Spring on the Cape is at its peak this week, with trees budding, boats going back into the water, gardens being cultivated, summer cottages being opened and the pungent smell of salt water filling the air. Clamming licenses are being renewed, and fishermen are painting and repairing their boats – it’s an exciting time to live on Cape Cod!
The beauty and stillness that I found as I walked along the harbor boardwalk yesterday was palpable. “It’s time to make chowder”, I thought to myself. A visit to Cape Cod just isn’t complete without a steaming bowl of chowder. If you can’t get to the beach this summer, try this recipe to bring the beach to you!
- Place the salt pork or bacon in a heavy 5 quart sauce pan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is brown and crisp (don’t burn!). Remove the bacon bits w/ a slotted spoon and reserve.
- Add the onion, celery, bay leaf and thyme to the drippings and sauté until they are wilted and golden.
- Add the flour and cook for about 1 minute, then add the potatoes and clam juice (both the bottle juice and the liquid reserved from the clams). Set the kettle over medium high heat and bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 min until the potatoes are tender.
- Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the cream and heat, uncovered, without allowing the mixture to boil.
- When the mixture is hot, add the clams and the bacon bits and cook for another 5 minutes without boiling. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve immediately, putting a pat of butter on the top of each bowl of chowder w/ a small piece of bacon and a sprinkling of paprika to garnish. Don’t forget the chowder crackers!
Easter! A day of joy! A day of celebration! That’s why we have been planning a festive Easter Sunday brunch this year. And that’s why we have been experimenting with a number of fresh new ideas to make this an uplifting meal of praise and thanksgiving that will set the tone for the week ahead.
One of the new dishes we put together is a colorful asparagus fritatta. This starts with a tasty potato and onion crust that is filled with a mixture of eggs, cheese, and bacon bits, and then topped with fresh asparagus spears, strips of zucchini, and colorful peppers. To dress it up we garnished it with a couple of crisp bacon curls. We were very pleased with its appearance and we loved its combination of flavors. It is definitely now on our menu, and I am almost certain once it has made its debut in the convent on Easter Sunday it will return for many repeat performances in the days ahead — not only as a brunch or breakfast dish, but as a lovely spring lunch or light supper.
Festive Asparagus Frittata
- Drizzle oil over the base of a 9 inch quiche dish, then spread with onions and top with potato slices.
- Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until potato is tender.
- Steam asparagus until tender.
- Arrange asparagus spears and red pepper and zucchini strips like the spokes of a wheel onto top of potato, then pour over eggs and season with black pepper to taste.
- Scatter with Parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until frittata is firm.
This is definitely the season for soups and we are adding them to our menus at the convent every week. There are so many kinds to choose from, they are so much fun to make, and so satisfying to eat. One of the suppers which sisters most love is a big hearty soup served right out of the skillet in which it has been prepared and then simmered a good part of the afternoon. Each person goes by and dips out a bowlful just to their liking to take back to their table where home baked bread and salad is waiting for them. This simple experience almost always puts everyone in a jovial mood that makes for a good time at the table with a warm “homey” atmosphere filling the refectory. One of our most popular choices is this goulash soup with a light Hungarian accent.
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the meat, onion, garlic, and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until lightly colored. Add the cabbage and bell pepper and cook stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.
- Sprinkle in the flour and paprika and cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the vegetable stock, a little at a time. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Season to taste with salt, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat, re-cover the pan, and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the sugar, if necessary. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, swirl a little sour cream or shredded cheese on top of each, and serve immediately.
We are still picking kale and digging up parsnips in our garden, and both are tasting so so good. From the garden straight to the stove….how much fresher could you ask for your vegetables to be, and what could taste better with these wonderful vegetables than a nice plump whole roasted chicken smothered with herbs and filled with your favorite stuffing? It seems we can never have this too often at the convent.
Most people seem to be sold on roasted vegetables these days and they are great. But to me the magic key to making them better than ever, is to roast them together with the meat or poultry with which they are being served.
Chicken And Roasted Vegetables Extraordinaire
- Season a whole chicken with onion salt and pepper and herbs.
- Place in roasting pan large enough to hold vegetables as well. Surround the bird with equal amounts of parsnips, carrots, potatoes and onions.
- Roast uncovered at moderate temp 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until juices begin to appear - stirring from time to time.
- Add chicken broth, water, or a splash of wine as needed making sure that every bit of flavor, fat and juice is being absorbed by scraping and stirring.
- Remove bird to a smaller pan to finish cooking, once the vegetables have reached the softness you desire.
Nothing warms the heart quite like a piping hot cup of homemade soup with lunch on a nippy winter’s day. Lately, we’ve had lots of both……nippy winter days and hot cups of soup. Until you start making homemade soups you never realize how easy it is and what fun it can be coming up with the next new soup du jour to surprise and satisfy your hungry eaters.
Two days ago, I made one of my simplest and most favorite…..potato leek. We happen to still have a generous number of leeks in our gardens so they are available to us most of the winter, but if you are not as fortunate, onions can just as easily be substituted. The flavor will just be a little more intense, since leeks are slightly milder in taste.
Last night we had a large amount of leftover broccoli from dinner. This morning I put the broccoli thru the blender and combined it with my leftover potato leek soup, adding some crumbled blue cheese and we enjoyed a zesty new taste treat today at lunch. Use your imagination, and see what you come up with. There’s no end to the variations you can develop on the simple theme of Potato Leek soup.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onion, leeks and potatoes, and sauté gently for 2-3 minutes, until soft but not brown.
- Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Remove soup from the heat and let cool slightly.
- Transfer to a food processor or blender, in batches if necessary, and process to puree.
- Return soup to the rinsed-out pan and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper as desired.