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March 5 

Saint of the day:

Saint John Joseph of the Cross

Patron Saint of Ischia, Italy

Saint John Joseph of the Cross’ Story

Self-denial is never an end in itself but is only a help toward greater charity—as the life of Saint John Joseph shows.

John Joseph was very ascetic even as a young man. At 16, he joined the Franciscans in Naples; he was the first Italian to follow the reform movement of Saint Peter Alcantara. John Joseph’s reputation for holiness prompted his superiors to put him in charge of establishing a new friary even before he was ordained.

Obedience moved John Joseph to accept appointments as novice master, guardian and, finally, provincial. His years of mortification enabled him to offer these services to the friars with great charity. As guardian he was not above working in the kitchen or carrying the wood and water needed by the friars.

When his term as provincial expired, John Joseph dedicated himself to hearing confessions and practicing mortification, two concerns contrary to the spirit of the dawning Age of Enlightenment. John Joseph of the Cross was canonized in 1839.









Ischia, Italy

In the church calendar, the Saint is honored on March 5, while the festivities in the streets of Ischia Ponte, are held on the first Sunday of September for a period of four days. In these days of celebration, the church is decorated and Masses were celebrated continuously, the relic of the saint is carried in procession through the city streets and sea where the boat with the relic is followed by the fishermen.

The festivities end with a fireworks show.





Rabbit - Ischia Style

You would think that an island in the Mediterranean would have as its typical dish something seafood. While Ischia offers plenty of fish, the recipe they revere and that is named for the island is Coniglio all'Ischitana (or Ischia-style Rabbit). Apparently there was an abundance of the creatures on the green isle and so this dish was created as a means of cooking the tasty meat. It's quite simple to make. Traditionally it was baked in a clay pot but today, just as often, it's made in a regular pot on the stovetop. The sauce is normally used on the pasta as the primo piatto; then the meat served as a second course.


Red Wine Rabbit Ischia Style


  • 1 (about 3 1/4 pound) rabbit, cut up, liver reserved

  •  1 medium onion, chopped

  •  2 carrots, cut into medium dice

  •  2 celery stalks, cut into medium dice

  •  2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

  •  1 fresh bay leaf, torn into pieces

  •  1/4 cinnamon stick

  •  2 cloves

  •  7 oz. cherry tomatoes 

  •  1 bottle full-bodied dry red wine

  •  1 cup all-purpose flour

  •  3 tablespoons olive oil

  •  1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • flat-leaf parsley a small bunch, finely chopped

  • garlic 1 clove, finely chopped

  • lemon 1, zested and 1/2 juiced

  • extra-virgin olive oil 100ml


  1. Pat the rabbit pieces dry with paper towels.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, and cloves. Pour in the red wine and mix well. Add the rabbit pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

  3. When you’re ready to cook, remove the rabbit from the red wine marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade, reserving the wine. Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves and reserve. Roughly chop the vegetables.

  4. Dredge the rabbit pieces in flour and shake off any excess. Heat a casserole, large enough to hold the meat, over low heat. Add the oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the rabbit pieces and saute until well colored on all sides. Remove the rabbit pieces using a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same casserole, add the vegetables from the marinade and cook until translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.

  5. Add back the rabbit pieces, season with salt and pepper, and pour in the red wine reserved from the marinade. Add the reserved bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves. Cover and gently bring to a simmer over low heat for about 1 hour; the rabbit should cook very slowly.

  6. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook uncovered for a further 30 minutes

  7. Chop the rabbit’s liver very fine and add it to the casserole. Let simmer for another 10 minutes. At the end of the cooking time, the wine should be completely absorbed and the sauce should be quite dense. To make the sauce more uniform, you may pass it through a food mill with the smallest disc. Don't mill the tomatoes for a more rustic dish.

  8. To make the gremolata, mix the parsley, garlic, lemon zest and juice with the olive oil and season.

  9. Serve the rabbit very hot, accompanied by your favorite polenta top rabbit with gremolata, crusty bread and perhaps a bottle of the same wine you used to cook the rabbit.

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