Years ago, we were asked by the local Episcopal church to help them with their annual Devonshire Tea, a lovely traditional English tea served every summer in the church gardens.
The lady who for many years had been responsible for them, met with me to discuss the details. The simple menu consisted of three items: biscuits, coddled cream, and strawberry preserves. Her main concern was the size and shape of the biscuits. To ensure their correctness, she carefully sketched them on a page from her personal notebook and gave the page to me.
The biscuits’ size and shape were of utmost importance! She was certain I would make the cream perfectly, and as far as the preserves were concerned, any I chose would be fine. My choice was a vibrant colored fresh strawberry jam sometimes referred to as “freezer jam”, although none I’ve ever made stayed around long enough to reach the
Perfect for the occasion, it met with great applause and added a most beautiful touch to this splendid event.
- Combine crushed strawberries with sugar, and let stand for 10 minutes.
- While the strawberries sit, dissolve the pectin into the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and add the salt and lemon juice to the saucepan.
- Stir the boiling water into the strawberries and allow to stand for 3 minutes.
- Pour jam into containers and let set overnight or for 24 hours.
Enjoy with coddled cream and biscuits or as an ice cream topping, in a milkshake, or on toast...the possibilities are endless!
For years, I just naturally began preparing many meals by chopping and sautéing together a combination of onions,celery and carrots. I never realized, in those teenage years, that I was employing a basic cooking technique, producing what is often referred to in the culinary world as the “All powerful Culinary Trio.” This homey trio of ingredients is absolutely essential for flavorful soups, sauces and gravies.
Recently, I added chopped potatoes to the mixture and that, along with a serving of fresh spinach and several succulent slices of roast lamb (excellent in the Spring) resulted in a most flavorful and satisfying meal. You might want to give it a try.
“All Powerful Culinary Trio” otherwise known as Mirepoix
Mirepoix can be used in a variety of ways—namely in stocks and sauces. To make a stock (chicken, beef, fish, lamb, etc.) one pound of Mirepoix will season roughly one gallon of liquid.
Last night I encountered one of our sisters leaving the convent to attend a special baby shower that was to take place that day. She had in her hands a tray of the most exquisitely decorated mini cupcakes. I was very impressed by their beauty and the precision with which they had so carefully been decorated.
Late this afternoon I once again ran into the same sister. This time she was returning from the same baby shower with something even more impressive than the cupcakes I had seen going there earlier. In her hands she carried this little edible garden. It took my breath away. I was completely taken aback as I looked carefully at the little rows of miniature vegetables “planted” in a garden of humus that was topped with..toasted rye bread crumbs. It was absolutely charming…so much so no one wanted disrupt it to eat it because they wanted all the sisters at the convent to see it.
The person who made it for the shower was thrilled to find it as she flipped through the April 2018 issue of the Food Network magazine. Click here to see the original photo and ‘recipe’ for the edible garden entitled “Veggie Crudité Patch”.
This year Good Friday and the start of Passover were on the same day—-a rare occurrence given the difference between the Gregorian calendar used by most Western countries and the lunar calendar observed by the Jewish faith. Indeed, the Seder plate used during the first night of Passover tells the dramatic story of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt and includes reminders of their captivity: bitter herbs to signify the bitterness of slavery, haroset which is a reminder of the mortar used between bricks, a shank bone to remember the Passover sacrifice and an egg which represents the new life promised to them after the Red Sea crossing.
Borrowing from our Jewish roots, our own Good Friday dinner was a cross-section of the Judeo-Christian traditions that mark this holy season of the year. Beginning with a candle lighting and blessing at 6:45—the official start of the eight-day Passover festival—and continuing with the meal which included some dishes found at a traditional Passover Seder table including Matzo ball soup, roasted chicken (with haroset stuffing), marinated green beans, Israeli couscous and tabouleh salad. Also gracing our table was one of our year-round favorites: fresh Challah bread baked that afternoon. While Challah—and dishes containing yeast—are not eaten during Passover, we couldn’t help ourselves! This braided bread is so delicious and beautiful to look at and made an honorary appearance on our Good Friday Passover table. Best when eaten fresh, this versatile bread is also wonderful toasted the next morning day. Try out the recipe below and see for yourself!
With wishes for a joyful conclusion for the Passover and Easter seasons, we look forward to the promise of new life this spring!
- Combine the first three ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let sit for 5 min. or until foamy.
- Add the next 4 ingredients and then the flour and salt, adding as much flour as you need for the dough to start pulling away from the side of the bowl.
- Remove to a floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky.
- Place in an oiled bowl, turn over once, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
- Divide dough into 9 balls and roll each ball into a “rope” using your hands.
- Braid 3 ropes together into 1 braided loaf of bread and continue with the other 6 ropes, making 3 loaves in all.
- Let the bread rise again.
- Make an egg wash and brush on the bread and bake in a 325º oven until golden and cooked through, about 30 min.
With the holidays just around the corner, you might be looking for a new and unusual crowd-pleasing side dish to wow your guests. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, introduced to me by Tessa Kiros in her wonderful cookbook: Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book. She introduces the readers to the twelve months of Tuscan cooking and seasonal ingredients. When I’ve served at our mission house in Tuscany, I would cook through this book and this recipe became one of our house favorites. As Tessa says, “pastry-less baked vegetable pies are very common and are made with various vegetables depending on the season, such as green beans, artichokes and spinach.” You can also use broccoli in place of cauliflower.
We just served this last night for the opening to our Gregorian Chant Retreat and received great compliments. This would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you want to make it gluten free, just substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour in the the béchamel sauce.
Baked Cauliflower Pie (sformato di cavolfiore)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees/ Wash the cauliflower and trim away the hard stem. Put it into a pot of boiling salted water and boil for about 10 min. or until it has softened.
- Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce:
1) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
2) Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
3) Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
- Drain the cauliflower and chop it up finely or roughly puree it. Put into a bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 cups béchamel, parmesan cheese, a grating of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, adjusting if necessary. Mix well with wooden spoon.
- Butter an oven dish or loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs to line the pan, shaking away the excess (use gluten free breadcrumbs if making gluten free). Pour in the mixture and sprinkle the surface with the remaining breadcrumbs.
- Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.