Monday, April 23, 2012

Tropical Fruit Pavlova + Our Lady of the Angels

Last week, as I participated in the rededication of the church at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in West Humboldt Park, I was reminded that the Resurrection is not a one-time event. I didn’t even know that the mission existed until mid-March, when I went with a group from my church to help out with their monthly mobile food pantry. The story of this place takes my breath away.

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Our Lady of the Angels used to be a thriving parish in a largely Italian-American neighborhood. In 1958, a devastating fire in the parish school killed 92 students and 3 nuns and injured many others. The school was rebuilt and reopened in 1960, but closed as a result of declining numbers in 1999. The parish closed in 1990. The demographics of the area have changed drastically since the time of the school fire; today it remains an area of poverty, gang activity, and violent crime. In 2006, the median household income in the area was $21,000, and 35 percent of adults did not have a high school diploma.

Mission OLA

In 2004, Fr. Bob Lombardo answered Cardinal George's call to rebuild the church in this depressed Chicago neighborhood. When he arrived, many of the buildings were vacant or in disrepair. With virtually no budget to make repairs, Fr. Bob relied on the help of neighbors and friends to donate time, money, skills and prayer to rebuild this mission. The state of the mission today is a testament to Fr. Bob’s great faith and tireless work, and to the reviving power of God.

In 2006, the Franciscan mission opened in the completely renovated rectory. Kelly Hall, which had been the vacant and crumbling parish center, reopened in January 2009 as a fully renovated YMCA community center. The convent has been beautifully renovated, and now serves as a facility for retreats and other community gatherings. The Franciscans of the Eucharist, a fledgling religious community, began serving the mission in 2009. Today, the mission helps about 700 families each month to get good, healthy food. About 130 children participate in the after school program, and several hundred are involved in activities and programs at Kelly Hall.

That's a lot of beans!

The most recent project was the church, which completed renovations and was rededicated on April 14, 2012. The church was packed with people who had come to celebrate the remarkable resurrection story that has occurred in this place. There was such joy! And they didn’t pause their community outreach for the celebration, either: the day of the rededication, they held their monthly mobile food pantry, hosted a Daddy-Daughter Dance at Kelly Hall, and then served a fabulous dinner to all the guests at the Mass.

Mission OLA1

For more information about Fr. Bob and the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, visit their website,, where you can learn about their many volunteer opportunities, donate money to support them, and view lots of pictures of volunteers and community members, and amazing before-and-afters of their ongoing renovations.

Tropical Fruit Pavlova

Tropical Fruit Pavlova

Pavlova is simple and elegant, and a perfect dessert for Easter, Mother's Day, or any other springtime gathering. Swap out the tropical fruit for berries in the summer. Also, I've heard it described as a symbol of the resurrection, since it spends 2 hours resting in the "tomb" (the oven that has been turned off) before it's done. A bit of a stretch, but kind of cute, right?

adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Meringues and Fruit:
4 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 kiwis, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin
1 1/2 cups pineapple, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the meringues: adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.

Scoop six 1/2-cup mounds of meringue onto prepared sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart.  Gently make small indentations in each meringue using back of spoon. It will be really sticky, so just do the best you can.Bake until meringues have smooth, dry, and firm exteriors, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven until completely dry and hard, about 2 hours. (Meringue shells can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.)

For the fruit: Gently toss mango, kiwis, and pineapple with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in large bowl. Let sit at room temperature until sugar has dissolved and fruit is juicy, about 30 minutes.

For the topping: Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip heavy cream, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.

To assemble, place meringue shells on individual plates and spoon about 1/3 whipped cream into each shell. top with about 1/2 cup fruit. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Balsamic Spinach Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

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We've still got a couple of weeks until the glorious return of the farmers' markets to the fair city of Chicago, which means there's still time for a couple more wintry recipes! This juicy pork tenderloin is stuffed with a vitamin- and flavor-packed sauteed spinach mixture, seared, and finished in the oven. It's a perfect dinner for a rainy April weeknight. Soon it will be time for spring peas, asparagus, and rhubarb. But for now, let's use up the root vegetables and apples and enjoy where we are!

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stuffed pork tenderloin

Balsamic Spinach Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

1 pork tenderloin, thin end trimmed
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the stuffing:
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
5 ounces fresh spinach
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (*Roast some sweet potatoes and apples while you prepare the pork.)

Saute bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Reduce heat to low and add shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Add spinach along with a splash of water and saute until wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook a couple of minutes to mellow. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Butterfly the pork tenderloin by using a sharp knife to cut into the long side. Stop before you have completely separated the top and bottom halves. Open it up so that it lays flat, cover with plastic wrap, and use the flat side of a meat tenderizer to pound it to between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Remove the plastic wrap and season the inside with salt and pepper. Cut three 10-inch pieces of butcher's twine and evenly space them under the flattened tenderloin. Arrange the spinach filling along the middle of the tenderloin, and carefully roll it up. Arrange it seam-side down, and secure with the butcher's twine.

Preheat an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, and add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the rolled-up tenderloin seam-side down, and sear all sides for 3-5 minutes, until well browned. Make sure to leave it for at least 3 minutes without moving when you begin the sear, to prevent it from falling apart. Once the tenderloin is browned on all sides, transfer to the oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking through.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Grapefruit-Ginger Curd

grapefruit ginger curd

There is drama in this week. We start with a parade into Jerusalem, with palms and Hosannas. There is a feast. The king washes the feet of his friends, and then, even after that radical display of love and humility, one of the same friends betrays him. He is arrested, tortured. The people who hailed his entry into the City of David cry in a frenzy for his execution. And then the king, speaking not a word against those who mock him, beat him, and spit on him, is nailed to a cross. The sun refuses to shine, the curtain of the temple is torn asunder, and the king dies with forgiveness on his lips.

Two days pass in darkness and despair and then, a miracle. Bearing the marks of his crucifixion on his body, the king walks again among the living. The world as we've known it is changed.


grapefruit ginger curd

Grapefruit-Ginger Curd
adapted from 101 cookbooks

This would make a fantastic accompaniment to Easter brunch. Serve it at home, or give it as a hostess gift. They'll be glad they invited you. This can be safely canned in a hot-water bath, too. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. After canning, it will remain fresh at room temperature for two months. After opening, refrigerate and use within a week.

2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, strained
10 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks, room temperature
4 whole eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
2 tablespoons ginger juice (press grated ginger through a fine-mesh sieve)

Simmer the grapefruit juice in a small saucepan until reduced by half. I couldn't tell by eyeballing it, so I just poured it back into the Pyrex measuring cup a couple of times until I had a cup. Allow to cool slightly.

Cream the butter in a medium stainless bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), and then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the salt, and then the grapefruit, lemon, and ginger juices, working them in gradually.

Set the bowl over a saucepan (you can use the same one you simmered the grapefruit juice in) of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is about 166 degrees F and coats the spoon, about ten minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to jars. Process in a hot water bath if desired.

Yield: about 4 cups (2 pints). Recipe can easily be cut in half.