What did you give up for Lent?
Lent, which began on Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday, is a season of repentance, prayer and fasting, a time that reflects the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the desert before beginning his public ministry. During Lent, you may be giving up some luxuries.
“Lent means making a sacrifice, paying respect for what Jesus did for us,” says Wing Lam, co-founder of Orange County–based Wahoo’s Fish Taco.
Fellow restaurateur Bruno Serato, founder and owner of the Anaheim White House Restaurant and a 2011 CNN Hero, says, “Lent, of course, is a very important time for Catholics. It certainly is for me.”
There’s a good chance you’re giving up meat, at least on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. But why meat?
Meat is often associated with luxury because in many cultures it costs more than other foods. It has long been served at celebrations and feasts, (Thanksgiving turkey, Easter ham and Fourth of July burgers, for example.) However, a time of the year devoted to honoring Christ’s Passion and sacrifice doesn’t seem to warrant a feast. In addition, Jesus gave up His body (His flesh), and Catholics refrain from consuming flesh to attain greater communion with Him.
Fish, on the other hand, never had the same lofty status as meat, and it isn’t associated with celebrations. In his 1966 document, “Apostolic Constitution of Penance,” Pope Paul VI uses the word “carnis,” which in Latin specifically refers to mammals and birds only.
Many of the top restaurateurs are aware of this and adjust their menus accordingly. For example, “We have a fish special every Friday during Lent,” says Serato. And Wahoo’s, says Lam, offers the fish associated with Lent year-round. (Check out his recipe in the sidebar.)
Although Lent is a time of sacrifice, nobody ever said your taste buds must suffer. And thanks to a countless number of meatless recipes found in Catholic kitchens worldwide – and shared online throughout cyberspace – your Lenten season can be a tasty one even on meatless days. Here are some delectable ideas to jumpstart your culinary creativity:
- New Orleans-style Barbecue Shrimp – a Louisiana classic that’s composed of fresh shrimp baked in butter and Creole seasoning
- Roasted Veggie Pasta – a rustic Italian-style pasta dish that includes asparagus, bell peppers and cremini mushrooms on a bed of fettuccini noodles
- Fish Friday Tuna Burgers – a pan-fried blend of tuna, onion, celery, bread crumbs and seasoning. Served with rice and vegetables, or on a bun with tomato and lettuce
- Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Lasagna – fresh spinach complemented by layers of sautéed onions, celery, carrots, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes
- Koulibiaka – a Russian Orthodox classic; salmon fillets baked into individual puff-pastry pies with a filling of cabbage, mushroom and rice pilaf
- Pasta Strega Nonna – essentially Italian stir-fry; shrimp, asparagus and garlic sautéed in olive oil and served on the pasta of your choice
- Louisiana Crawfish Boil – a Cajun-style party in a stockpot; artichokes, potatoes, corn, onions, mushroom, green beans and onions with crawfish boiled in a spicy broth. Goes well with other seafood
- Stuffed Shell Pierogies – potatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, onions and seasoning stuffed into jumbo pasta shells
- Pita Perfection – a tasty meal from the Middle East; composed of hummus, feta cheese, shredded spinach, onion and tomato cooked on pita bread
- Salsa Rice Enchiladas – a Latin American favorite; salsa, cooked rice and black beans, chili powder, and shredded cheddar and jack cheese served in tortillas
- Seafood Lasagna – an Italian classic with a maritime twist; lasagna noodles cooked with cream cheese, scallions, Old Bay or Creole seasoning, broccoli, imitation crabmeat, Parmesan cheese and alfredo pasta sauce
- Hungarian Baked Noodles – an Old World dish that combines fine noodles (such as angel-hair pasta) with onion, garlic, cottage cheese, and Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce
- Cherry and Lemon Sour Cream Salad – an off-beat concoction that blends black cherries, lemon Jello, cream cheese, sour cream and crushed pineapple
- Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp – peeled and cut shrimp each stuffed with a 1-tablespoon blend of onion, pepper, celery, garlic, parsley, crabmeat and seasoned bread crumbs
- El Paso Pilaf – basmati rice, corn, kidney beans, veggie broth, tomato sauce, onion and garlic topped with your choice of lettuce, tomato, cheese, olives, avocado, sour cream or salsa
- Fish Fajitas – Tilapia cooked with white wine, lemon juice, peppers, onion, cheddar cheese and sour cream, and served on tortillas
- Marvelous Mahi-Mahi – the tasty fish sautéed with in garlic, olive oil and lime juice, and served with tomatoes, fresh basil and feta cheese
- Irish Potato Pancakes – an Emerald Isle staple made with grated potato, butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, buttermilk and vanilla extract
Try this Lent-friendly dish shared by Wing Lam, co-founder of OC-based Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. (serves four)
1 bag of spring mixed lettuce
1 bag of baby kale
4 filets of wahoo, 6-8 oz. each
Side of black beans and corn salsa
Side of pico
1 avocado, sliced
Pico salsa for 4 servings:
5 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ cup of chopped onions
½ cup of cilantro
½ cup of green onions
1 diced jalapeño pepper
1 diced serrano pepper
1 squeezed whole lime
Salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste
Black beans and corn salsa for 4 servings:
½ cup of cooked black beans
½ cup of cooked corn
½ diced red & yellow bell peppers
¼ cup of cilantro
1 teaspoon of lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the four salads: Start by mixing the lettuce and the kale, tossing it with some olive oil and lemon juice. Divide them into the four plates. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the bean and corn salsa on the salad. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the pico. Place one filet of grilled wahoo on top.