifts. Give it a try and see what you think.
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!
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.
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.
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.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well with a whisk until airy and fully combined. Set aside.
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.
Add the eggs and beat again until pale and airy.
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.
Pour over the pears and spread all the way to the edge.
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.
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.
Serve warm, garnished with vanilla ice cream, chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey or caramel sauce, if desired.
One of the beautiful things that I am learning about Italian cooking is that each ingredient is to be savored. So many times, we take wonderful ingredients and throw them all together and miss appreciating them as they were meant to be.
As I walk along the streets of Barga with the dogs in the morning or on my way to the Pannificio to get our bread for the day, I often take photographs of the menus hanging on the restaurant windows. When I return to the Villa and have a moment, I try to find a recipe and recreate them.
A featured item on the menu in the Garfagnana district, and much of Tuscany, is Pecorino pere e miele – Pecorino with pears and honey. Pecorino is a cheese made from sheep’s milk and each district or town here is very proud of their own version of the cheese. The taste of the cheese changes depending on what type of grass the sheep are fed and how the cheese is aged. Most popular and well known are those produced in Sardinia. A good Pecorino Stagionato is often the finish of a meal, served with pears and walnuts and drizzled with a strong chestnut honey or one of the lighter acacia honeys farmed locally. Their food is simple, but in this simplicity can be found tremendous beauty and taste. Savor the moment.
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.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch round pan with removable sides (like a cheesecake pan).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream sprinkled with nutmeg.
Thank you to "Living Well Spending Less" for this wonderful recipe!