At my age, everything is about history — even food! So today, with the Lenten season upon us, let’s have a little discussion about the relationship of Lent to food. We’ll then move on to some recipes.
In the Christian religion, Lent is the 40 days before Easter. This annual season of fasting and penitence begins on Ash Wednesday but it is preceded by a day of confession and feasting on rich foods.
Many traditional churches celebrate this Shrove Tuesday event with a pancake supper. Early in church history the faithful were forbidden to consume meat, butter, eggs or milk during Lent. Because their larders were often full of these staples, they would add flour and whip up batches of pancakes the day before Ash Wednesday.
In some churches “Fat Tuesday” is still a tradition. I think it sort of softens the blow of sacrifice during the days of Lent when school children may chose to give up candy or adults give up their beloved morning cup of coffee for 40 days. Of course, nearly everyone gives up meat on Fridays.
For centuries, Roman Catholics were encouraged to abstain from eating meat every Friday of the year as well as the 40 days of Lent. That all changed in 1966 by decree from the pope. Today, Catholics over 14 years of age are encouraged to abstain from meat only on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.
But for many, the tradition of eating fish on Friday remains. If you lived near a seaport, Fridays weren’t so bad — you could be feasting on crab, shrimp, scallops or abalone every week! For those who were landlocked, the regular offering of a tuna and noodle casserole or creamed tuna on toast during childhood often left a lifetime bad taste in their mouth for those dishes.
Whatever your religious beliefs, there are many wonderful recipes for inexpensive, tasty and even meatless dishes to brighten up meals at any time of the year. I have been making the following salmon patties for at least 30 years. It’s an old Crisco recipe and is delicious with traditional mashed potatoes and buttered petit peas flavored with just a hint of thyme. The faux krab quiche is from my daughter and the Pasta Fajioli soup recipe is as old as the hills. Enjoy!
1 can (15-16 ounces) pink salmon
1/3 cup minced onion
½ cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Shortening or Canola oil for frying
Drain salmon; set aside 2 tablespoons of the juice.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl remove and discard excess skin and bones from salmon; break apart meat with your hands. Add egg and onion, mixing until sticky. Stir in flour.
Add baking powder to salmon juice; stir into salmon mixture. Form into small patties and fry in hot oil until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Serve with lemon, tartar sauce or Caesar salad dressing.
½ pound imitation krab, chopped
1 cup jack cheese, shredded
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1-1/2 cups evaporated milk
¾ cup green onions and tops
2 tablespoons margarine
1 tablespoon flour
1 9-inch pie pastry lined pan
Mix together cheeses in medium bowl.
Put krab in pastry lined pie tin. Cover with 1-1/4 cups cheese mixture. Saute onions in margarine and add flour, stirring well. Beat eggs lightly and blend with evaporated milk; add onion mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over cheese and krab mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake at 400° F. 15 min. Reduce heat to 350° F. and bake 20-35 min. until custard is set and slightly puffy. Cool at least 15 min. before cutting.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 carrot, chopped small
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups reserved water from cooking pasta
2 16 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained
½ pound small farfalle pasta
½ cup fresh, flat leaf Italian parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup basil leaves, torn roughly (optional)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Pour pasta in and stir. Boil for 5 minutes and drain reserving 2 cups of the pasta water. Pasta will be very firm but will continue to cook when combined with other ingredients. Rinse and set aside.
In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add onion and carrot and sauté on medium heat until vegetables are soft but not brown, (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute more. Add canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and cannellini beans. Stir in parsley, reserved pasta water and pasta and bring to a simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle generously with cheese. Top with basil leaves and serve with bread and a simple green salad with vinaigrette dressing.