Posted June 26th, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Past Emails, Recipes

Menu Inspiration: Olive Antipasta

Originally published June 8, 2011


As you know, I recently returned from our Culinary Mediterranean Cruise.

Me and Chef Marc Andres, the Chef for Special Events who assisted me in these Grace Before Meals Presentations.

It was a great opportunity to visit so many different countries, experience the cuisine and also experience the expanse of the Christian Faith.  A common Mediterranean food I’d like to highlight in this week’s Menu Inspiration is the olive!

Italian Market, Providence Rhode Island.

The word “Christian” shares its root with the word “Chrism,” which means “to anoint.”  In the Scriptures, olive oil is generally used in this anointing, as evidenced in the prevalent use of olive oil in all Mediterranean cultures. 

This week’s recipe is a tribute to the incredibly versatile use of the olive, as inspired by a traditional Italian (go figure?), antipasto.

Fried olives, also known as “Olive Ascolane,” take the olive to a whole new “anointed” level of delicious!

Click the picture to get the recipe for my version of fried olives – unstuffed, Admittedly, I could have done a better job of frying more equally to give them a consistent golden brown on all sides.

This recipe for an olive ascolana has been modified to keep your preparation for the dish very simple.  In other words, when I prepared this dish for a few friends over the Holy Week celebration, I didn’t have time to stuff these olives.  But you can stuff these with just about anything that can hold up to the frying process – frozen blue cheese, a gelled puree of veal or pork, even a simple combination of breadcrumb and cheese.  Click on the picture above or HERE to get the recipe!

New York City’s Eataly Market, being served charcuterie, artinsal cheeses, crusty bread, and a drizzle of jams and honey.

As members of my own family attest, olives are an acquired taste.  However, the oil that comes from these olives has become a part of my family through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Anointing of the Sick, and for me the anointing of the Priesthood.  This summer, try some of these unique flavors and see the blessings they bring to the table.

Have you ever had these deep fried olives?  If so, where did you eat these?  Do you have a good stuffing for olives you’d like to share?  Do you have any special olive dishes you can suggest to our community?  Your comments, questions, and responses are important sources of encouragement for our Grace Before Meals team.  Let us know what you’re thinking by posting your comments here.


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Let us Pray:   


Father, You anoint Your sons and daughters through the gift of Chrism we receive in Baptism.  Help us to recall this great gift and to share that gift with those who hunger and thirst for the blessings that come from Your Table.  

Baptism Candle and decorated Altar of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Easter Vigil marks the day when new members of the church are anointed with the blessed olive oil.





 This week’s episode of Savoring Our Faith features Special Guests Jim and Joy Pinto of EWTN’s At Home With Jim & Joy. Tune in Sunday at 5pm. *


  • Have you ever had these deep fried olives?  
  • If so, where did you eat these?  
  • Do you have a good stuffing for olives you’d like to share? 
  • Do you have any special olive dishes you can suggest to our community?  


Your comments, questions, and responses are important sources of encouragement for our Grace Before Meals team.  Let us know what you’re thinking by posting your comments here.

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Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

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Family Style

Originally published June 16, 2010


The Year dedicated to the Priest came to a close this past weekend.  I felt it fitting to offer a reflection about the priesthood, especially since I spent this past weekend going to different ordinations and receptions for newly ordained priests!

New Priest with his Bishop, Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.

Also, since food images are so closely related to the priesthood, how could I not write about it! 

Priests serve a sacred meal.  Pastors feed a hungry flock.  Ministers prepare souls for the eternal banquet of Heaven.  And since the church is a family, it requires its members to share in the One Bread and One Cup.  Despite our differences we become one family united around the commemoration of the Lord’s Last Supper.

A few priests taking a few more minutes of prayer after they are ordained.

Recently I was asked to represent Mount St. Mary’s Seminary at an ordination of one of our seminarians in the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana.  In this Diocese, there are several families with multiple vocations within the same family.  For example, in one family there are two priest sons, and in another family three brothers became priests.  In my work with seminarians, I’ve met twin brothers who are also priests.  I guess the idea of “service” runs in those families.  While God takes all the credit for calling priests to serve the larger church family, the idea of a religious vocation oftentimes begins at home with the man’s own family – the domestic church.

Fr. Luke Ballman (right) with some of the seminarians from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia.

That was very evident for one very special family in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  This past weekend, the Rapisarda family celebrated two priestly vocations – but not as siblings – instead as a father and a son!

