About Gourmet Nun

There are actually two of us under the title of "Gourmet Nun!" One of us came at age 13, the other in her 30s. We have been sisters for 43 and 38 years respectively. One of use came with her mother (who felt called to this community), the other drove down in a red Carmen Ghia, leaving behind a job in a flower shop in Boston. Between us we have almost a century of cooking experience (that actually sounds kind of frightening!) having cooked since we were young. We have been in choir, wind ensemble, orchestra, painted, made quilts and both have been or are executive chefs in our events kitchen. We both love food; but especially the relationship between hospitality and the dining room, the Eucharistic table and the banquet table. Nothing makes either of us happier than a well-planned and well-executed meal that speaks of the love of God.

Asparagus Risotto: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Risotto is now considered a specialty dish often featured on menus in upscale eating places. It has, however, been a common everyday food in Italian homes for many years. Cooked in different ways to satisfy various tastes, it is almost as popular as pasta in the Mediterranean diet.

It can be prepared as a simple, meatless, light lunch or as an accompaniment to meat or fish for a fuller multi-course meal.

This time of year, spring asparagus especially lends itself to this creamy, cheesy dish to make it an exceptionally flavorful culinary experience.
Asparagus Risotto

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots or 1/4 cup onion
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine (or 1Ttablespoon lemon juice and 3 Tablespoons water)
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed, tips cut off, tough skins of the spears peeled (if      working with apparatus spears), and the spears cut into 1″ pieces on diagonal
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Onion salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the asparagus

In a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until nicely coated.

While shallots are cooking, bring the stock to a simmer in another saucepan.

Add the wine. Slowly stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of hot stock to the rice. Stir until the liquid is almost sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue adding 1/2 cup of hot stock to the rice at a time, and cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed each time. You will stop adding stock when the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 20-25 minutes. With the last ladle of stock, add the asparagus. Turn off the heat. Keep the risotto loose. It thickens a lot while it sits.

Gently stir in the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter. Add onion salt and pepper to taste.

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Crispy Black Bean Fritters: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

One of our cooking sisters has made it her “mission” to incorporate healthy foods into the convent diet and get people to eat things they would not naturally choose-by making them into tasty, attractive dishes. She certainly succeeded yesterday, so much so that I never got to taste her crispy black bean cakes because I was late to lunch and there was not a one left to even sample.

However, all the Sisters who had them insisted they were fabulous and that they must be written up as a blog…..so here is the recipe…..Let me know what you think.

P.S.  Black beans have been proven to significantly aid the digestive system.

Crispy Black Bean Fritters
3 cups black bean, cooked
1 large yellow pepper, seeded and chopped into small pieces
1 small white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large tomato, chopped into small pieces
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
Sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil (for frying)

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, stir well to combine (add more flour if it’s not binding). Season with sea salt and black pepper. In a large skillet, add three tablespoons of oil to the pan on medium heat. When hot, add bean mixture by tablespoons. Fry on one side until golden brown and crispy (about 3 minutes). Flip over for another three minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Season with fresh black pepper and sea salt.

Serve with dipping sauce on the side

Cilantro Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/2 small green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon sugar, salt, and black pepper

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Lemon Cream Custard Pie: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Lemon meringue pie has always been my most favorite lemon dessert, but recently I was introduced to another lemon dessert that really rivals it: Lemon Cream Custard Pie. Similar in its fresh tangy flavor, but different in texture and topped with whipped cream instead of meringue.  I have only had it once but definitely want it again.

Lemon Cream Custard Pie

1 9-inch baked pastry shell
1 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream
Sweetened whipped cream

In saucepan, mix sugar, pinch of salt, cornstarch, butter, lemon peel, lemon juice, egg yolks and milk; stir and cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes. Cool. Fold in sour cream. Pour into pastry shell. Refrigerate at least 12 hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish as desired.

lemon pie

Princess Louise Sole: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Last week, while waiting for an appointment, I casually flipped through a magazine and while doing so, my eyes fell on what looked like a potentially interesting recipe, involving little work, minimal preparation, and minimal cooking. In fact, it almost appeared to cook itself, and in no time at all.  This was too good to pass up so I had to give it a try…..and I am so glad I did.

The result was a simple but elegant entree with a delicate subtle gourmet touch making it fit for a princess, while at the same time perfectly filling the bill for a healthy, flavorful, low fat dish for fish lovers.   

Princess Louise Sole

2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon onion or scallions, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons sherry or white wine
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
3 fillets of sole

Sauté onion or scallions in butter slightly. Except for the sole add other ingredients to the butter and onions. Bring to a boil. Add fillets. Turn heat way down and cover for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Hot Chicken Salad Puffs: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

It seems we barely get cleaned up from one reception, and it’s time to prepare for another. We have many events happening on a regular basis and they almost always are accompanied by the serving of food or refreshments of one kind or another. At a recent reception we revised an old favorite that met with a great response. We served this hot chicken salad in little cream puffs and they disappeared so quickly we couldn’t keep the trays filled. 

Hot Chicken Salad Puffs 

4 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1 cup chopped celery
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon curry (Optional if you like)
1 teaspoon sage or poultry seasoning
3 teaspoons grated onion
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups crushed potato chips

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

 In a large bowl mix the chicken, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, onion salt, spices, onion and almonds. Transfer to the baking dish, and top with Cheddar cheese and crushed potato chips.Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Fill cream puffs, arrange on platter and serve.

