Sunday, November 6, 2011

St. Leonard's Day - patron saint of green grocers

November 6 - Today is the feast day of St. Leonard of Noblac , the patron saint of green grocers.

I have been recently facsinated with feast days of Saints in ways I have not been since my Confirmation in 8th grade. I am having fun exploring garden related saints, like St. Francis and St. Leonard.

Born to the nobility, part of the court of the pagan King Clovis I. The Queen suggested to Leonard, possibly as a joke, that he invoke the help of his God to repel an invading army. Leonard prayed, the tide of battle turned, and Clovis was victorious. Archbishop Saint Remigius of Rheims used this miracle to convert the King, Leonard, and a thousand followers to Christianity.

Leonard began a life of austerity, sanctification, and preaching. His desire to know God grew until he decided to enter the monastery at Orleans, France. His brother, Saint Lifiard, followed his example and left the royal court, built a monastery at Meun, and lived there. Leonard desired further seclusion, and so withdrew into the forest of Limousin, converting many on the way, and living on herbs, wild fruits, and spring water. He built himself an oratory, leaving it only for journeys to churches. Others begged to live with him and learn from him, and so a monastery formed around his hermitage. Leonard had a great compassion for prisoners, obtaining release and converting many, who then lived near him and helped clear lands and grow crops.

It is both this work and the fact that he lived off herbs and vegetables on his travels that made him the patron saint of those who grow and sell vegetables. He is also know as the Vegan Saint.  

This is a perfect saint day to explore salad dressings, vegetable side and main dishes, so here are a few suggestions.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
onion, chopped
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
kosher salt and black pepper
biscuit mix and ingredients to make 8 biscuits
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (1 ounce)
15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed
bunch spinach, thick stems removed (4 cups)
1.     Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 5 to 6 minutes.
2.     Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.
3.     Stir in the squash, thyme, 5 cups water, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.
4.     Reduce heat and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.
5.     Meanwhile, prepare the biscuits according to the package directions, sprinkling with the Parmesan before baking.
6.     After the soup has simmered, stir in the beans and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and the beans are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the biscuits.
Vegetable Barley Soup
Makes 8 quarts, serves 16
1 1/2 cups barley
1/4 cup olive oil
6 carrots, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
4 large onions, diced
4 parsnips, dices
kosher salt and black pepper
1 102-ounce can diced tomatoes (or four 28-ounce cans)
1 bunch kale, thick stems discarded and leaves chopped (8 cups)
2 15.5 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
Salt & pepper

  1. Cook the barley according to the package directions (set aside.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, onions, parsnips, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 20 to 25 minutes.  
  4. Add the tomatoes (and their juices) and 8 cups water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup has slightly thickened and the vegetables are tender, 45 to 60 minutes.
  5. Add the herbs and kale and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it is tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
  6. Stir in the chickpeas and cooked barley and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

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