Lemon-Almond Butter Cake

This past week, we invited artists to step away for a few days of retreat as they enjoyed renewing their vision and sharing together, in an atmosphere of Benedictine hospitality on the shores of beautiful Cape Cod Bay. Each day was punctuated by two lectures given by renowned art historian, Msgr. Timothy Verdon. He  shared his passionate love of art, with beautiful images—both familiar and unknown—in a series of seven post-Easter lectures. Art lovers had the opportunity to fellowship together, while Msgr. Verdon discussed what it means to see with artistic understanding. It was a treat for our entire community and a privilege to be behind the scenes creating meals for them to enjoy. (Read more about the retreat here!)
Oscar Wilde said, “The artist is the creator of beautiful things.” Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, I believe that you are. Every one of us wishes to create beautiful things out of nothing. Take this Lemon-Almond Butter Cake for example…
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Lemon-Almond Butter Cake
SERVINGS
19" tart
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
9" tart
COOK TIME
1hr
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. For the curd, combine zest, juice, sugar, salt and eggs in a heatproof bowl, and beat well.
  2. Add butter, and place over a saucepan full of simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until mixture thickens into curd, about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain into a bowl, and press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, at least 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon flour, shaking out excess.
  5. With an electric mixer, cream the remaining butter and 1 cup sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt, and stir in.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until they start to foam. Do not overbeat or the cake will be tough. Add eggs and ground almonds to batter, and mix well.
  7. Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Drop 8 individual tablespoons lemon curd around perimeter of batter, leaving a 1-inch border, and taking care to space drops evenly.
  8. Drop 3 to 4 tablespoons curd into center of batter. Refrigerate remaining curd for another use. Sprinkle cake with toasted almonds and 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, depending on taste.
  9. Bake until cake is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into cake (not curd) comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
  10. Let cool on rack 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan, and cool completely.
  11. Whip cream with almond liqueur. Present cake at table, and offer whipped cream on the side.
(Recipe adapted from the New York Times)

All American “Stars and Stripes” Pie

This year, we celebrated the Fourth of July in style. It was the first time in over 10 years that our award winning Spirit of America Band was able to participate in our hometown parade in Orleans, Massachusetts. It was a day marked with patriotism and pride, and one to remember all of our loved ones that have sacrificed so much for the great freedom we have today. Like most families across America, we concluded the day with fireworks and “All American” cookout topped off with these magnificent Stars and Stripes Pies.

I am reminded of a beautiful prayer that Billy Graham offered to this Nation – may we pray it together for the future of America:

“Our Father and Our God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve. Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face. Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace. We pray today for our nation’s leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it. You have said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord. This we pray in Your holy name, Amen. “

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All American "Stars and Stripes" Pie
SERVINGS
8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
1 hr 15 min
PREP TIME
45 minutes
READY IN
2 hours

Ingredients

Instructions

To Prepare Crust:
  1. 1. Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix.
  2. 2. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball.
  3. 3. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Divide the dough in half. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Assembling the Pie:
  1. 4. Roll out both pie crusts. Press one into the bottom of the pie pan – leaving an overhang for your crust (you will finish this off at the end). Reserve the second pie crust (keep covered w/ a sheet of plastic)
  2. 5. Fold aluminum foil strip into 90 degree angle wedge to fill 1/4 of the pie and place in pie shell
  3. 6. Fill the 1/4 area with the uncooked blueberry filling
  4. 7. Fill the rest of pie with strawberry rhubarb filling
  5. 8. Remove foil
  6. 9. Dot fruit filling with about 6-8 small chunks of butter (about ½ Tbsp each)
  7. 10. Using the reserved pie crust, take a pizza cutter and a ruler and cut three full length 1" stripes and two half length 1" stripes out of your dough. Use the remaining dough to cut your stars (we used a sharp knife or you can use a cookie cutter). Place the stars and stripes on top of the fruit, as seen in the picture, being sure to press the ends of the stripes into the bottom crust.
  8. 11. With your fingers, pinch crust to create a nice ruffled edge.
  9. 12. Brush the entire crust with egg wash and a sprinkling of sugar
  10. 13. Bake at 325 for about an hour and 15 min. or until crust is golden and fruit is bubbling
  11. Cool slightly and enjoy with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream!

