Once a month, my parish puts out a call for meals that will be delivered to and served at a local soup kitchen. And each month, I participate, making a double batch – one for those enjoying a meal at the soup kitchen and another for our family and friends. To instill an extra dose of meaning into these meals, they are made in honor of a saint, celebrating the saint’s feast day happening in that given month.
Follow along with the Saints and Feasts: Celebrating Catholic Tradition with Food series on the blog to find delicious recipes inspired by the saints themselves as well as interesting facts, deeper musings, and even activities to share with your family. How do you celebrate Catholic Feast Days? Want to share your inspired meals? Head to Instagram and use the hashtags #saintsandfeasts and #thecatholicmama. I’d love to see what you come up with!
St. Matthew, apostle, formerly Levi the tax collector
Feast Day: September 21
By way of Saint Matthew, we hear one of the most profound of Jesus’s teachings. Why had He come to Earth? Who did He desire to save?
Jesus called Matthew, at that time named Levi son of Alphaeus, from his place in the tax booth. Follow me!, He said, and he did. Shortly after, Matthew hosted a dinner for Jesus with some of his fellow tax collectors (and sinners) in attendance. The religious zealots of the day, the Pharisees, who were utmost concerned with following the Law to the letter, and not following it in its spirit, condemned Jesus for doing so. How could the Messiah, if that’s who He really was, become unclean by socializing with unclean people?
Jesus rebukes them. “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician,” He says in Mark 2:17. “but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The radicality of this statement cannot be downplayed. The Pharisees would not have expected anything like this. Their concept of the Messiah was extremely different than that of Jesus, a humble man of humble origins. Not a military leader, not a man afraid to associate with sinners for fear of becoming unclean. Not a righteous man rallying the Jews to the Mosaic Law.
We humans fall short all the time. Usually in small ways: Impatience with our children, anger at our spouse, passing by someone in need without stopping to help. Sometimes in big ways, ways we’re too ashamed to mention at all.
But this statement of Jesus tells us that Jesus is for all of us. He came here for us. Because sinners need help finding their way to God, and we most certainly are sinners.
Back in Jesus’s day, tax collectors were some of the most despised people. In sharing a meal with them, Jesus shows us, even now two thousand years later, that no sin is too big for Him. Come to Me, My arms and heart are open. He is available to all, not just those who do not sin at all (although there has only been one fully human person who, by God’s grace, ever achieved that).
The meal that Saint Matthew helped prepare for Jesus gave us arguably one of the most meaningful lines in the entire Gospel. Matthew was chosen by Jesus to be one of his twelve apostles and on September 21 each year we celebrate his feast day.
What might Jesus and Matthew have eaten together? A lentil stew, a loaf of bread, and dish of hummus maybe. And so with that meal in mind, here is what I created in honor of Saint Matthew’s feast day (stay tuned: the hummus recipe will becoming in October and it has a secret ingredient that I bet you’ve never had in hummus before!)
And now? Let’s feast!
Fish and Red Lentil Stew
A hearty stew with warming flavors, this fish and red lentil stew is easy to make and will hit the spot on a chilly day. Want to make it even easier or vegetarian/vegan? Simply omit the fish.
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 14.5 oz can plum tomatoes
- salt & pepper
- 3 c dried red lentils
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lb firm white fish fillets such as cod
- 1/2 c almond slivers toasted
- 1/4 c fresh parsley chopped
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, 5 minutes.
Add cumin and turmeric and toast, 1 minute.
Add plum tomatoes, lentils, stock, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and simmer 30-45 minutes or until lentils are soft.
Add fish to the stew and poach 7-10 minutes.
To serve, top with almond slivers, parsley, and drizzled olive oil. Enjoy!
Turmeric Fennel Bread
- 1/2 c lukewarm water
- 1-1/4 oz package dry active yeast
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 1 c water
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil + extra
- 2-2.5 c bread flour
- 1 2/3 c semolina flour + extra for dusting
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp salt
In a large bowl, combine warm water with yeast and sugar. Set aside about 5 minutes or until bubbling and frothy. If the yeast doesn't bubble up, START OVER. You need nice bubbly yeast for a delicious end result.
Stir in 1 cup water, olive oil, bread flour, semolina, turmeric, fennel seed, and salt, and mix until well combined but still tacky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is soft but not sticky, about 8 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball. Pour a small amount of olive oil into the bottom of a clean bowl. Put the dough into the bowl and roll to coat it in oil. Place a kitchen towel over the bowl and put in a warm, non-drafty spot (I like to put it in my oven while it's turned off, with the light on) to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half. Cover and let rest 5-10 minutes. Shape into two equal sized balls.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with semolina flour. Place the dough balls onto the sheet, cover and let rise another 30 minutes.
Adjust the oven racks so that one rack is in the lowest position and the other is in the position above it. Set a rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish on the lowest rack. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Once preheated, carefully remove the rimmed baking sheet, add 2 cups of ice to it and return it to its place in the oven.
With a sharp knife, slice an X into the top of each loaf. Place baking sheet with the bread on the second rack. Bake bread 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. You'll be able to tell if the bread is done by tapping on the underside. If it sounds hollow, it's cooked through.
Remove the bread from the oven and allow to COOL COMPLETELY on a wire rack before slicing it. Serve with olive oil for dipping and lentil stew. Enjoy!
Witness the magic of bread from yeast to loaf on this Instagram post.