Cream Puffs
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pats
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt; use 1/2 teaspoon if you are using unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups flour
4 large eggs
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) two baking sheets.
 
Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted and bring to a rolling boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until the mixture smooths out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It will still feel hot. Transfer the dough to a mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time; the mixture will look curdled, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for 1 minute after adding the last egg. You will have a stiff, smooth batter.
 
Drop the dough by Tablespoonful’s onto the prepared sheets. Leave about 2″ between them. Bake for about 20 minutes, till they have puffed, they are medium golden brown and they look dry. Remove baked puffs from the oven and use a sharp knife to cut a slit into the side of each puff, for steam to escape; this will help prevent them from becoming soggy. Return the puffs to the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Slit each puff in half around the circumference and fill with a heaping Tablespoonful of chicken salad. Replace the top.
 
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Special Beer Batter: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

When it is a Sister’s big birthday at the Convent we try to make it as special as we can.  Last week for her 60th birthday the Sister celebrating it chose for a theme “Spring on Cape Cod.”

Decorations included a variety of spring flowers and plants, forsythia and pussy willow and beautiful sea shells.

The menu was “Fish and Chips” served in divided little baskets. The atmosphere was purposefully casual with lots of fun and merry making. The food owed its success to this simple yet “Special Beer Batter” used for frying. 

Special Beer Batter
1 cup flour
1 can beer
1 egg
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 cups crushed potato chips

Pour beer into flour ’til thin.  Add 1 beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Dip fish or chicken in the batter and then roll in potato chip crumbs. Fry at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-4 minutes. 

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Spring Easter Salad: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

I wanted to come up with an interesting Easter salad. Something fresh and springy, yellow like sunshine and light green. Suddenly the idea came….an Easter egg salad!

A flavorful deviled egg nested in Boston Bibb lettuce with some tender spring asparagus and avocado, sprinkled with finely chopped chives and crumbled egg yolk…..that’s the look. Then, showered with a Fresh Lemon vinaigrette dressing …that’s the taste. I took a chance and gave it a try…It was a success!

Spring Easter Salad

Deviled Eggs
1 dozen hard boiled eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon minced onion or shallot
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper 

Peel the eggs. Using a sharp knife, slice each egg in half, lengthwise. Gently remove the yolk halves and place in a small mixing bowl. Using a fork, mash up the yolks and add mustard, mayonnaise, onion, Tabasco, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Spoon egg yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Sprinkle with paprika, if you wish.
 
Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Thyme
Onion Salt
Pepper
 
In a jar or a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, thyme, onion salt to taste and pepper. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature. Shake or stir before serving.
 
Arrange on individual plates with other ingredients or on a large platter for a buffet table.
 
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Hot Cross Buns: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun
 

Countless stories surround the origin and the history of hot cross buns. Suffice it to say they are eaten as a simple little sweet during Lent after weeks of abstinence and looking towards the crucifixion. It is our tradition to serve them here at the Community of Jesus every Good Friday.

There is one little saying about them that I particularly like. It is said that a bun baked on Good Friday and hung in one’s kitchen will guarantee the success of all baked goods prepared in that kitchen. Worth a try? 

HOT CROSS BUNS

3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons softened butter
1 Tablespoon instant powdered milk
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup citron
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons milk

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and let stand 10 minutes in mixer until foamy.  Add softened butter, instant powdered milk, egg, egg white. Mix well with dough hook. Add salt and flour only adding enough flour until dough is slightly sticky. Add citron and currants and cinnamon. Continue to add rest of flour until the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky to handle. You may not need all of your flour. Mix on slow for another 5 minutes – this will knead the dough. Let rise in mixer bowl until double in size. Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.

Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.

Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.

To make crosses: mix together confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and milk. Brush an X on each cooled bun.

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Chicken and Roasted Vegetables Extraordinaire: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

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.

DIRECTIONS-

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.

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Creamy Tangerine Custard: Recipes From a Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Have you noticed, how tangerines have broken into the food scene of late? Having made their debut they are now showing up in a variety of exciting new ways. I can’t think of a more pleasant or deserving fruit for this to happen to. This simple little citrus, which for so long has primarily been eaten as a plain healthy snack, with just a bit of “dressing up”, turns into a stunningly beautiful dessert with distinctive flavor and tangy zip and sparkle.

I am considering using this recipe for our Easter dinner dessert. So often I’ve chosen a light yellow lemony one for this meal but I’m thinking a tangerine creation could be a colorful, lovely and refreshing change. Of course, there’s no need to wait till Easter.  Why not try it for an early spring lunch or dinner to usher in the warmer weather?

Creamy Tangerine Custard Dessert 

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 cups fresh tangerine juice (6-8) tangerines
1 medium tangerine
3 large eggs 
3 Tablespoons butter 
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Whisk in tangerine juice until smooth. Remove 1 (2-inch) strip of peel from tangerine, using a vegetable peeler, and add to pan. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally; boil, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove pan from heat.

Whisk eggs until frothy. Gradually whisk 1/4 cup hot juice mixture into eggs; add egg mixture to remaining hot juice mixture, whisking constantly. Return to heat, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until thickened. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; stir in butter and extract until butter is melted. Discard peel. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly onto warm custard (to prevent a film from forming); chill 2 hours. (Mixture will thicken as it chills.)

Garnishes: any citrus slices or mandarin, mint 

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