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…
- For the curd, combine zest, juice, sugar, salt and eggs in a heatproof bowl, and beat well.
- 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.
- Strain into a bowl, and press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, at least 1 1/2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch spring-form pan with 1 tablespoon butter, and dust with 1 tablespoon flour, shaking out excess.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake until cake is toasty brown on top and a toothpick inserted into cake (not curd) comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
- Let cool on rack 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan, and cool completely.
- Whip cream with almond liqueur. Present cake at table, and offer whipped cream on the side.
(Recipe adapted from the New York Times)
“Who wants to take on care of the rhubarb patch?” This question went out a few days ago to the sisterhood from the sister in charge of our vegetable gardens. Before the day was over the question had been answered, the patch had been watered, and the fertilizing process begun.
We love our rhubarb patch. We love to watch it come into fruition producing its rich beautiful leaves and stems. We love to see it harvested and prepared for the many different ways we use it.
For this year’s Easter dinner various sisters volunteered to make a variety of very special desserts. There were several decadent chocolate wonders. There were tortes and trifles piled high with tantalizing toppings. There were brand new gourmet creations anyone of which could have taken a prize, and then there were a number of humble pies. So…which dessert do you think was most requested? You’re absolutely right. It was our old-fashioned, flavorful strawberry rhubarb pie. Unfortunately, some had to go without!
- Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit.
- For the pie crust: Combine the salt and flour together.
Cut the shortening into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until it is about pea-size pieces.
- Add the water to the flour a little at a time using a fork to lightly mix it. Continue to add the water until the dough just comes together – don’t over work the dough or it will become tough.
- Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Once it is ready divide the dough in half and roll out the bottom crust and place in a pie dish.
- Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, and salt.
Turn into the unbaked pie shell.
- Roll out the top crust and place over the filling. Crimp to seal edges and make a few slits along the top.
Brush with egg white wash and garnish with large granule sugar.
- Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
Decrease temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.
Note: Rhubarb is tart. The strawberries provide sweetness but, depending on your taste, you might want to add more sugar.
Spring is in the air, Eastertide is here and we are back with one of our newest, most favorite offerings for the season from our Monastic Bakeshop: Luscious Lemon Rolls. With that tangy, dreamy sweetness in every bite, you’ll think you have just tasted a bit of heaven. As we prepared our home for Easter morning, we also prepared these for our bakeshop and Convent. We had some help from the children in the community, too! We hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as we did!
- To make dough, boil water and remove from heat. Add the butter, Crisco and stir until melted. Add sugar and salt and cool to lukewarm.
- In a large mixer with a dough hook, put the 1 cup very warm water and sprinkle the yeast over. Stir to dissolve. Add the butter-Crisco mixture to the yeast mixture. Add the eggs and mix.
- Cup by cup add the flour, stopping when the dough is just a wee bit sticky still to the touch. Set aside to a warm place to rise, covered with a towel, about 1 hr. or more.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. In a Cuisinart, grind together the sugar and candied lemon rind. Set aside w/ the softened butter.
- Make the frosting by whipping the butter first, add the powdered sugar slowly cup by cup alternately with the liquid and zest. Beat until creamy. Set aside until ready to frost.
- Divide the dough in half. Roll into two 12 x 8" rectangles. Spread with half the softened butter and then half the sugar/lemon mixture - spreading the filling right to the edges.
- Roll up jelly roll style, pinching the seam closed, and cut into 1" slices. Place rolls in generously buttered 8" round cake pans.
- Let rolls rise until doubled in size.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 20 min or until lightly browned and the center is cooked.
- Frost while still warm and eat immediately for the yummiest results!
In the coming months, you will from time to time be treated to new recipes from “guest bloggers”. These are old and new friends — dedicated chefs and passionate voices who share our love of cooking. After all, we are Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen, and these kitchens extend far and wide, all over the world. Tables that welcome the “Stranger as Christ”, kitchens that “practice the presence of God” as Brother Lawrence taught, and communities that are built by hospitality, love and prayer. Our lives are enlarged as we welcome them and listen to their unique voices, share in their story and try our hand at their creativity.
This week’s guest blog post comes from Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, a Benedictine monk who lives at Our Lady of the Resurrection monastery in Lagrangeville, New York. He is also an internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of several cookbooks. He is also the author of a new book from Paraclete Press, Christ the Merciful.
The son of man came eating and drinking . . .
– Matthew 11:19
The quote above was one of Dorothy Day’s favorites from the Gospels. It reminds us that Christ, in the fullness of His humanity, partook of food and drink and gave us Himself under the auspices of bread and wine.
These thoughts are on our mind as we prepare a simple dessert for the anniversary of the death of Saint Benedict on March 21. Known as the Transitus of Saint Benedict, this is the day that monks and nuns celebrate his birthday in heaven. During evening vespers we hear the story of how he prepared himself for the passage into the next life by receiving communion. Then, with the assistance of some of his monks, he positioned himself in the form of the cross to die like his savior. He insisted on remaining in an upright position with his arms extended in prayer until his final breath.
Saint Benedict is considered the founder of Western monasticism. In this humble dish we celebrate his life while maintaining his Rule of simplicity and moderation in all things.
Oranges for St. Benedict’s Day
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Cut the oranges evenly in half and, using a spoon, carefully remove the pulp from the inside, keeping the shells intact. Remove the seeds and cut the pulp into tiny pieces. Place in a deep bowl.
- Add the candied fruit kirsch, and sugar to the orange pulp. Mix well and fill the orange shells with this mixture.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes. Serve warm.
Recently a friend drove me to a medical appointment. As we left to return home she asked, “How about lunch?” This had not been in the plans but it was lunchtime and a nice suggestion so I said, “Sure.” The next question was what did we feel like having: a burger, a taco, pizza, Chinese? None of them moved either of us, so I offered another idea, “Further on there is a nice little French bakery that serves lunch, if you wouldn’t mind driving an extra bit.”
Within minutes both of us were savoring the richest flavored onion soup out of individual black wrought iron pots overflowing with melted cheese and boasting a gorgeous golden crusted crouton. Almost simultaneously, we both had the same thought: Why don’t I ever make this at home? Within days she made it for her family and the convent sisters served it for two different retreats. In each case it met with overwhelmingly positive responses.
How long has it been since you served French onion soup?
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, slowly brown the onions and garlic in butter and sugar until the onions are golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- Add flour and cook, stirring for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add stock or consommé and water, and simmer partially covered for 1 hour.
- To serve, place a small slice of French bread on top of each bowl, and cover generously with Swiss cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, then bake covered at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake another 10 minutes.
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.