Meatless, religiously: Meals during Lent


Blackened Green Beans With Garlic, Sesame and Ginger. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

You might say that those who observe the Lenten fast are the original flexitarians. Since the 4th century, eating meatless — and, in some cases, eschewing other animal products and olive oil as well — has been one way for millions of Christians to respect their religious heritage during the 40-day observance before Easter.

Even when the restrictions are limited to Wednesdays and/or Fridays of each week, modern cooks find that family meal planning is essential.

“When I first started, it was hard to find recipes,” says Sylvia Leontaritis, who began her Adventures of an Orthodox Mom blog in 2008. The 34-year-old mother of three now finds plenty of sources for dishes she wants to serve during Lent, which must be “basically vegan,” Leontaritis says. The challenges have been avoiding soy products (for health reasons, she says); working around egg replacers in baking, because she does not like the powdered kind; and finding dishes her young children will eat: “A lot of vegan recipes are not that family-friendly.”

Bean soups and avocado pesto over pasta have been successful, as have smoothies for breakfast and snacks. “We eat so much healthier during a fasting time,” Leontaritis says. “To be honest, I look forward to it.”

Some feast days fall within Lent, bringing their own food traditions, according to Catholic News Service journalist Angelo Stagnaro, whose new “A Lenten Cookbook for Catholics” (Tau Publishing) has received a rare imprimatur (seven, in fact) from the Catholic Church.

His 57 recipes are mainly Neapolitan and pasta-driven, with a few apres-Lent offerings to augment the feasting aspect. (A note to veteran recipe readers: Stagnaro took the unorthodox approach of listing ingredients in alphabetical order.)

“Lent is not just a matter of self-denial,” he says. “I wanted to remind people that fasting comes with feasting, and that those things are not at odds with each other.” Like Leontaritis, he was motivated to ease the burden of identifying a range of suitable foods to serve during a time of need: “People don’t like eating the same tuna casseroles.”

Recipes:

Blackened Green Beans With Garlic, Sesame and Ginger

Squid Ink Pasta (Pasta Inchiostro)

St. Joseph Cream Puffs (Sfingi di San Giuseppe)

Lentil and Rice Stew (Mjadera)

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes: washingtonpost.com/recipes.
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