Tag Archives: cooking

Extend Christmas joy, right from your kitchen

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! People are generally trying to be more attentive to others. There’s an aura that warms their hearts. The joy of Christmas awakens consciousness to give of oneself.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it beautifully in a 2005 homily: “Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not expensive presents that demand time and money. We can transmit this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, with some small help, with forgiveness. Let us seek in particular to communicate the deepest joy, that of knowing God in Christ. Let us pray that this presence of God’s liberating joy will shine out in our lives.”

My ancestors in Italy embodied this through the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, keeping in mind what this custom signifies.

Tradition holds that it represents the seven sacraments. Leave it to the Italians to teach the Faith with food! Nourishing our souls with the sacraments allows others to recognize the joy of Christmas within us, just as when the disciples recognized the resurrected Christ in the breaking of the Bread at the supper at Emmaus.

The urgency for Christmas should be to keep the joy of Christ’s coming alive all year. It can be done if we accompany those little acts of charity with a deeper, committed prayer life. A well-nurtured personal prayer life keeps charity growing within us, radiating as an external joy of Christ that others can absorb from us. During the Christmas season we tend to pay more attention to prayer and the sacraments. But once we get back to our regular routine, for some that extra prayer effort gets diminished or forgotten. This challenge can be overcome if one understands that: Non potest quis id quod non habet [one cannot give what one does not have]. Simply put: if one does not have Christ’s joy within, he cannot extend it!

In availing ourselves of the sacraments this season, especially the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and keeping a simple prayer life like reading the Bible, or reciting the rosary, we will keep the joy of Christ alive in us all year. Without any great effort, we can bring the joy of Christ to others. His joy will radiate through all our good deeds and actions. Buon Natale!


Ragu d’Astice (Lobster Ragu) • serves 4

4 – 8oz. lobster tails*
1 lb. fusilli pasta cooked al dente
1 25 oz. jar Cucina Antica Garlic Marinara Cooking Sauce or sauce of your choice
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup white onion, finely minced
1⁄2 cup white wine
2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare lobster tails: crack tail and loosen meat from shell without detaching from tail.

In a 10-12” deep sauté pan, combine extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, and onions. Sauté on medium heat until garlic is light golden and onions translucent.

Add lobster meat and tails, white wine, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to pan. Sauté for 2 minutes.

Add cooking sauce to pan. Simmer low 3 minutes until tails turn red, meat turns white.

Cover; cook with lid askew for 3 minutes on low until meat is cooked through (make sure to not overcook lobster).

Cook the pasta al dente, drain it, and add in 1 cup of lobster ragu from saute pan to prevent pasta from sticking. Stir to mix well.

Plate pasta, top with lobster ragu, and garnish with chopped parsley.

*Optional: remove lobster shell before serving or leave to add to presentation. For a true Feast of the Seven Fishes, substitute any or all of the following: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops, lobster, king crab.


CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.

The harvest is plentiful, but laborers are (still) few

Harvest festivals have been celebrated for millennia. Throughout Europe feasting and celebrating after a successful harvest are as ancient as the harvest season itself. Jewish harvest celebrations include the Feast of Tabernacles, a time of joy, praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessings of fruit, grapes, and grain. Native Americans have ceremonies that give thanks to Mother Earth for successful harvests with hope for the next growing season. To Americans, the harvest season heralds crisp mornings, pumpkin pie, and Pilgrims seeking passage to a land rich with possibilities.

Captain John Smith’s descriptions of America’s bounty inspired the Pilgrims, who were members of the English Separatist Church – a radical faction of Puritanism, to depart for the New World. While the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower with visions of religious freedom, recruits of the Merchant Adventurers (indentured servants and pioneers) were not the least interested in religious freedom; the Promised Land they sought was filled with fortune and material gain.

On September 6, 1620 the motley crew sailed; on November 11 they arrived on New England’s shores at Cape Cod. Though the Pilgrims came to fish, they did not have nets, tackle, or know- how. Native Massachusetts tribesmen taught the Pilgrims to construct fishing lines and nets from vegetable fibers and to craft hooks from bones. They caught and ate cod, clams, and other ocean fish, harpooned river sturgeon, and scooped eels from the streams following Squanto’s instruction.

