Springtime Feast

Today is the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. He wrote the Gospel of Mark, and his symbol is the winged lion. He is the patron saint of Venice, Italy, and his remains can be found there in the Basilica San Marco.

I was reminded from this conversation at 4RealLearning Forums that today marks the first of the four Rogation Days, from the Latin word rogare, meaning “to ask.” These were days of prayer and fasting to offer prayers to the Lord for the needs of all people, especially for the productivity of the earth and for human labor, and to give God public thanks. Part of the rogation ceremony would include a procession, litany of the saints, blessing the crops and seedlings. Rogation Days are no longer obligatory on the universal Roman Catholic Calendar. The local ordinary (bishop) can choose to follow the observance. Observance of rogation days are usually found in more rural areas.

But you can have a ceremony in your own garden. The traditional liturgy includes Psalm 43, Litany of the Saints, Psalm 69, and petition prayers. The Mass readings are from James 5:16-20 and Luke 11:5-14. Flowering branches, flower garlands and many other flowery decorations are traditionally carried in processions and left in the fields. NCRLC sells a short pamphlet on Rogation Days which has a historyand suggestions for services, feasting, processions, blessings, plantings and family celebrations.

With everything so readily available at the supermarket, it’s easy forget our close connection with the seasons and harvests, and the food on our table. I’m behind on my little food garden, so today gives me a reminder to finish my plans and start digging and planting. For ideas on foods to make, see Catholic Culture’s suggestions, including the suggestions for leek and cherry dishes.

I’m going to serve Pasta San Marco, recipe adapted from Cooking With the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf. It’s a light pasta dish, and without the chicken very suitable for vegetarians. I’ll serve this with a fresh green salad and fruit salad made with fresh berries for dessert….all the fresh bounty will remind me to work on the garden so I can reap the harvest later!

Pasta San Marco

San Marco Sauce
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lb. chicken meat, skinned, boned, and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
3 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. rosemary (I omitted)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
cornstarch (optional, for thickening)
Pasta
1 1/2 lb. fettuccine (Tinkyada rice pasta)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Vegetables
1 medium green pepper, cut in julienne strips
1 medium red pepper, cut in julienne strips
2 cups broccoli florets (approx. 2 broccoli crowns)
1-2 medium zucchini, sliced
1-2 medium yellow squash, sliced
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat large, heavy skillet with tight-fitting lid, or large heavy pot with lid, over moderate high heat and add oil. Add chicken to pan when oil is fragrant and sauté, stirring and turning frequently for 5 minutes until browned on all sides. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until onion becomes translucent. Add garlic and sauté for half a minute. Add chicken stock and loosen ingredients off the bottom of pan. Add final ingredients, stir and put on gentle simmer and cover for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chicken should be tender, but not soft. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. When finished, add olive oil and toss to prevent it from sticking.

Prepare the vegetables, julienne strips for the peppers, small florets for the broccoli, 1/4 inch thick slices and halved for the yellow squash and zucchini. Add olive oil to a heavy saucepan and sauté the vegetables until just crisp-tender.

Mix together pasta, sautéed vegetables and sauce in large bowl and serve promptly.

This should feed about 8 people.

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