Merry Christmas and happy new year! About this time in the Christmas season I am reminded of the crèche my brother used to set up in his yard. Among streets lined with bins heaped with discarded trees and remnants of gift wrap, the Magi would continue their journey across the yard with precious gifts in hand, each day bringing them closer to the scene of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus. The journeying Magi evoked delight and sometimes confused amusement from passers-by, and I like to imagine the sight may have prompted a question and search into why the Magi were still journeying after Christmas Day. This memory has become for me a gentle superlative example of how our personal joy and delight in Christ can naturally and simply become a way of evangelization. We need not even know it.
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 13) culminates the Christmas season and ushers in Ordinary Time — a period of gratitude, serenity, strength and hope. It is in this season that many experience loneliness and despair. Good community and activity are certainly pathways to wellness and health, but prayer — especially in the ways given to us by Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11) — shows us how to grow in continuing conversion. In her call to prayer by which God bestows strength and hope, suffering for the salvation of souls, and penitence on behalf of sinners, the Mother of God shows us how to persevere in the joy of the Resurrection.
When I was a child, the holy water of Lourdes eclipsed the Marian apparitions and the story of St. Bernadette. It was not until my sister’s goddaughter, little Bernadette, was born that I was first truly introduced to St. Bernadette. During one of our visits with little Bernadette, or “Detka,” she had a pillowcase her parents had given her printed with an image of her patron saint and a brief synopsis of her life. I read the story of the humbleness of her life, of her extraordinary courage and faith, and the message of Lourdes, which left a deep impression. Of course, being associated with a beautiful little niece and goddaughter was a perfect introduction.
The message of prayer, suffering and penitence for sinners and souls is bittersweet and ultimately glorious. Here I offer a preparation of winter squash agrodolce — meaning sweet and sour — to accompany any meat, fish or eggs, or as is with crumbles of goat cheese or sheep’s milk feta.
Delicata squash agrodolce with coffee compound sugar
1 teaspoon finely ground coffee
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 medium to large delicata squash, rinsed (or any other sweet winter firm-flesh squash, e.g., butternut, acorn, kabocha, etc.)
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
3 to 5 sprigs thyme
2 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed
1 to 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup basil leaves
1 Italian amaretti cookie or other crispy almond biscuit (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine coffee and brown sugar until well incorporated. Set aside.
Slice delicata squash lengthwise down the middle and remove seeds. With peel intact, slice each half crosswise into ½-inch moons. Place sliced squash in a shallow baking pan, add sugar mixture and 2 tablespoons olive oil and combine. Roast in oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender and browned. Set aside.
Heat sauté pan over moderately high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, tipping to coat pan. Add sliced onion and thyme; sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and sliced garlic and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have begun to burst and juices have begun to evaporate. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until vinegar has thickened. Remove from heat and add basil leaves.
Place roast squash on serving plate and spoon tomato agrodolce mixture and juices on top. Crumble the amaretti cookie over the top.
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2019