In 1621, after a year of bitter cold temperatures, near-starvation, and illness, the Puritan settlers celebrated a bountiful harvest for three days with 90 Native Americans while giving thanks to God. For this “First Thanksgiving” feast, the leader of the Wampanoag people, Massasoit, contributed five deer. Governor William Bradford wrote that there were fish, wild turkeys, ducks, and geese. Colonial leader Edward Winslow recorded that the meal also included “lobsters, clams, eel, and Indian pudding made from corn boiled in molasses.” To a friend in England, Winslow wrote, “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” While this “First Thanksgiving” was a day of celebration, a truly Puritan “thanksgiving” would have been a day set aside for prayer, piety, and reverence to God for His Providence.

As we enter this harvest season, we remember Jesus’ words to His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Mt 9:37). Is our harvest plentiful because, like the recruits of the Merchant Adventurers, we focus on fortune? Or, has the Lord sent us as His laborers to sow seeds of morality and goodness that a bountiful harvest of souls may be won for the Kingdom of God?

Perfect Pumpkin Pie • prep time: 1 1/2 hours • Yield: 6-8 servings

The pumpkin pie we savor at Thanksgiving is a far cry from the colonial original. According to U.P. Hedrick in A History of Horticulture in America to 1860, pumpkin pie was traditionally made “by cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin to permit the removal of the seeds and their surroundings, after which the cavity was stuffed with apples, spices, sugar, and milk, and the whole baked. Probably a pastry similar to the modern pumpkin pie was made by those who had flour for the crust.”

1 3⁄4 cups canned pumpkin
1 (9-inch) pie crust, unbaked 1 3⁄4 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon 1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 425 ̊F. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except crust. Using electric mixer, beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 ̊F. Bake 50 minutes or until knife inserted in pie center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on
wire rack. Enjoy with your favorite whipped topping or seasonal décor.

CHEF JOHN D. FOLSE is an entrepreneur with interests ranging from restaurant development to food manufacturing, catering to culinary education. A cradle-Catholic, he supports many Catholic organizations including the Sister Dulce Ministry at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

MICHAELA YORK is vice president of communications for John Folse & Company.

Bitter herb of truth – we are all servants

There are times when food doesn’t lead to celebration, but feels more like chewing on bitter herbs of truth. 

The past news cycles have been hard to digest. We’ve swallowed a difficult pill called “truth.” The Catholic Church, though founded, sustained, and sanctified by Jesus Christ, is filled with flawed humans. Jesus chose as the first pope, the apostle who denied him three times.

Unfortunately, problems we’ve put on the back burner have bubbled over, creating a real mess. Part of solution is for the entire Church — from pilgrim to Pope — to remember who we are: We are servants.

The scandals, crimes, and cover-ups stem from brokenness in human nature and unhealthy nurturing. We need to heal, or at least manage natural brokenness and vices through prayer, spiritual direction, counseling, and if necessary, medical intervention. If not, our sinful tendencies become actions. That’s why Jesus, the Divine Physician, through the Sacred Food of the Eucharist, seeks to unite with us, in order to heal us.

The “nurture” part of the problem — the environment where sin festers — is through clericalism. It leads to living above the law and luxuriously at the expense and obedience of the flock. Prelates abused their authority over innocent children or seminarians learning obedience. Clericalism makes ordained men forget that at their first ordination, they put on a deacon’s dalmatic (a liturgical apron).
Unfortunately, a small number of priests and bishops drank the “Kool-Aid” of clericalism, like the religious leaders in Jesus’ time succumbed to hypocrisy and Pharisee-ism. Again, it’s a small number, but we know what a few bad apples can do to an entire cart.

Part of the solution requires priests to renew their identity as selfless, suffering servants (Isaiah 53). Unfortunately, Church protection policies plus clericalism have created a mindset that separates priests from having authentically healthy relationships with those they’re called to serve. Priests should not be afraid to meet people in their homes, roll up sleeves and wash dishes, take care of their own housekeeping, and live a life connected with everyday reality.

Consider St. Paul’s hard labor with and for the people he sought to convert. The more “connected” priests are to reality, the less likely they’ll live in a clerical bubble. Get to know your priests and help them stay connected to the people they’re called to serve.

