PITTSFIELD — The days are getting longer, the sun seems a little warmer, spring is approaching and Easter is fast approaching.
Earlier this week, Christians observed Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, a 40-day celebration, not counting Sundays, and ending just before Easter Sunday.
“Lent is spiritual, it is an intense time of preparation and observance of the passion of Christ. Easter celebrates his resurrection,” said Reverend Matthew Guidi of Assumption Parish, which includes Holy Church -Mary of the Assumption in Cheshire and the North American Martyrs. Chapel at Lanesborough.
Among the rituals of Lent are the “giving up” of certain things as an act of penance and not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent.
The practice of going meatless dates back to the early Christians, who made Friday a special day because Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday.
“The church has instituted the practice of not eating meat on Fridays,” Guidi said.
According to the Roman Catholic Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law, which is still in effect, Guidi said, no meat should be eaten on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all other Fridays in Lent. Additionally, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting, allowing one full meal without meat and two small meals without meat, if necessary for a person to maintain strength.
“Fish is allowed because it does not have the same status as eating the flesh of mammals, to honor Christ who sacrificed his flesh,” Guidi said. “Meat was more of a party dish than fish in the early days of the church. It was also a dish for the rich, fish was for the poor.”
So what does he eat during Lent? As for her favorite Lenten meals, Guidi was quick to respond that her favorite dish was mac and cheese, adding, “I love to eat!” He also said he liked the baked croquettes, cheese pizza, tuna noodle casserole and eggplant parmesan; everything he does for himself.
Owner/chef Shari Peltier of Thrive restaurant on Wahconah Street, which specializes in plant-based cuisine, suggested that one way to go meatless during Lent was to create a loaded baked potato bar.
“I like to use russet potatoes, but sweet potatoes are also fun,” she said. “You can top them with a vegan burger or sausage and the other usual toppings – cheese, sour cream… You might like it and never go back to using meat again.”
Peltier also suggested creating a Buddha bowl. “Take a large bowl, I use a 32 ounce one, and put quinoa or rice on one side, greens and vegetables on the other. Top it with beans, soup, a meatless chili or vegan coconut curry soup,” she said. .
Peltier said most of your favorite casseroles and dishes can be turned into meatless versions using plant proteins like tofu, soy curd, or tempeh, fermented soybeans. She added that the tempeh should be marinated before using it to give it some flavor.
“When substituting plant-based proteins, remember that they don’t contain fat or fat like there is in meat, so you don’t need them as much in a recipe as you do with meat,” said she said, recommending using 3/4 of a pound of plant-based protein in place of a pound of meat in a recipe.
Members of the Berkshire Eagle’s Features Department have been digging through their recipe boxes for some of their favorite, tried-and-true meatless recipes. And let’s not forget Father Guidi’s recipe for stovetop mac and cheese…
VEGGIE TUNA BURGERS
These burgers are a great way to add veggies and protein to your dinner, without the meat. You can prepare the chopped vegetables in advance and prepare the “burger patties” just before frying them for dinner. Unlike other tuna burgers I’ve tried, these are super chewy and flavorful. You won’t even miss the meat!
(Lindsey Hollenbaugh, Features Editor)
Yield: Six tuna burgers
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup each grated zucchini, yellow squash and carrots
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 can canned tuna, drained and crumbled
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon of butter
In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the onion and garlic for 1 minute. Add zucchini, squash and grated carrots. Sauté until tender. Drain and cool the mixture to room temperature. In a large bowl, combine the egg, breadcrumbs, tuna, salt and pepper. Add the vegetable mixture. Shape the mixture by hand into six patties. The mixture should be moist, but still hold together. Spray skillet with cooking spray and cook patties in butter 3 to 5 minutes per side over medium heat until lightly browned. Serve on buns with a slice of cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. Homemade garlic pie sauce or aioli also goes great with these.
QUICHE WITHOUT MEAT
This has been my favorite quiche recipe for decades. The original recipe calls for 6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled, but for Lent I add meaty shiitake mushrooms in their place, although you can add any cooked vegetable you have on hand. He claims to serve 8, but with my family he feeds three – with no leftovers!
(Margaret Button, Associate Feature Editor)
Yield: 8 servings
For the dough:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup margarine
3 to 4 tablespoons of ice water
For the quiche filling:
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon of margarine
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced and sautéed
1/4 pound Swiss cheese, diced
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups light cream
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cut in margarine until mixture resembles coarse flour. Gradually add the ice water until the mixture forms a ball. Roll out dough on a floured board to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Transfer to pie plate and fluted edge.
Sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of margarine until soft. Let cool. Line bottom of crust with sautéed mushrooms and diced Swiss cheese. Combine the eggs, cream, remaining salt, spices and cooled cooked onion and pour into the crust.
Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the quiche comes out clean. Serve hot.
MAC AND CHEESE ON THE STOVE
(Courtesy of Reverend Matthew Guidi of Yummies4Dummies.com. Guidi said he added a 16-ounce can of Velvetta 2% Milk Cheese to the recipe.)
Estimated servings: 4
2 cups dry macaroni
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cups cold whole milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cook macaroni according to package directions, then drain; put aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine, then cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is lightly browned.
Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in milk until smooth. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
Add the cheese, a handful at a time, beating well after each addition and not adding any until the previous handful is completely melted and incorporated. Season to taste with garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper.
Add drained pasta to cheese sauce and stir to combine, breaking up any macaroni lumps. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.