“The nights will be long, dark, and cold.
Jack Frost will freeze the ground.
How shall I find the light
With so much darkness all around?”
Said Father Sun, “I’ll give you from my
Last autumn rays, a spark,
If you will make a little house
To hold it in the dark.”
from “George’s Lantern” by Anonymous
Today is Martinmas, or the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. The story of St. Martin (b. 316 A.D.) begins with his decision as a young man to become a Catechumen (a convert to Christianity who has not yet been baptized), against the wishes of his parents. Although conscripted into the Roman army, he found his duties as a soldier to be at odds with his new Christian faith. After a series of trials and tribulations (including being jailed for refusing to fight) he was baptized and embraced monastic life; he was made Bishop of Tours in 371 A.D. He is, however, most famous for an event which occurred during his time as a Roman soldier. Legend tells us that upon entering the gates of Amiens, France on a cold, snowy evening Martin happened upon a beggar clothed in nothing but rags. Without a second thought, Martin took his sword and cut his red military cloak in half and gave part of it to the beggar. That night Martin dreamt that he saw Christ wrapped in the piece of cloak, which solidified his faith and was perhaps the catalyst for the rest of his life’s work.
For special days such as this I always like to spend a little time creating festive decorations, like the glittery stars on our branch mobile, and also I like to venture into the woods to find some natural elements to decorate the table. This evening we ate a delicious feast in honor of St. Martin (recipes below) and read The Star Child, written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm & illustrated by Bernadette Watts (purchased here). This beautiful picture book tells the story of a little orphan girl who gives away everything she has, even the clothing on her back, and is handsomely rewarded with star money falling from heaven — a perfect complement to the legend of St. Martin. In much of Europe the Feast of St. Martin is celebrated with a lantern walk in the evening, and so we did the same. We made some beautiful lanterns last night with mason jars and tissue paper, and we took a little walk around our neighborhood with them tonight. There is something so wonderful about watching the light reach out into the darkness; to know that each of us carry a “light” just like this inside of us and that we can use it as a force for good in the world, as St. Martin did so long ago.
Martinmas, like many feast days, usually involves a lot of meat. I’m a vegetarian, so I created my own menu based on some of the traditions associated with Martinmas, especially in Europe. We had wine because St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of vintners. I chose a Waldorf-ish salad to start because on Martinmas in Malta children receive bags with treats such as apples, dried fruits, and nuts. The entree was a Turnip Frittata because historically turnips have been carved out and used as lanterns on Martinmas. We had a side of Roasted Carrots & Parsnips, which are traditional harvest vegetables. And, we finished it all off with Vanilla Horseshoe Cookies which are traditionally made for St. Martin’s beautiful white horse.
Apple & Walnut Salad from Taste of Home
5 cups torn romaine
5 cups torn red leaf lettuce
1 large red apple, chopped
1 large green apple, chopped
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup Apple juice or cider
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a salad bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.
In a small bowl, whisk the cider, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper; gradually whisk in oil. Drizzle over salad; toss to coat. Serve immediately. Yield: 12 servings (1 cup each).
Turnip Frittata from Eating Well
8 ounces broccoli
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 1/2 cups shredded peeled turnips (about 2 medium; see Tip)
1/2 cup chopped onion
8 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup shredded fontina or Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe (or broccolini) and cook until very tender, about 5 minutes for broccoli rabe (or 6 to 7 minutes for broccolini). Drain well. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the turnips, onion and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread and pat the mixture into an even layer; cook, without stirring, for 2 minutes. Then stir the mixture and scrape up any browned bits. Pat the mixture back into an even layer and continue cooking, without stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir again, spread back into an even layer and cook until mostly golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Wash and dry the pan.
Whisk eggs, egg whites and milk in a medium bowl. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring briefly, until beginning to set, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Spoon the turnip mixture evenly over the eggs. Top with cheese, then the broccoli rabe (or broccolini).
Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake the frittata until set, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes. To release the frittata from the pan, run a flexible rubber spatula along the edges then underneath, until you can slide it out onto a cutting board or serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.
Roasted Parsnips & Carrots from Ina Garten
2 pounds parsnips, peeled
1 pound carrots, unpeeled
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
If the parsnips and carrots are very thick, cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each diagonally in 1-inch-thick slices. The vegetables will shrink while cooking, so don’t make the pieces too small. Place the cut vegetables on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well. Roast for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables, tossing occasionally, until the parsnips and carrots are just tender. Sprinkle with dill and serve hot.
Vanilla Horseshoe Cookies, from Catholic Culture
1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats, uncooked
Cream butter or margarine; add sugar gradually while continuing to cream; beat until fluffy. Stir in vanilla, flour, and salt. Blend in rolled oats [I did this by sort of kneading them into the dough while it was still in the bowl, 1/2 a cup at a time]. Roll out about 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut in strips 6 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. On ungreased cookie sheets shape strips to resemble horseshoes. [This didn’t work for me so I just took a bit of dough and shaped it into a horseshoe on the cookie sheet, skipping the strip part entirely]. Bake at 325° for 20 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove carefully, as cookies are very rich and break easily.