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.
On our return from town yesterday we were driving down Rock Harbor Road when suddenly, without any notice, up from a woodsy space alongside of the road emerged a huge dark wild turkey. With his enormous tail fully outspread he “took” the stage strutting across the road, with great pomp and confidence. Everyone gasped and our driver jammed on the brakes just in time to avoid running into the rest of the family of 8, which followed the man of the family in very deliberate and perfectly choreographed form.
A not so subtle reminder to start preparing for the holiday ahead!
- Fit a food processor with the center blade, and chop up the cranberries. The pieces should resemble minced cranberry. Put aside in a bowl.
- Put the orange half—including the peel—in the processor and chop it as with the cranberries and add this to the bowl of processed cranberries.
- Add the sugar (or Jello mix) and stir well to combine.
- Put relish in a bowl and cover tightly in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Serve this and colorful relish with turkey, chicken or ham this holiday season—a fresh and easy sidekick to any holiday table!
With all the meals we were serving in quick succession over this past weekend, we looked for a few vegetable recipes that could easily be prepared ahead but still maintain their beauty and freshness. We were so happy with the results of this asparagus dish. It was definitely a keeper – perfect for Christmas or even Easter! Never too early to start planning ahead! Asparagus Cordon Bleu is easy and a lovely addition for a dinner party or any holiday. It can be easily assembled in advance and popped in the oven shortly before serving.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking dish by brushing with melted butter or olive oil
- Prepare an ice bath. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of salt. Drop the asparagus into the salted water. Cook 15-30 seconds or until asparagus turns bright green. Remove and immediately drop into the ice bath. Let cool thoroughly then pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Divide the asparagus into six even bundles. Wrap each in the prosciutto and place in the prepared baking dish.
- Top with grated cheese.
- Bake for 10-15 min. until cheese is melted
- Meanwhile, combine butter and panko in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden.
- Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Can be prepared 24 hours in advance. Assemble and refrigerate. When ready to bake, preheat oven and bake per directions, holding panko to add later.
Recipe adapted from achefskitchen.com
“Nothing that’s been given to us should ever be allowed to go to waste.” This has been a strong emphasis in the sisterhood from its earliest days. “No apple drop that has any edible part should be tossed. It should be turned into applesauce or butter.”
One convent sister in particular has a strong passion for turning all of our imperfect fruits into creative preserves. All summer long we have enjoyed a variety of jams and spreads on our breakfast toast, and occasional desserts. Plums, nectarines, peaches, apples have each in their season made their appearance in different forms.
But perhaps the choicest of all was the rich creation that appeared this week and disappeared within days. Made with the last of our pears and laced with rich bourbon this superb pear chutney elevated an already elegant pork loin roast into a spectacular sensation. Yesterday’s lunch cook served it alongside of ham and swiss pinwheels—always a favorite just as they are on their own…over the top with this enhancement!
It suddenly occurs to me that little jars of this would make choice Christmas gifts. Give it a try and see what you think.
- Combine all ingredients in a heavy pot. A Dutch oven or a cast iron pot works well.
- Bring ingredients to a boil, stirring often.
- Reduce heat and let simmer for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
- Serve as a condiment on the side, warm on pork or chicken, or dress up a deli ham sandwich. Enjoy!