Friday, August 15, 2008

Feasting for the Assumption

August 15 marks the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, a holyday of obligation. In the Eastern churches it is called the Dormition, or sleeping of our Lady.

I had lots of ideas for this day, but my planning time was usurped by family matters and upcoming events. I don't have pictures to share for these recipes, but you can use your imagination.

The most notable tradition on this day is the Blessing of Fruits and Herbs, although in some areas the blessing includes wheat and specifically, grapes. This is a first-fruits feast, a feast reminding us of the Old Testament offering to God the best of their beginning of the harvest.

The Directory on Popular Piety explains the significance of this feast and the custom of blessing herbs:

In the Germanic countries, the custom of blessing herbs is associated with 15 August. This custom, received into the Rituale Romanum, represents a clear example of the genuine evangelization of pre-Christian rites and beliefs: one must turn to God, through whose word "the earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds" (Gen 1, 12) in order to obtain what was formerly obtained by magic rites; to stem the damages deriving from poisonous herbs, and benefit from the efficacy of curative herbs.
This ancient use came to be associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in part because of the biblical images applied to her such as vine, lavender, cypress and lily, partly from seeing her in terms of a sweet smelling flower because of her virtue, and most of all because of Isaiah 11, 1, and his reference to the "shoot springing from the side of Jesse", which would bear the blessed fruit of Jesus.
So for this feast, I'm incorporating fruits and herbs in my dishes. I like to make this Assumpta Salad with our fresh tomatoes, technically a fruit, with lots of herbs. This recipe is by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette from his Twelve Months of Monastery Salads. I love this cookbook, particularly in the summer.
Assumpta Salad

"This enticing salad is always served as an appetizer. It is one of our favorites for the feast of Our Lady, and we especially like it on the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, when garden tomatoes are at their best."

8 medium-size ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup pitted black olives, drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup cubed feta cheese (I omit because of food allergies)

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together until thickened. Let stand for about 1 hour before using to steep the garlic. For the salad, arrange tomato slices on 6 to 8 salad plates. Sprinkle the onion and olives among them. Sprinkle the herbs evenly, then add the cheese cubes in the middle of each dish. Whisk vinaigrette just before serving and drizzle evenly over each plate. Serve immediately.
I love to grow herbs -- they are actually a lazy gardener's (or busy mama's dream), as they are so low maintenance. I am going to make a bouquet of some of our herbs (and flowers) and have a family blessing, and then incorporate some of our harvest of fruits and herbs into food and crafts.

One plant we have and enjoy is lavender, known as Mary's Drying Plant (rosemary has a similar title). One doesn't normally think of eating lavender, but the flower is edible. I thought a sugared lavender flower and lavender cookies would be an easy treat to make.

This recipe can be found in Herbs for Weddings & Other Celebrations by Bertha P. Reppert (first printed as A Bride's Herbal).
Lavender Sticks

12 stalks fresh lavender flowers
1 egg white, beat until frothy
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Cut just the flowers from the stalks. Dip the sprigs in beaten egg white. In a separate bowl then roll or dust on granulated sugar. Air-dry on waxed paper. Makes 1 dozen edible flowers.
I found several versions of Lavender Cookies in cookbooks, including Susan Branch's The Summer Book and the Internet, such as this recipe.

The variances are many, but generally I'm finding either shortbread, sugar, or butter cookie dough as the base for the recipes, then add lavender. Some call for dried flowers, other fresh. I think I would prefer using fresh flowers, rather than crunchier dried ones. For my son I was going to use an allergy free sugar cookie mix for my son and add some fresh lavender flowers. Having the cookies and edible flower bites would make a lovely dessert display, also perfect nibbling food for tea.

Or I may take an even simpler route, make a dessert (with icing) and decorate with flowers and herbs. All in the spirit of honoring Our Lady!

Our Lady assumed into heaven, pray for us! Pin It


  1. What a wonderful post Jenn! The Assumpta Salad sounds delicious! Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas.

  2. The Assumpta salad sounds delicious AND easy to make - fresh from the garden! I think rosemary would be a good herb to use today. I mix rosemary into my focaccia; it is just about the only bread that my husband will eat. If I had been thinking ahead, I would have roasted chicken tonight (with rosemary, onion, and lemon) instead of last night! At least we have leftovers.

  3. These are great ideas Jenn! My grandmother makes a lemon cookie (actually out of lemon cake mix, but nevertheless . . . ) and I've often thought of using that idea and mixing in lavender with it. Might be a great idea for next year!


  4. I love this! I am most definitely making the assumpta salad on the 15th. And I might just give lavender cookies a try too. Thank you!