FullSizeRender (31) Pie pic 1

End of Summer Fresh Lemon Gelato

September is season unto itself on Cape Cod. As many of our visitors return home to school and work, there is a quieter spirit. Yet the air is warm, gardens are full, the beaches are less crowded and the sunsets are beautiful. We are enjoying the best month of the year here. There is still lots of outdoor living to be done before the crispness comes with days of shorter daylight. Thought this recipe for one of the best and freshest tasting gelatos might be just the thing for some of those late summer warm nights.

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End of Summer Fresh Lemon Gelato
SERVINGS
1quart
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
quart
COOK TIME
0mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
2 1/2hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, using a hand mixer combine creams and sugar until sugar dissolves
  2. Stir in vanilla, lemon juice and zest and salt
  3. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours
  4. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions.
  5. Serve in a hollowed out lemon half for a stunning presentation.

Winter Kale Salad

For more than a year now, kale has succeeded in holding the titled “prima dona” position of most nutritious vegetable in the current food world. At the moment, no other vegetable has stepped into that position to replace it. Whether one has acquired a taste for kale or just has a natural appetite or appreciation for it, the fact remains that  this versatile green is such a rich source of so many valuable nutrients, surpassing even Popeye’s  proverbial spinach.

I think it’s obvious that I’m a kale enthusiast and I enjoy it prepared in many different ways. However the first time I heard that kale salad was going to be on the convent dinner menu, I had strong reservations about eating it uncooked and did not look forward to it. When others who sampled it before me started exclaiming over it I was curious to give it a try. One taste led to another and before I knew it I had joined those singing its praise.

The very next day I experimented with my own version of the dish and was amazed at the variations that were possible with this hearty winter salad.  Try having fun with it yourself and see what interesting versions you can come up with.

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Winter Kale Salad
SERVINGS
6-8people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
PREP TIME
1hr
READY IN
1 hr (or overnight)

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Pour dressing over 1 bunch (4 cups) finely chopped kale
  2. Toss well and let set for an hour or two or overnight.
  3. Stir in desired amount of fruits and vegetables of your choice. I started off with roasted beets and butternut squash, walnuts and pomegranate seeds and craisins and liked this combination. The next time I varied it with fresh raspberries, chopped apples and bacon bits. Experiment and do whatever combination you most prefer.

Crepes with Lemon Ricotta Filling

Crepes are one of my favorite foods and can be quite versatile.  Used for dessert, they can be filled with a variety of ingredients: chocolate, Nutella, mascarpone to name a few.  Or served at breakfast with ricotta cheese and just a touch of sweetness.  At lunch or dinner, they can be filled with spinach, chicken and mushroom cream sauce, or thinly sliced ham and a lightly scrambled egg or even an herbed cream cheese with smoked salmon and sliced radish. Any way you serve them, they are delightful, and light on carbohydrates.

I was cleaning out our coal stoves, and discovered an old cast-iron crepe pan. I couldn’t resist! Passion took over and I set about cleaning it up, trying out recipes, and finding something that I wanted to share.  This simple breakfast crepe will be a nice change on the weekend, when you want to do something a little more special for your family.

 

Blessed New Year!

 

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Crepes with Lemon Ricotta Filling
Makes about 6 8-inch crêpes, recipe can be doubled as needed
SERVINGS
3people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
20 mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
1 hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place the flour, milk, eggs, salt, and melted butter (and optional sugar and vanilla) in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds until batter is smooth. Alternatively, whisk everything together in a bowl until thoroughly combined and frothy.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the batter sit for at least 1/2 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Before cooking the crêpes, assemble everything you'll need by your stove top: the batter, the pan, the oil and pastry brush and a spatula. If your bowl doesn't have a pour spout, have a ladle or 1/4-cup measuring cup handy.
  4. Place the pan over medium heat and brush your pan with oil to coat the bottom. Let it sit on the flame for a minute to get hot. Pour in about ¼-1/3 cup of batter. Immediately, pick up the pan and swirl it to coax the batter into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  5. When the crêpe has browned slightly on the bottom, carefully work a spatula underneath it and flip. Cook the second side briefly, just to set the batter.
  6. Tilt the pan and loosen the crêpe, then slide it onto the cooling rack or wax paper
  7. Continue making crêpes with the rest of the batter, brushing more oil on the pan as needed to keep the crêpes from sticking.
  8. If not eating the crêpes immediately, stack them one on top of the other as they cool. If they seem sticky, place a square of wax paper or parchment between them. Place the stack in a sealable plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months.
Lemon Ricotta Filling
  1. Whip all of the above ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and creamy. If using cream cheese, whip this first until creamy and then add the other ingredients
  2. Spoon about 2 Tbsp of the filling into one of the “corners” of the crepes and fold into ¼’s
  3. Arrange on plate and sprinkle with mixed berries and powdered sugar to serve, or serve with homemade blueberry sauce (below).
Homemade Blueberry Sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine sugar, water, cornstarch, and lemon juice.
  2. Whisk until blended, then add blueberries.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until juice is clear and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Serve at room temperature