Meet Fathers Rapisarda – John and Gregory.  The son, Fr. John, was ordained a priest a few years ago.  Little did he know he would be privileged to vest his own father in the priestly vestments.  The dad, Fr. Gregory, was already an ordained deacon and a widower.   As a son, John could technically call his own dad, “Father daddy!”  I think Jesus was the only one to have such a privilege, that is, until he taught us the prayer: the Our Father.

June 21, 2008 – Fr. John Rapisarda with his father, “deacon” Gregory, now Fr. Gregory.)

This father and son priest from one family is a first for the Premier See.  I’m sure it’s definitely a unique situation for the Rapisarda family too.  But at the same time, serving the Lord comes very naturally for this faithful family.  One could say, it’s their “family style” – the way they approached their family upbringing.  I realize “family style” is more often associated with a type of dining – big portions in the center of the table.  But as people of faith, the Rapisarda’s also have a “life style” that fostered the sense of vocation.  They have always been devoted to prayer, had devotions to the Saints and the Blessed Mother, and have always shared the Sacred Meal of the Eucharist as a family.  I’m also confident they had regular family dinners together. 

While the death of the late Mrs. Rapisarda four years ago caused great sadness for the family, it also increased their faith to be even more devoted to the Lord.  Since her death, her devoted husband and father moved one step deeper into the mystery of fatherhood.  Perhaps the Lord saw Gregory as such a faithful dad with his own children that He then called Gregory to a spiritual fatherhood for other children.

Father and Son (Source: Baltimore Sun)

Special stories like Fr. Gregory Rapisarda’s are “common” in my experiences of seminary work.  I hear marvelous stories of faith from men and women who sacrifice everything in order to serve others.  It’s inspiring!  While the Rapisarda situation is unique, it does follow a consistent path.  Stories of multiple family members going into some religious vocation and even becoming canonized saints has been part of the Church’s tradition – a tradition of families who pray together and stay together!  A family that teaches service, by loving one another, usually makes life choices to love others.  That’s very much true for the Rapisardas!
They continue what comes natural to them.  For the Rapisarda Family, however, eating family style just got a whole lot more “universal! 

Fr. Mark Walter, giving a speech at this Ordination Reception in English and Spanish.)
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 A Happy Father’s Day Prayer for our Dads and Spiritual Fathers


Being a father isn’t easy when culture portrays the male parent as unaware, unintelligent, or even unavailable.  Ironically, that description is exactly what dads are not supposed to be.  Perhaps it’s just one more trick by the Great Deceiver who wants to break up the family by placing a mistrust in the role of fatherhood – telling us dads aren’t necessary.  In God’s loving plan, dads are not only useful, they are called to Sanctity.  They are, in fact, quite necessary in helping their children become saints too!  This upcoming Father’s Day, remember our fathers – living and deceased.  In a special way, also pray for our spiritual fathers, those who help God’s children to become saints as they provide the Daily Bread that comes down from Heaven.

Fathers John and Gregory, at a priest and seminarian picnic few days before the Ordination.

Let us Pray: Father in Heaven, keep us ever grateful for the gift of fatherhood, which You have shared with our dads and our spiritual father. Help our fathers to remain close to Your loving heart. Give them grace to live virtuous and holy lives. Remind them of Your love for them by reminding us children to love them as You love them. Forgive any of the faults of our fathers caused by human weakness, and in Your mercy, grant them a path to peace.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.







This week’s featured recipe:
Sweet, Soy-Seared Tuna

This month’s Catholic Culinary Confession: 

Gunner’s Grille of Taneytown, MD


Read the article by clicking HERE.

JUNE 21-23

Steubenville of the Rockies

Denver, CO


Denver, CO
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Posted in Blast from the Past, Culinary Confessions, Holiday, Recipe | 2 Comments »

Posted June 12th, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Recipe, Savoring Our Faith


Famously Hungry 

Originally published June 9, 2010


A few weeks ago I had the chance to cook up a few dishes for some folks in the Hollywood, California, area.  Originally I was going to give a presentation at an event with Eduardo Verastegui, who starred in the award-winning film, Bella.  Unfortunately that event was rescheduled.  It would have been a treat to spend time with someone so famous!  Okay, let’s admit it, who doesn’t get a little star-struck sometimes?  I know I do!  After all, the night stars once guided sailors in the right direction in their lives. Today, Eduardo’s passionate Pro-Life message encourages us all! 

Eduardo and me at the Legatus Summit, Orange County.

Even though one event didn’t work out, God provided me an opportunity for other faithful foodie experiences with other Hollywood personalities.  I filmed a few Webisodes with reknown screenwriter Laurice Elehwany-Molinari and her family.  Laurice wrote The Brady Bunch Movie, as well as My Girl, starring Macaulay Culkin. She also has an inspiring script in the works titled “Front Lines.”  Pray this movie gets made – it will be a hit – just like the dishes we cooked up in her kitchen! 

