Can a meal be good enough to make you vow eternal chastity?

Maybe, if it's from the latest cookbook by Brother Victor-Antoine D'Avila-Latourrette, a New York monk who has been sharing delicious secrets from the monastery's kitchen since 1993.

"In Celebration of the Seasons: Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen" is a revised and expanded edition of an earlier cookbook by D'Avila-Latourrette, "This Good Food: Contemporary French Vegetarian Recipes from a Monastery Kitchen." The new book contains about 150 recipes that are grouped by seasons. Though most have a vegetarian-French flair, D'Avila-Latourrette also blends in versions of Italian, Spanish and other Mediterranean favorites. A truly contemplative approach to food and cooking, "In Celebration" includes a history of monastic life and descriptions of holidays from Christmas to the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Each chapter, based on a season, begins with a thoughtful description of that season and the recipes it inspires. A gardener himself, D'Avila-Latourrette even offers tips for planting vegetables in the spring.

At D'Avila-Latourrette's Hudson River Valley monastery, monks eat healthy, hearty and downright heavenly food (Monk's cannot live by bread alone, after all.) There's the simple and basic: Omelette with Peppers, Peasant Soup, Light Waffles, Broccoli and Potatoes au Gratin. And the complex and divine: Crepes with Spinach Filling, Apple Flan Alsatian Style, Seville Gazpacho and Spinach Cheese Croquettes. From Spinach Lasagna to Mushroom Soufflé, "In Celebration" will convince even the most diehard meat-eater that veggies can fly solo with succulent results.

A gentle and inspiring cookbook from someone who has pondered the meaning of good food beyond mere sustenance, "In Celebration" is food for the soul, food for thought and, unquestionably, food for the hungry.

reviewed by Teresa Talerico

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