​​Mascarpone Cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of those “back pocket” desserts that I always like to have on hand.  It freezes well, and you can even slice it frozen and re-freeze what you don’t use.  I have my favorite NY Cheesecake recipe that I’ve used for years, and it’s a no-fail,  but when I was living in Italy, I didn’t have the same access to graham crackers and cream cheese as I did at home, so I had to do a little improvising.  That’s when I stumbled upon this recipe for a Mascarpone Cheesecake.  This was something I always had on hand  – mascarpone is pretty much a staple in Tuscan homes, and much less expensive than it is here.  But if you’re looking for something different,  give this a try.  It is light and delicious, and lovely served with fresh berries tossed in sugar!

A few tips to making a successful cheesecake:

  • Always start with room temperature cream cheese and beat the cream cheese ​until very smooth and ​before ​adding any other ingredients.
  • Have your eggs at room temperature
  • Using the zest from fresh limes, oranges or lemons is what will give your cheesecake a flavor boost.  Zest contains the essential oils, which adds the depth of flavor without the tartness and “liquidity” of juice.
  • Wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil and cook the cheesecake in a water bath to prevent cracking, just make sure you have a tight fitting springform pan to do this, otherwise the water will leak in. You can also bake cheesecake without a water bath, but use a lower temperature oven.​
  • When the baking time is up, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake just sit for an hour or so​.  This helps​ the cheesecake to set up well.
  • If not using right away, remove the spring form pan sides and wrap ​tightly in plastic wrap, leaving ​the bottom​ of the pan on​, and freeze.
  • After a day, you can remove the pan bottom and re-wrap the cheesecake.
  • Slice your pieces while still frozen and put the rest back in the freezer.
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​​Mascarpone Cheesecake
SERVINGS
12people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
110min
PREP TIME
15min
READY IN
180min

Ingredients

Instructions

For the Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter the inside of a 9-inch springform pan, and wrap the bottom of the pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Place the prepared pan on a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Add the butter and stir well to moisten all of the crumbs. Pour the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and use your fingers to press gently into an even layer on the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. If you are having trouble getting the layer even, use a straight sided glass or measuring cup to gently press the crumb mixture onto the sides and into the corners. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes while the oven heats.
  3. Slide the pan into the oven and bake until the crust is lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325º.
For the filling
  1. Using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until it is light and very smooth, about 4 minutes.
  2. With the mixer running on medium low speed, slowly pour in the sugar, then the salt. Beat for 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a full minute after each egg. Scrape down the bowl, reduce the speed to low. Add in the mascarpone and mix thoroughly. ​ Wrap foil around the outside of the pan (see picture below) and pour the mixture into the prepared crust. The batter will come to the top of the springform pan.
  4. Place the springform pan into a roasting pan​ and fill the roasting pan with enough (very) hot tap water—or boiling water—to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan​ ​and place on the center rack of the oven. ​Close the oven door and bake the cheesecake until it is lightly golden on top and the filling is set, but still slightly wobbly in the center, about 90 minutes.
  5. Turn off the oven and prop the door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Let the cheesecake cool for one hour in its water bath. After an hour, gently remove the roasting pan from the oven and lift the springform pan from the water. Carefully remove the foil from the bottom of the pan and set the pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the top edge of the cheesecake to release it from the pan. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, then cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing—an overnight chill is best if you have the time.​

Andiamo Mangiare!​