Caper Creamy Rib Eye in Los Angeles

I also had a chance to visit and dine with Joe Anderson, a rising Youtube Personality.  I was assigned to his Clarksville, Md., parish when he was a youngster.  He’s made an effort to stay in touch, even though he’s moved to L.A. in the hopes of fulfilling his filmmaking dream.  We had a chance to go out for some delicious Korean Barbecue while discussing important personal, moral, and faith issues.  

The selection of table-side grilling.

We discussed a filmmaker’s difficulties in trying to communicate real talent versus the temptation to produce “cheapened” forms of entertainment, which unfortunately translates to instant popularity.  Joe will be the first to admit, he’s hardly a saint, and it’s even harder to become one in Hollywood.  But at least he was willing to talk with a priest (and friend).  I think a really delicious meal aided his willingness to discuss these tough issues.  I keep Joe and our friendship in prayer.  He even wants me to cook for him and his very popular Youtube friends in his one-bedroom Hollywood Flat.  That should be an interesting episode!


Joe in his one-bedroom Hollywood Flat. Our image of Hollywood is not the image portrayed on TV.

Finally, I was invited to participate in a supper club for young group of Hollywood types.

Matt Malek and I met when I gave a keynote speech at a recent convention.  Since then he’s had the idea for me to cook up a meal with some of his Hollywood friends who have engaged in philosophical and theological discussions.  Matt, an evangelist at heart, saw this philosophical opportunity to discuss the Faith.  It’s working.  One of his roommates recently converted to the Faith.  After all, true philosophers would agree with one of the great philosophers, St. Anselm, who said, “Fides quaerens intellectum” – “Faith seeks understanding.”  In other words, Faith is “required” for true Philosophy.

Friends cramming it in, while crammed around a small table.

I had a blast with this group.  It was also quite an experience shopping in a Hollywood grocery store.  How unique it was for me when people at the store recognized me as that “fun priest” on the Food Network!  Okay, it felt kinda’ good to be recognized – in Hollywood of all places – but I couldn’t let that get to my head.  I was on a mission!  On the menu was Norcina Pasta, grilled salmon, pan-roasted chicken, and fresh field greens in a strawberry feta vinaigrette. 

Without trying to sound prideful, their voracious approach to my food made me feel like a superstar.  I thought there would be some carb-restricting diet, but not with this group.  They were hungry, not just for good food, but also for the fellowship opportunities.  Big cities can sometimes be a very lonely place.  Their appetite for cuisine, culture, and intellectual curiosity impressed me.

When I asked if the group had a “name,” they suggested I offer suggestions.  In a Hollywood minute (which means 30 seconds or less), I offered the name “Fame.”  I explained that “fame” means one thing in English, but in Italian, “fame” (pronounced Fah – meh) means “hungry.”

The name fit the group perfectly.  They are hungry for truth and wisdom.  Philosophy literally means “friend or lover of wisdom.”  As philosophers, they must be hungry for truth, rather than the fame (or infamy in some cases) that often comes with being a celebrity.  They thought it was such a good idea that they even wanted to print t-shirts!

Fr. Patrick Peyton standing with Hollywood celebrities during the taping of the Famous Family Radio Show. Fr. Peyton coined the phrase – “The family that prays together stays together.”

What are we hungering for in life?  We know our hungers and our heart’s desires can make us healthy, whole, and holy, or disordered appetites can lead us to a slow but surely destructive path.  These young (and beautiful) people in Hollywood showed me the need for Shepherds to feed souls in a city notorious for fame-starved people who will lose their soul just to get their name on a sidewalk.  I found it refreshing to meet people who were hungering for something more eternal:  truth!

Leave your comments HERE!

While in Hollywood I had the chance to stop by the Family Theater, directed by Holy Cross Father, Rev. Willy Raymond.  I learned about the impressive array of films they produced, the mission Fr. Peyton started, and I saw for myself how this place is making a faithful impact in Hollywood.  For example, during my visit I met Eric, a young Hollywood actor who regularly comes to the Family Theater’s chapel to pray a Holy Hour.  Fr. Willy, his staff, “clients” like Eric, and the rest of the good faithful people I met on my Los Angeles/Hollywood trip showed me there is holiness in Hollywood.  I’m sure God would be very pleased to one day rename that city “Holywood.”

Eric and Fr. Willy with the background of Fr. Peyton, Servant of God.