Please, don’t see priests as “janitors,” but as “custodians” of the faith. We are not slaves, but servants. Priests are sacramental ministers, but also spiritual fathers.

To be part of the solution to the problem, raise a holy family and make sure your priest is a part of it. Go ahead and invite him over to dinner, and make sure he helps out with the dishes.


Lobster Roll-Inspired Tuna Melt

The bitter herb of arugula brings great flavor to a simple, tasty dish that I connect to a need for penance. It’s easy and delicious, and sharable when you have your priest over for a meal.


2 – 5oz. cans of tuna fish
Potato hot dog buns
1 tsp. minced shallot
1⁄2 tsp. minced garlic
Lemon zest
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 celery stalk
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 slices American cheese
4 oz. Arugula
Salt and pepper, to taste


Place tuna in strainer and drain. Mince shallot and garlic; add to lemon juice in a bowl, to mute flavor. Finely dice celery stalk. Add lemon zest to drained tuna fish.

Combine tuna, celery, shallot, garlic, and lemon juice with 2 tbsp. of mayo and mix, flaking tuna for a nice creamy texture. Heat cast-iron skillet and melt 1 tbsp. of butter. Place buns in pan and toast, then add cheese, lowering heat and adding tuna mixture. Cover to completely melt cheese and add a little arugula atop sandwich.


FR. LEO E. PATALINGHUG IVDEI, is a priest, author, speaker, TV and radio host, founder of Plating Grace and The Table Foundation. Learn more at FatherLeoFeeds.Com

Warm kitchen serves up the most enjoyable dishes

Going back to school or work after summer break isn’t easy. No matter what your age, it would be more enjoyable to have an endless summer of fun and no work. However, we know it is only through work and sometimes even suffering, like that of Christ on the Cross, that true reward and joy can be won.

In my ministry as priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn, I have the honor of combining many of my interests, all reminding me daily it is only through hard work that real rewards are gained.

As Vicar for Development of the Diocese of Brooklyn, I oversee Futures in Education, the scholarship foundation for the Catholic Schools of Brooklyn and Queens. Each year I work with the staff and dedicated supporters of Futures in Education to provide scholarship assistance to students seeking a Catholic education whose families earn less than $27,000 yearly. They would not otherwise be able to afford the Catholic school of their choice without our help. Watching their parents struggle with limited resources to send them to a Catholic school inspires me. It would be easier to attend a free public school, yet they want more for their children. They yearn to break the poverty cycle through the richness of a good Catholic education.

As host of “Breaking Bread,” a cooking show with a Catholic perspective produced by DeSales Media, I meet different people from Brooklyn and Queens, two of the most diverse counties in the country. I visit restaurants, speak with community leaders, and invite chefs into my kitchen to share what unites us all – faith and food. This has enabled me to learn much about the struggles many endured to become American while holding onto their culture and ethnic beginnings.

Recently, I had the pleasure of cooking with Rosella Rego, author of “Cooking with Nona.” Her newest cookbook is comprised of grandmas’ recipes from around the country. In today’s instant-gratification society, taking time to sit listening to grandma’s stories while bonding with her over cooking has largely been lost. There’s also the loss of family history, when missing what one generation shares with the next. Though it’s easier to order in or eat out, the work put into making a dish and learning from parents and grandparents yields a meal more satisfying.

As school resumes and work intensifies, remember how rewarding hard work is when you’ve accomplished what you intended. You never know what surprising new things you’ll learn – like watching your child gain knowledge you’ve not had, or gaining insight from a grandma with a lifetime of experience to share.

The three “Fs” of life are Faith, Family, and Food, and all three are only as good as the work, sacrifice, and time put into them.


Grandma’s Italian Eggplant Meatballs 


1 loaf hard Italian bread1 large eggplant
10 oz EACH of: ground beef, ground veal, ground pork
1 Cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
¼ Cup chopped Italian parsley
2Tbs. chopped basil
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
2 eggs
1 Qt. Italian tomato sauce
Oil for frying


Soak bread in milk and water. Squeeze excess and remove crust. Allow 1-2 days to dry.

