“Sr. Irene, you just have to taste this!” came a cry from the kitchen. One of our special event cooks had just tried out a new appetizer for an upcoming reception. I could tell from the sound of her voice she was quite happy with it.
“Be there in a minute,” I responded, unable to leave just then. The next day one of the kitchen sisters asked, “Wasn’t that new appetizer just the best?”
Oh no! How could I have forgotten? I chastened myself, vowing to get to the kitchen before the end of the day. When I finally arrived with much embarrassment and was able to locate and ravenously devour the one and only “Tasting Sample” that was left, I could only groan. The caramelized tomato bruschetta with fresh garden pesto was beyond delicious. Why oh why didn’t I get myself there the moment I was first called!
A savory twist on a summer classic, this bruschetta is a great way to enjoy both fresh garden tomatoes and basil!
Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the tomatoes into 1/3 inch slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.
- Place on a cookie sheet or sheet pan and roast in the oven until tomatoes turn a light to medium brown and the sugar is visually caramelized.
- While tomatoes are roasting, brush the flat bread with oil and spread the pesto overtop, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- When tomatoes are finished, carefully remove them from the pan and arrange on top of the pesto and cheese. This is a delicate process as the tomatoes are likely to fall apart after roasting.
- Serve with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and enjoy a taste of summer!
A Recipe You’ve “Bean” Waiting For!
We want to be sure that vegetarian meals are provided for our guests or those attending events that prefer them. But often I simply enjoy just experimenting with fresh, garden ingredients. Here’s a new dish that is both vegetarian and gluten free. It also contain legumes – a wonderful and healthy source of protein. With lovely vegetables being harvested from our gardens, why not be creative? A friend in our community was my taste tester and she told me she couldn’t wait for me to post this recipe. It has all the flavors of summer with the basil, tomato and lemon. Buon appetito!
Vegetarian Cauliflower Steaks
- Cut a head of cauliflower into 1/2 inch ‘steaks’ from top to bottom
- Put cauliflower on a parchment lined tray and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with onion salt. Roast at 425 degrees F for 35 min or until golden brown and tender.
- Meanwhile, add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a sauté pan and heat. Add diced red onion and sauté over medium low heat until soft. Add the garlic, parsley, basil and tomato and cook for another minute. Add the white wine and juice of one lemon and simmer until liquid is reduced. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the legumes and lemon zest - taste and adjust seasonings.
- When ready to eat, spoon the bean mixture over your roasted cauliflower steaks and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve warm with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and garnish with a sprig of fresh basil. Enjoy!
This week we continue with vegetarian recommendations, and this one is gluten free as well. Recently we had the pleasure of hosting a good friend of ours from “Across the Pond.” While our guest was not strictly vegetarian, we planned meals that were loaded with fresh produce and light on meat–and this vegetarian Frittata fit the bill!
Loaded with sauteed vegetables including a fistful of baby spinach, this dish is as versatile as you need it to be, easily adaptable for the breakfast, lunch or brunch table. A mini cast iron pan worked well as an individual serving and looked light-as-air still hot from the oven. Topped with cheese and garden chive, this just might make another appearance on our guest table this spring and summer!
- Preheat broiler and heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet*
- Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the bell pepper and zucchini cooking until tender.
- Add spinach and stir until just wilted.
- Whisk together the eggs and egg whites, adding the salt and pepper and pour into the pan with the vegetables.
- Reduce heat and stir until vegetables and eggs are combined. Keep over heat until the egg has set on the bottom, about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cheese and remove the pan from the heat and finish under the broiler. Cook under the broiler until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.
- Garnish with fresh chive and serve immediately.
Get creative! Not only can this dish feature at breakfast, lunch and brunch, you can add or substitute other vegetables such as mushrooms and tomatoes and fresh herbs.
*We used a mini 6" cast iron pan in our preparation. If serving more people, a 10" skillet works well.
“Spring is on the way!” the kitchen sister sings. Outside the convent door the crocuses agree and now tonight’s evening meal reflects the happy thought by bringing a touch of Spring to the dinner table. During this Lenten season we have been serving lighter meals which have included a wide variety of new soups — mostly vegetable-based and surprisingly successful and satisfying. Our brand new fresh green pea soup is making its debut tonight and we shall see how it tastes.
Today in the bush outside my window I saw a baby robin and now there’s not a doubt that Spring is on its way!
- Sautee onion, celery and garlic in a large pot.
- Dissolve the vegetable stock in the water and add to pot with onion, celery and garlic.
- Add the peas and stir occasionally, bringing everything to a boil.
- Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- When peas are tender, remove from heat and let cool.
- Add mint leaves to the soup and blend with either an immersion blender, or in batches in a counter-top blender.
- Serve either warm or cold and garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.
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!
Fast and Easy Weekday Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F)
- Sautee onion and garlic in a pan over medium heat until the onions become translucent.
- Add tomatoes and olives to the pan and stir together, and transfer into an oven-safe pan.
- Place the chicken breasts on top of the olive and tomato mixture.
- Mix salt, paprika, cumin and pepper in a separate bowl and sprinkle over chicken.
- Bake the chicken in the oven until juices run clear, 25-30 minutes.
- Serve warm and garnish with fresh parsley.
Fast and Easy Weekday Chicken
Huevos Rancheros – Spanish for Ranch Eggs – has long been a favorite breakfast treat of mine. If you’re someone who likes to add a little “kick” to your food, this is the recipe for you. We recently made this for one of our small retreats – eggs, black beans, salsa and cheese sweetly nestled in a flour tortilla in one of our new pottery ramekins that we got by saving “stamps” at our local grocery store. There is nothing like eating comfort food on a cold winter’s day, and this one will warm you from the insides out. Easy to prepare for a crowd or just a few people with very little prep. We hope you enjoy this.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush six 10-ounce ramekins with 1 tablespoon oil or spray with PAM. If the tortillas aren't pliable, stack them and microwave uncovered until warm and flexible, about 20 seconds.
- Brush tortillas with the olive oil or spray with PAM and gently press 1 tortilla into each cup.
- Place 1 tablespoon of black beans in the bottom of each ramekin, followed by 1 tablespoon of salsa. Gently crack 1 egg into each tortilla cup atop the salsa and beans. Spoon another tablespoon of black beans over followed by a bit of salsa and chopped scallions and liberally cover each with cheese - making sure to cover the egg completely.
- Bake uncovered until egg whites are set, about 15-20 minutes (yolks will still be soft inside).
- Serve immediately topped with a dollop of sour cream and chopped scallions - serve tabasco on the side, if desired.