Let us Pray:  Father, give grace to those in the entertainment industry.  Help them to share their talents in such a way to ennoble society and culture.  Give them fortitude to never compromise their morals.  Help them to experience a hunger for truth before experiencing hunger for fame and notoriety.  Give shepherds to guide those in the entertainment industry, and bless those such as Family Theater and all those already doing such good work in this city.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


This week’s featured recipes:


Galbi Pork Ribs
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Posted in Blast from the Past, Recipe, Savoring Our Faith | 2 Comments »

Posted June 5th, 2013 | Blast from the Past, Faithful Foodie, Recipe

JUNE 5 2013- Today marks Fr. Leo’s 14th Anniversary as a priest, so please send him your regards! Also, the Project Manager Joe Hansbrough’s daughter Grace turns 1 today! May God bless all priests, religious and families!

Fr. Leo after baptizing Grace Hansbrough last year. Happy Priesthood and Birthday to these two, respectively!


Food Disciples  
Part 2: Mise En Place  

Originally published November 17, 2010


During my brief to San Francisco’s City College of Culinary Arts, I received some great tips and much needed cooking reminders, which pairs perfectly with spiritual insights as well. 


Keeping the ingredients separate and clean


Instructor Chef Maureen walked to the different work stations to see if the culinary students (i.e., food disciples) first put everything they needed in order, keeping their work station clear of clutter, and making sure the ingredients and equipment would be in a place where they could execute a dish with facility, order and peace.  

Chef Maureen, making sure plating is done accurately

“Mise en place!”  It translates to “Everything in place.” That’s where cooking really begins.  Practically speaking, chefs have to put all of the ingredients in proper containers, and in a place near their work station where it will be easy to access especially in a busy cooking environment.

I also enjoy saying as many French cooking phrases as possible.  Somehow the accent gives culinary authority, accentuated with an air of sophistication and grace.  Mise en place as a culinary “technique” serves as a firm reminder that putting everything in the proper order prevents cooking disasters. It makes for a peaceful cooking process and gives more of a guarantee for a successful meal.

Culinary Student showing diagrams of ingredients and plating

This “technique” of making sure we put things in order serves as an anecdote for life. Often times we forget important ingredients – such as prayer, taking time for family meals, serving the needs of the poor, and even simple things such as basic manners and a friendly smile.  The absence or the misplacement of life’s ingredients creates disastrous effects in our lives.

When God created the world, a certain order ensured “paradise” in the garden.  However, Adam and Eve didn’t follow the God’s recipe for happiness; the ingredient of “obedience” went missing and certain chaos followed.  They ate the forbidden fruit!

This Venice Florida Restaurant boasted the best burger a person will ever eat. In all honesty, it was the most mediocre burger I’ve tasted.

Since the month of November is dedicated to prayerfully remember the Souls of the Faithful Departed, it may be good to remember the simple cooking technique and apply it to our own lives.  Do we even know what are the ingredients that go into a healthy and peaceful life?  Are these “ingredients” in proper order?

Grandfather’s grave. My grandpa was not only an incredible cook, he was also very organized, faithful, and all around wonderful! We miss him very much!

For example, money and prayer are part of the life.  But, if money comes before prayer, then our life’s outcome may be as confused as trying to put sauce over pasta before cooking it in boiling water.  While that sounds ridiculous, this culinary reminder is as true as the cliché: putting the cart before the horse doesn’t work.

Order in cooking and in life makes all the difference in the world. Having all of the ingredients accessible, like prayer, family support, a faith-based community, and service to others helps us create the environment for success.  Moreover, following recipes in the order given to us applies most importantly in the ‘kitchen of life!’  Putting things in place, in our own lives and especially in our family life, can help ensure a peaceful process and most importantly blessed results!

Grandma on her 92 Birthday! She’s a great woman of faith. A well ordered life keeps her looking ever so young!
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As families prepare for the upcoming Holidays, it seems that life can get so frazzled that all the fun, and the faith, gets lost in the mix.  Before the mad rush of malls and traveling to and from party to party, take some time now to prepare for the spiritual significance of our holidays.  Putting our priorities in place in the kitchen of life helps us produce the “piece du resistance” – the blessing of a blessed life.


Me and my “buddy” Michael at the Best Buddies of Maryland. Michael was able to help me plate my specialty dessert, and he also said that I was his “favorite” chef!

Let us pray:  Father in Heaven, give us the grace to know our priorities and the strength to put these in place.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen 

This week’s featured recipes:





Marinated Mozzarella, Grilled olives, mushrooms and peppers, and grilled broccoli rabe


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Posted in Blast from the Past, Faithful Foodie, Recipe | 21 Comments »