Lent is a religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday.
The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, penance, repentance of sins and self-denial. This tradition is mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, as well as Roman Catholics.
For non-religious individuals this can be a good time to try to eat less meat and to incorporate more fish and vegetables into their diet. Local service clubs, churches and charities often serve fish fry dinners this time of year, but if fried fish isn’t something you want to eat every week, I have a few suggestions.
Deluxe Seafood Chowder is a richly flavored milk-based chowder filled with fish, baby clams and shrimp. It is surprisingly filling and suitable for a meal with a small salad or fresh crusty bread.
Deluxe Seafood Chowder
1 pound of frozen haddock or cod fillets. Fresh is best, but not readily available in our area.
1 10-ounce can baby clams
8 ounces large scallops, halved or quartered
1 4½ ounce can small shrimp drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup water
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes, about 3 medium
3 cups half-and-half
1 13 ounce can evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika and fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Make sure fish is completely thawed. Rinse and pat dry. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Set aside. Drain clams, reserving liquid.
In a 3-quart Dutch oven, sauté onion in butter until tender, but not browned. Stir in flour. Add water, reserved clam liquid and potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add fish, clams, half-and-half, evaporated milk, scallops and shrimp.
Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until the fish becomes opaque. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a tureen or individual soup bowls. Garnish with paprika and parsley.
Gumbo is the cuisine that put Louisiana on the map. This traditional Seafood Gumbo features okra, shrimp, spicy seasonings and the “holy trinity” of onions, green peppers and celery. This recipe calls for shrimp in honor of Lent, but chicken or sausage can be substituted or added. I am not a fan of okra. I am including it, but feel free to omit it if you share my distaste for this slimy veggie. No offense to you okra lovers.
Note: this recipe makes about 6 quarts of gumbo, feel free to cut the recipe in half if cooking for smaller numbers of people.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups green peppers
1 cup sliced green onions, whites and greens
4 cups vegetable broth
8 cups water
4 cups sliced okra
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups small shrimp, thawed, rinsed, drained and deveined
1 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
A couple dashes of Chipolte Tabasco Sauce
In a heavy Dutch oven, combine flour and oil, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Cook and stir about 10 minutes more or until mixture is a deep reddish brown. The darker the color, the deeper the flavor. Just be careful you don’t burn your roux.
Add the onion, celery, green peppers and green onions. Cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Add the vegetable broth, water, okra (if using), paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes.
Add shrimp and parsley. Simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or until the seafood is done. Remove from heat and stir in Cajun seasoning and Tobasco sauce. Let sit for a couple minutes to allow the seasoning to fully incorporate into the dish.
Coconut Curry Shrimp and Green Beans is another great way to try curry if you haven’t yet tried this aromatic spice. The recipe is quick and simple enough to make a week-day meal.
Coconut Curry Shrimp
2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
1 pound of fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tapioca starch, cornstarch or all-purpose flour will work in a pinch
3 cups cooked jasmine or brown rice
Preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add oil and when heated add the green beans. Sauté 3 or 4 minutes until the beans start to brown and soften. Add garlic and shallots and cook another minute.
Turn heat down to medium and add coconut milk, curry, paprika and Tapioca starch. Whisk until well combined. Add shrimp. Cover and bring to a boil. Once mixture is boiling remove lid and cook until shrimp is opaque. Serve over rice.