Menu Inspiration gives subscribers exclusive access to original and inspired recipes from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, host of the movement Grace Before Meals.  If you subscribe to the weekly newsletter, you’ll get access to the recipes.  If you have a special recipe that inspires the family to come together more regularly, please share it with us and our faithful foodie community.  Pictures of your food surrounded by your family and friends are always welcome!

Gourmet Potato:

One of the Scripture Professors at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary comes from the “holy land,” i.e., Ireland.  Besides his Irish brogue, you can tell he’s a true Irishman by his untiring love for potatoes at every dinner!  If you really want to give him a hard time, tell him the cafeteria ran out of potatoes!  It would be just as tragic as Ireland’s Potato Famine of 1845.

Potatoes

For my Filipino-American family potatoes made their way to the table primarily in stews and the 4th grade science project where I watched a water soaked spud give new life as a root.  Instead we ate rice – jasmine rice in particular.  Growing up we ate “mashed potatoes” during Thanksgiving.  But this wet gob of goo came from a box on top of the refrigerator next to the boxes of cereal.

I didn’t really consider French fries from fast food restaurants to be real potatoes, which was confirmed after I saw the person behind the counter throwing a bag of these frozen sticks into hot oil until the beeper indicated it was time to pull them out, salt them, and serve them in grease drenched paper bags.  I liked them, but I didn’t realize the power of the potato until much later.  And of course, I loved those perfectly shaped potato “chips” that came in the bright red tube.   I even liked the little shards that remained at the bottom.

Snack

You can clearly see my limited understanding of that dirt covered rock-looking root.  Ironically, my appreciation for potatoes did not blossom until I tasted other preparations of this starch in Europe.  And no, I’m not talking about Ireland.  I’m talking about Italian preparation of potatoes.
Sorry to say, I find the old-fashioned potato preparation – boiling them in salted water and slathering it in butter – very boring and rather heavy.  Prepared that way, I can see why people have to eat a lot of potatoes to find some satisfaction.  By eating large quantities, it’s understandable why diets that avoid starch and carbohydrate see the potato as a foe than a friend.

Perhaps a moral to learn for those who love potatoes:  quality is much better than quantity.  Avoiding starches, such as the simple potato, will help you lose weight (it’s been scientifically proven).  But you will also lose out on an ingredient that is near and dear to the hearts of traditions, history, and family memories around the dinner table.  And starch-free dinners do get boring – at least in my opinion.  Perhaps a moderate outlook on the potato, or other starches for that matter, would be that you can eat it, but just eat less of it. And make sure it’s more flavorful in its preparations, in order to satisfy your culinary cravings.

To help “remake” the potato, I turn (once again) to Italian influenced preparations.  In my opinion, Italians are as impressive with potato treatments as they are with pastas.  The Italian gnocchi, for example, (when prepared well) are pillow-like potato dumpling often served in a ragu or in a sage and brown butter sauce.  A small bowl of this potato preparation won’t leave a person feeling stuffed.  Instead, I’ve always left a good gnocchi dinner feeling content and guilt free.
Another Italian potato recipe is roasted potatoes with rosemary.  A few pieces served as a side dish with grilled lean meat and a fibrous vegetable always left me feeling satisfied and never heavy.

(Pan-roasted potato with rosemary.)

(Pan-roasted potato with rosemary.)


I admit that the Italians, while more famous for the pasta, should be very proud of how they opened my rice eating background to a whole new world of potato goodness.  The use of herbs and roasting techniques for Italian preparation of potatoes reminds me of the message I shared last week about portion control.  It’s not about how much you eat, but the quality of the food.  The potato is not a dieter’s enemy.  When prepared well, it can help bring about balance to protein-heavy diet meal plans.

(This is my version of a roasted potato, grilled corn, and grilled green bean salad. A delicious and healthy meal in itself!)

(This is my version of a roasted potato, grilled corn, and grilled green bean salad. A delicious and healthy meal in itself!)

Faithful Foodie Notes:  We have a few more spots left on our Culinary Cruise and our Napa Valley Retreat – both provide a combination of culinary and spiritual opportunities, world class accommodations, and incredible family fun at very affordable rates.  We will close booking for the culinary cruise next week, so act now and contact Diana George (dgeorge@ctscentral.net) at Corporate Travel Service 1-800-727-1999 x 180, or click here to view the full brochure.

Posted in Grace Before Meals, Italian, Menu Inspiration, Past Emails | 4 Comments »

Posted February 24th, 2010 | Italian, Recipe-Italian, Recipe-Pasta

To make this little can of albacore come to life, I created my version of Italian tuna pasta that I ate in Florence during my seminary days.  I’ve made it for several other people and they say it’s definitely the opposite of penitential!  But, it’s still in the Lenten rulebook for fasting and it sure beats the texture and blandness of those sandwiches!

Ingredients:  Serves 1 portion

1 cup of dried fusili pasta, boiled and cooked al dente

1 can of albacore tuna

1 Tbs olive oil

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

1 Tbs fresh capers

½ tsp green peppercorns

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ cup tomato sauce

Instructions:

Sauté garlic in pan of hot olive oil. Add tuna (including the liquid in the can), capers, and peppercorns.  Mix until tuna is warm.  Add tomato sauce and let simmer for 1 minute.  Add pasta and allow some of the pasta water to help “cream” the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Posted in Italian, Recipe-Italian, Recipe-Pasta | 5 Comments »

Posted February 2nd, 2010 | Italian, Recipe-Italian, Recipe-Side Dishes

Tomato Basil Soup– (From Southern Living Magazine – 1997)

4 shallots, diced

1/2 lb. leeks, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 or 3 garlic cloves, pressed

2 tbs olive oil

2 (14.5 oz.) can of Italian style tomatoes in juice, chopped

1 tbs dried basil

2 (14.5 OZ.) can of chicken broth

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup of whipping cream

Cook first four ingredients in hot oil in a Dutch oven over low heat 10-12 mintues or until tender (do not brown). Add tomatoes and add 1 tbs of basil; cook over medium heat, stiffing occasionally, 10 minutes. Add broth and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Cool.

Process half of mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Transfer to cooking pot, and then proceed to process remaining half and add to pot. Heat over medium heat and then stir in whipping cream; cook, stirring constantly until heated thoroughly (do not boil). Yield 6.5 cups.

The soup (without the whipping cream) may be made and frozen in a freezer container for up to 1 month. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and thaw in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Heat in the cooking pot over medium heat, and then add the whipping cream – proceed with above directions.

Posted in Italian, Recipe-Italian, Recipe-Side Dishes | No Comments »