Meatless Meals for Lent

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During the Lenten season, many Christian sects abstain from eating meat.  Observant Catholics, age 14 years and older, are not allowed to eat meat on any Friday during Lent.  Many others, as part of their Lenten penitence, give up meat entirely during the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  While eating meatless meals is easy for practicing vegans or vegetarians, it may be a challenge for those who are not used to planning meals around non-meat food choices.

The Church’s doctrine on abstinence forbids the use of meat products, but allows eggs, dairy products and even condiments made of animal fat, so there is some latitude in what can and cannot be used to plan Lenten meals.  For example, abstinence allows meat juices, so foods such as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are acceptable to use in cooking.  It is also permissible to use lard.  Even bacon drippings, which contain small bits of meat, may be used as a flavoring.

Using animal byproducts may seem sacrilegious to purists, but since it doesn’t violate any dogma, the available food choices and cooking techniques are endless and can keep anyone satisfied for more than the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  So if you’re cutting out meat for Lent or any other reason, here are three landmark recipes that may have you giving up meat forever.

Super Fast Spinach, Pesto and Cheese Lasagna

 

Ingredients

3 – cups ricotta cheese
1 – cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 – large egg
2 – 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 – 7-ounce package prepared pesto
4 – cups bottled chunky pasta sauce
12 – no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
2 – cups grated Fontina cheese

Directions

Blend ricotta and Parmesan in medium bowl. Season cheeses with salt and pepper; stir in egg. Blend spinach and pesto in another medium bowl.

Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with oil. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce in prepared dish. Arrange 3 noodles side by side atop sauce. Spread 1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese mixture over in thin layer. Drop 1/3 of spinach mixture over by spoonfuls. Repeat layering with sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese mixture and spinach mixture 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles and 1 cup sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover lasagna with foil. Bake 35 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with Fontina cheese. Bake lasagna until heated through, waiting for the sauce to bubble and cheese to melt, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes.

Crispy Fried Cod

 

Ingredients

¾ – cup dry bread crumbs
¾ – cup yellow cornmeal
1 – tsp. salt
¼ – tsp. cayenne
4 – (6-oz.) pieces center-cut cod or scrod fillet (3/4 inch thick)
2 – large eggs, lightly beaten
6 – tbsp. vegetable oil
Accompaniment:  lemon wedges and tartar sauce

Directions

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Combine bread crumbs, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne in a large sealable plastic bag and shake to mix.

Season fish with salt and pepper on both sides and, working with 1 piece at a time, put fish in bag and shake to coat well with crumbs. Dip fish in eggs, then shake in crumbs again to coat. Transfer fish to a plate.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) over high heat until hot but not smoking, then fry fish until undersides are golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn over, add remaining 3 tablespoons oil, and cook 1 minute more. Put skillet in upper third of oven and bake until fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Vegetarian Chili

 

Ingredients

¼ – cup olive oil
2 – cups chopped onions
1 2/3  – cups coarsely chopped red bell peppers (about 2 medium)
6 – garlic cloves, chopped
2 – tbsp chili powder
2 – tsp dried oregano
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 – 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained, 1/2 cup liquid reserved
1 – 16-ounce can tomato sauce

Chopped fresh cilantro
Sour cream
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
Chopped green onions

Directions

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne; stir 2 minutes. Mix in beans, 1/2 cup reserved bean liquid, and tomato sauce. Bring chili to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and chili thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle chili into bowls. Pass chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese, and green onions separately.

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