Skin the eggplant, cut into cubes, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Mix in large bowl: ground beef, veal, pork, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, parsley, basil, garlic, eggs, stale made bread, salt and pepper.

Form mixture into round meatballs; fry evenly in heated pan with oil.

Put layer of tomato sauce on bottom of baking dish. Place fried meatballs in dish, cover with layer of tomato sauce, add additional parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Place in pre-heated oven at 350˚Fahrenheit for 30 minutes and enjoy!


Introducing NEW chef, MONSIGNOR JAMIE GIGANTIELLO, pastor of The Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Brooklyn, and host of WNET TV’s “Breaking Bread.” He graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute in New York, working as a chef and hospitality executive before becoming a priest.

Love-lessons from Valentine, Cyril and Methodius sweeten true ardor


It’s ironic that the most romantic day of the year occurs in one of the least romantic months. I remember as a parish priest, there were few weddings but many funerals during February.

Rev. Leo E. Patalinghug Ivdei

This year, February 14 falls on Ash Wednesday! And, the church calendar reserves that day to
commemorate Sts. Cyril and Methodius — brothers, missionaries and theologians who created the Cyrillic alphabet for the Slavic nations. Hardly romantic! Yet, good evangelists see this day as a great opportunity — perhaps even greater than the “Santa-fied” version of Christmas — to promote the true meaning of love!

On Valentine’s Day, we ought to make a connection between Sts. Valentine, Cyril and Methodius as they offer an example and image of true love. Missionary brothers Cyril and Methodius created a language. St. Valentine shows us love by his actions of self-sacrifice in defense of Christian marriage. Isn’t that what couples should be doing for each other — vowing fidelity even in bad, sick and austere times of their marriage?

In these saints we see an image of what true love involves — toil, struggle and perseverance. That’s why love looks like a heart violently pierced with an arrow. Love requires passion! But passion is misunderstood. The word comes from the Latin root pati, a verb that means “to suffer!”

Valentine suffered. Cyril and Methodius, by leaving their homeland, suffered. Trying to learn and create another language didn’t come easily. Put simply, if love doesn’t involve personal sacrifice or suffering, it probably isn’t genuine Christian love. This isn’t to depress anyone, but to encourage people to take up their cross as the greatest act of love. The faithful must be assured that when things are tough, God provides an opportunity to strengthen one’s understanding of love by offering mercy, compassion, and humility to listen.

In my book, Spicing Up Married Life, I encourage couples to get rid of anniversaries. Why wait one year to celebrate love!? With 12 chapters in the book, a couple can celebratemonth-aversaries — monthly dinner dates. This regularity encourages consistent communication through spending time together, feeding each other’s hungers, and learning to listen to what God is saying to you through your spouse. Good communication is in itself a form of “passion.” In this book of bite-sized theological chapters about a theology of marriage, question conversation starters, and 12 thematic recipes for two, I share how a regular delicious dinner can help a couple to love each other by listening to each other.

In this unromantic time of the year, we have at least three saints to teach us what love looks like. Talk about this on your next dinner date! It may be a chore to set aside one each month, but the “sacrifice” can help you find what you’re seeking – true love, which requires nurturing all year long.

REV. LEO E. PATALINGHUG IVDEI is a Catholic priest, author, speaker, TV and radio host, founder of the nonprofit www.TheTableFoundation.org and the international food and faith movement “Plating Grace” at @FatherLeoFeeds.

Semisweet Chocolate Mousse

Serves: 2-4

Chocolate Ganache:
4 ounches semisweet dark chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. granulate sugar
1 egg yolk

Heat heavy cream until it begins to steam. Pour over the chocolate and sugar and whisk together until chocolate is smooth. Add egg yolk to chocolate and mix to incorporate all ingredients, until the chocolate is silky smooth. If necessary, reheat in microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm the chocolate. Set aside.

Creating the Mousse:
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

In a chilled bowl, whisk the heavy whipping cream with a hand blender and refrigerate. In another chilled bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar and whisk together using a hand blender.

Use a spatula and fold the chocolate ganache into the whipped cream and whipped egg whites. Pour into serving dishes or in a storage container and chill for at least 2-3 hours until firm. Top off the mousse with streusel or dollop of whipped cream, a few blueberries, edible flowers or mint.