Meals at the Convent are planned and prepared by the Convent kitchen staff for each day of the week—except Sundays, when rotating groups take turns making dinner. This gives Sisters who don’t normally cook an opportunity to do so, and to select a favorite dish they particularly enjoy. Often these meals turn out to be “fun” or ethnic in nature, such as last night when an abundance of chopping, chatter and laughter resulted in a tasty, colorful Thai meal enjoyed by all.
Crunchy Tofu Noodle Salad
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Cut tofu into chunks about 1” square or ½” strips. Marinate in soy sauce and fry in oil in a sautee pan until slightly brown and semi firm or line sheet pan with aluminum foil, coat with a layer of oil and cook tofu at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until brown and semi firm.
- Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Lift the sugar snap peas from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Drain.
- For the dressing, whisk together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter in a medium bowl.
- Combine the spaghetti, sugar snap peas, peppers, scallions, fried tofu in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the spaghetti mixture. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the parsley and toss together.
My favorite time of day is early morning especially whenever I am able to spend any of that time out in the gardens. The thrill of discovering something fresh and new poking up through the soil, opening of buds and unfolding of leaves all give me incentive for the day. It makes me expect good things to happen and encourages me to look for new life developing around me. Right now we are harvesting mostly lettuce. Big, full, beautiful leafy heads — Boston bib, Buttercrunch and several other red leaf types for variety of texture and flavor.
There is no end to the beautiful salads that can be created with these crisp tender leaves and we’ve been using them in that way for most of our meals. We also enjoy them for a main meal in the form of Asian lettuce wraps, a favorite at the convent year-round, but especially nice in this warm weather.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
- Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not to tear them.
- Set aside.
- In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 Tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary.
- Drain, and set aside to cool.
- Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir.
- Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, sesame oil, and cooked beef; continue until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.
- Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center.
- To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf.
- Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!
Now that spring is definitely here to stay we want to turn to warmer weather needs—dishes that are fresher and lighter and require less cooking. Here’s where plump tender chicken breasts can be so accommodating—offering endless possibilities. Last week one of the sisters gave a “Birthday Gift” lunch to a young community girl who loves Asian food. The result was a delicious and attractive chicken salad. That inspired me to have something similar made for the convent lunch the next day. Both versions were a success, similar in some ways, yet each quite different in others. Here’s my Basic Asian Chicken Salad that you can alter to your liking—adding to or taking away any ingredients that do or don’t appeal to you.
- Chop or thinly slice grilled chicken; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the spicy ginger dressing.
- Add the cabbage, chicken, carrots, spinach, tomato, mint and cilantro to the large bowl and toss gently.
- Top with mango slices and roasted peanuts. Garnish with scallions and roasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.