Monday, February 9, 2015

"Thunder & Lightning" for St. Scholastica

There is a rustic Italian peasant dish called tuoni e lampo or "thunder and lightning" which is made with pasta and chick peas (garbanzo beans) - where “thunder” refers to the profusion of fried chickpeas, and “lightning” to the excessive amount of coarsely cracked black pepper.

One of the most dramatic stories told about St. Scholastic and her brother, St. Benedict, is one associated with thunder and lightning and found in the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. St. Scholasica very rarely got to see her beloved twin brother, St. Benedict. On one of their annual visits, he indicated that he had to leave and not be outside the monastery overnight.  His sister implored him to stay just for the night, but he would not. She started to weep and prayed to God. At that time violent thunder and lightning erupted, the skies opened and a mighty storm commenced. St. Scholastica said basically, "You would not listen to me but God did."  St. Benedict was forced to stay the night.  They spent the night in spiritual and heavenly talk. Benedict returned to his monastery the next morning.  St. Scholastica died a few days later and yet St. Benedict was able to have spent the extra time with her.  A lovely version of the story is told in Tomie de Poala's picture book, Holy Twins: Benedict and Scholastica

How excited I was to find the Italian dished called "thunder and lightning." Though not associated with the feast day as far as I could find, to me it seemed so perfect for St. Scholastica's feast day, February 10. Tuoni e lampo is often made with a mixture of pasta types - what is left at the bottom of the bags, then adding the beans. So really any type of pasta could be used. This particular version of the recipe I found, used a pasta called orecchiette, or "little ears" for its shape. I thought that could be a clever connection to God hearing St. Scholastica's pleas. It also seems fitting as it can refer to the St. Benedict in his rule as he begins the Prologue with these words: "Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart." 

Tuoni e Lampo

6 ounces dried orecchiette pasta (“little ears”)
2 T. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1 ½ t. finely slivered sage, plus sprigs for garnishing
½ cup chicken broth
½ t. coarsely cracked black pepper, “mignonette or butcher-grind”
1 T butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Add orecchiette to pot of boiling, salted water and cook until al dente (about 12 minutes.) While that is boiling, cook garlic and chickpeas in olive oil over high heat. Stir until the chickpeas begin to pop.  Add sage, broth and pepper.  Continue to cook over high heat until the broth reduces a bit and becomes syrupy (about 5 minutes.)   Drain pasta well.  Put butter in a large warm bowl and add pasta.  Toss.  Add chickpeas and broth to bowl and stir well. Add 1/2 cup cheese and salt to taste.Mix gently.  Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired, and dust with extra cheese. Garnish with small sage leaves.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4 though easily doubled to serve a large crowd. 

St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, Pray for us!

[Author note: Since St. James and St. John are known as the "Sons of Thunder" tuoni e lampo would be a dish appropriate in name for either of their feast days as well.] Pin It

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Irish Cheese Toasties - Egg & Cheese Breakfast for St. Brigid

St. Brigid - February 1

As indicated in the previous post, St. Brigid is patroness of those who raise chickens.  Here is another simple egg dish for a quick feast day breakfast. I love quick non-complicated ideas for feast days. This recipe, for open faces "toasties" is simple and uses items usually available - eggs and cheese.  It is my understanding that these would be a common everyday hearty-type of fare, traditional but not one you hear about for special occasions.  The kind of food an Irish grandma would make. 

Irish Cheese Toasties


2 Tbsp. butter
4 slices crusty bread
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 cups shredded Irish cheddar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter one side of each slice of bread and place the pieces buttered-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes.

While that is toasting, whisk together the eggs, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Stir in the cheese, evenly coating the shredded pieces with egg mixture.

Remove the toasted bread from the oven and divide the cheese mixture over the top of the four pieces of bread. Spread it to the edges of each slice.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, 12 - 15 minutes. Serve warm.
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