Being a Benedictine House, we start our day with the office of Lauds followed by Eucharist. As I left the service today, I was struck by just how many years Monasticism has existed and thrived, and how blessed I was to be a part of a living organism that has withstood the passage of time and changed the world in the process.
As I passed through our atrium, I was met with the lovely singing of birds. With the cold winter we’ve had, this promise of spring was a delight to my ears and got me itching to create a light new soup that was both colorful and tasty. I set out for the kitchen to create just that.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, sautee leeks, garlic, and thyme in the butter and olive oil until softened- about eight minutes.
Add diced potato and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the potatoes begin to take on a slightly translucent hue. Meanwhile, prepare asparagus by snapping off the ends and peeling the sides with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1" pieces.
Add broccoli florets to your stock pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add prepared asparagus pieces and cover with 8 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken, whichever you prefer). Stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover your pot and cook until your vegetables are tender about 10 min.
After 10 minutes, uncover the pot, turn off the heat and add the spinach. Allow to sit for an additional five minutes.
Cool slightly, and puree using an immersion blender or a countertop blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more broth to achieve the desired thickness or add some cream. Re-heat and serve. Makes 14 cups of soup.
This is a winner! We recommend serving this with an open faced sandwich or just on its own. You’ll think this soup has been thickened with cream, but magically it hasn’! Coconut milk and coconut oil have a wonderful way of adding depth of flavor and the under-appreciated cauliflower and parsnip get a bit of attention in this marvelous winter soup. Topped with caramelized onions and sautéed apple, this dish is perfect for fall when you start pulling on your warm socks and woolen sweaters.
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Vegan Roasted Cauliflower & Parsnip Soup with Caramelized Onions & Apples
Preheat over to 375-400°F. Toss the cauliflower and parsnips in 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and spread in single layer on a sheet pan. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the tips begin to turn brown, then add the minced garlic, cover with foil and continue roasting until soft and tender.
Meanwhile, caramelize the onion: slice the onion into thin strips, and saute over low heat with 1 Tbsp. coconut oil. Adding just a dash of salt and sugar can help the caramelization process. Stir every few minutes, until onions begin to brown. Dice the apple, and add it to the pan. Continue to cook on low until apple is tender and the onions are golden and sweet. Add salt to taste. Set aside for garnish.
Place cauliflower, parsnips, 4 cups warm broth, coconut milk/cream in a blender,. Blend until smooth, adding salt and smoked paprika to taste. Add additional broth, coconut milk or cream until desired consistency and flavor is reached.
Re-heat your soup on the stove or in the microwave or freeze in ziplock bags for later.
When ready to serve, spoon soup into bowls and top with a generous amount of onions and apples.
Sisters birthdays are a special day of celebration in our Convent. Much prayer and discussion goes into the place setting at the table, the beautiful word that is specially picked just for her and then a few carefully and lovingly wrapped gifts (which are usually a few treat foods that she rarely gets). The Sister gets to choose her dinner entree and dessert from a menu. It’s really such fun – some sisters take up to a week deciding what they’re going to ask for on their special day. This past week, I had the great fun of cooking for one such occasion. I made my signature shrimp dish – a little like a scampi, but made richer by the fettucine tossed with cream and parmesan. The fresh lemon in this recipe is a must – don’t skip it. The Sister slowly savored her meal, a smile emanating after every bite. What a blessing it is to bless others – that’s what I love so much about the gift of cooking.
Meanwhile, sauté ¼ c. diced onion and crushed garlic clove until translucent over medium low heat. Watch carefully so you don't burn the garlic. Add chopped basil leaves and chopped tomato – lightly toss, sauté and remove from heat and into a dish to hold.
Cook your pasta and when finished, toss with 4 Tbsp. butter, warmed heavy cream and 1/2 cup fresh parmesan until you have an “Alfredo” – add onion salt and fresh ground pepper - seasoning to taste.
Quickly sauté your shrimp in butter, once golden on both sides, add white wine and juice of one lemon. Simmer slightly and then add the tomato mixture back to the pan and combine - season to taste.
Serve fettuccine with the shrimp tossed over – sprinkle with the lemon rind, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.
Stella’s Shrimp and Fettuccine. To subscribe to the weekly Recipe blog from the Monastery Kitchen at the Community of Jesus click here: http://monasterykitchen.org/
Last week some unexpected changes in the convent work areas resulted in a brand new kitchen staff with fresh new ideas and increased emphasis on healthy wholesome meals that will be simpler and require less preparation time. The two cooks assigned to the first new meal had no advanced time to plan a menu or select a recipe, and were simply told to use chicken breasts, rice pilaf, two vegetables and pantry ingredients of choice.
Dinnertime found the sisters enjoying a bright colorful delightfully seasoned meal with a different look and flavor than our usual chicken dinners. Low in fat yet surprisingly full of flavor this cheerful meal was a promise of very good things to come out of our convent kitchen, and we eagerly look forward to our meals as a result of this change!
Just out of High School I was working in our city’s leading flower shop. The owner of the shop was Jewish and from time to time his mother would surprise all of us employed there with one of her home cooked Jewish dishes. Her chicken Matzo Ball soup with its distinctive flavor was my favorite.
When the sister cooking our convent lunch this week agreed to make this for us I could not have been happier. For many of the sisters this was a brand new taste experience. For me it was a reviving of one of my happiest early life memories.
Every time our lace making sister comes home from Belgium, one of the first things she’s eager to do is cook something from her adopted homeland for all the sisters here at home. Not only does she want to introduce us to Flemish cooking, she also wants to be able to share the response of the sisters “here” with those “back there.”
This time, she’s chosen to make Flemish Beef stew, a simple stew with a unique flavor provided by one key ingredient, which is beer. Frequently when referring to this meal it will be said “The better the beer the better the stew.” Now beer is not something we regularly have on hand in the convent, but only when its given to us as a gift for some celebratory occasion, but our determined sister would not be put off by lack of one ingredient, even though it be the most important one in the recipe. She is known for having everything fall into place at the right moment regardless of the odds. So it was no surprise to anyone when a 6 pack of Stella Artois appeared on the kitchen counter. Without skipping a beat, she continued working on her stew while quietly throughout the convent sisters could be heard quietly chanting “The better the beer, the better the stew.”
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the beef and brown on all sides, turning frequently, about 5 minutes
Transfer to a slow cooker and drain any fat from the pan.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and brown the remaining geef and add to the slow cooker.
Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until they give off their liquid (5-7 minutes).
Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms and cook for half a minute. Add beer and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to reduce foaming, until thickened and bubbliing, about 3 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the beef in the slow cooker.
Add carrots, onion, garlic, mustard, caraway seeds, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the beef is very tender, about 8 hrs.
Flemish Beef Stew made by Sisters of the Community of Jesus on Cape Cod