The other day someone asked me about our Convent meals. “Who decides what you eat?” was one of the questions. It just so happens that at this particular time we are doing something a little different than usual about our menus.
Each week a different sister is asked to submit a suggested menu for approval. This has been quite successful. It is a help to the chef and an almost sure guarantee that there will be variety in our meals. For instance yesterday we were totally surprised to be served potato latkes for lunch, something we have not had in a long time and never for our noon meal. The genuine cheers of delight and energy in the food line were a joy to all. We are not sure how long this method of meal planning will last but for the time being everyone is enjoying it.
- Finely grate potatoes with onion into a large bowl. Drain off any excess liquid.
- Mix in egg, salt, black pepper and bacon bits. Add enough flour to make mixture thick, about 2 to 4 tablespoons all together.
- Turn oven to low, about 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
- Heat 1/4 inch oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
- Drop two or three 1/4 cup mounds into hot oil, and flatten to make 1/2 inch thick pancakes.
- Fry, turning once, until golden brown.
- Transfer to paper towel lined plates to drain, and keep warm in low oven until serving time.
- Repeat until all potato mixture is used.
After having had so many special meals over Christmas and New Year’s
we wanted to come up with a simple yet satisfying supper on New Year’s
day. Remembering that we still had some leeks braving the cold out in our
almost barren gardens we decided on a potato leek soup, homemade bread
and a hearty salad. Since there was also some kale fighting for
survival out there why not add that to the soup making it even
healthier and giving it yet another dimension?
Our decision turned out to be a good one and everyone enjoyed it! They especially
appreciated its being light as well as very flavorful and heart-
warming,(the flavor was even better the next day) so when we make
it again I will suggest we make it a day or two before actually serving it.
We garnished it with a dollop of sour cream and chopped kale. A few bacon bits
or curls, if desired, could also add to its look and flavor.
*Whether you get your leeks from your garden or your grocery store it is important
to wash them ever so thoroughly because they often have soil hidden between the leaves
at their stems.
- Heat the oil in a large (6-plus quart) stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leek and potato and kale . Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have begun to soften and brown slightly, about 8 to 12 minutes (this time will vary greatly depending on the surface area of the bottom of your pot).
- Add the vegetable stock and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Blend until smooth, either using an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a blender in batches.
- Add the cream, and season to taste with salt (I start with 1 teaspoon and go from there, tasting frequently) and lemon juice and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a healthy sprinkling of kale or bacon bits.
I finished hanging up my wet laundry on the clothesline and paused to take in one more moment of this idyllic scene around me before returning to my room. I was on the island of Crete during a Gloriae Dei Cantores choir tour staying at a conference center situated on rocky white cliffs overlooking the bluest water I’ve ever seen. This was, without a doubt one of the nicest accommodations of the trip where we were made to feel so welcomed and at home.
The clothesline we’d been encouraged to use for our handwash was outdoors in the backyard garden of the building. It was fastened to a sturdy lemon tree heavily laden with gorgeous fruit just like the lemon trees under which we had enjoyed our dinner the evening before.
I had grown up savoring the flavors of fresh lemon juice and zest in my food long before it had become as popular as it now is, but never until this moment had it occurred to me why Greeks love and use it as much as they do in their cooking. Now I could clearly see the reason why. These fresh lemon and oregano potatoes are a typical example of the many ways in which these ingredients are regularly used in Greek cooking.
Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, oregano, and parsley in a food processor; to blend; season with salt and pepper.
- Toss potatoes with 1/2 cup of the prepared vinaigrette in a large bowl and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette.
- Roast potatoes until tender and golden brown, 20 – 30 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with some of the remaining vinaigrette. Season with salt and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.
I do love potato salad. My earlier version started with a vinaigrette marinade on the potatoes, and finished with mayonnaise — a little lighter than the norm. This past Labor Day weekend, I wanted to do something even simpler and lighter. I remembered a salad using red potatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil. So simple (you don’t even have to peel the potatoes), but so tasty. Add that to our nice crop of red potatoes straight from the garden, and you have the beginnings of a great picnic! From the clean platter that came back, I could tell everyone liked it!
Red Potato Salad with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil
- Cook sliced red potatoes until tender, but not falling apart.
- Allow to cool slightly.
- Combine vinegar and olive oil, and add to potatoes.
- Chiffonade the basil, and add that and the red onion to the potato mixture.
- Season to taste with salt.
- Can be served at room temperature, or chilled and enjoyed later.
Memorial Day is supposed to be the kick off for summer, but it was a little questionable with the cold temperatures and constant rain. The vegetables in the garden seemed happy enough — potatoes, beans, leeks all were thriving with the extra moisture they were getting. I was a little concerned that steaks on the grill weren’t going to do all that well in the pouring rain. Monday dawned clear and warmer, and we were able to have our picnic as planned. It was delightful and almost sparkling in the sunshine. I made my favorite potato salad. My sister has always made it this way, and I recently realized that this is also the way my mother always made it. The secret is in the salad dressing going on the potatoes while they are still warm and making it a day ahead so the flavors have a chance to develop.
- Cook potatoes in a pot of boiling salted water until tender.
- Drain and transfer to a bowl. Pour on the vinaigrette.
- Let sit for a few minutes.
- Then combine the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until cold.
The cold weather is really upon us. We have a crusty covering of snow and the wind is blowing in off the bay right across the common. I love the cold and all the great food that goes with it. I recently had the challenge of feeding a construction crew at a mountain site and it was really cold up there, so I wanted to give them hot lunches or at least hot soup. The challenge was that the cooking facilities were a distance away, and I needed to transport hot soup to a really cold place. I wrapped a big pot in a blanket in a cooler with two big rocks heated in the oven on either side. It worked — it was almost too hot to eat! And the grilled ham and cheese sandwiches we put in there also stayed warm. The crew was very happy! My recipe today is the corn chowder I served on the mountain. It’s enough for a crowd of 12 hungry men.
Mountain Corn Chowder
- In a large pot, cook sausage, breaking up with a spoon until chunky and brown.
- Remove from pot to a paper towel-lined plate or pan.
- Cook onions in the sausage fat left behind in the pot until almost translucent, then add thyme and cook a couple of minutes longer.
- Add potatoes and vegetable stock and cook until potatoes are just tender.
- Add drained canned corn and creamed corn and browned sausage.
- Add milk to desired thickness.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Heat thoroughly but do not boil.