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 | By Patricia Majher

Meatless Meals

To honor His sacrifice, we make one of our own every Friday during Lent

From the dawn of Christianity, Friday has been set aside as a day of abstinence to honor the memory of Christ suffering and dying on that day of the week. But when did that day become associated with abstinence from meat?

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian made explicit mention of this practice in their writings – and they both died in the third century. Pope Nicholas I, who served from 858-867, formally declared that abstinence from meat be required on Fridays. And there is every reason to assume that Innocent III – pope from 1198-1216 – had the existence of this law in mind when he said that the obligation would be suppressed whenever Christmas Day should fall on a Friday.

This year-round obligation continued for seven more centuries until – in the midst of the sweeping changes following the Second Vatican Council – American bishops released their flocks from this practice, except on Fridays during Lent and on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also obligatory days of fasting, which for adults, involves the consumption of one full meal and two smaller ones.

That means during the Lenten season, you’ll be challenged to come up with meatless meals for eight different days. Listed below are suggestions for four of those meals – a healthy twist on traditional fried fish, East Coast crab cakes, a fancy grilled trout and skewered shrimp.

Oven-Fried Fish Fillets

Serves 4

  • 1 lb. sole, cod or lake perch
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup Ritz crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Melt butter in a 9” x 13” pan in the oven. While it melts, combine the other ingredients, except the fish, in a pie pan. Dip the fish in the melted butter, then dip into the crushed cracker mixture and return to the baking pan. Bake the fillets for 20 to 25 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork.

Maryland Crab Cakes

Serves 4

  • 1 lb. crabmeat
  • ½ cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Old Bay® Seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp butter

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the bread crumbs and the crabmeat. In a separate bowl, stir the beaten egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Old Bay Seasoning. Lightly mix these ingredients into the crabmeat mixture, being careful not to overwork the crab. Form into 8 round, flat cakes.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Fry the cakes on each side in the skillet, until crusty and golden brown. Serve warm.

Fancy Grilled Trout

Serves 4

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp melted margarine
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Tabasco sauce
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 brook trout, about 1 lb. each

In a shallow dish, combine lemon juice, margarine, oil, parsley, sesame seeds, Tabasco sauce, ginger and salt. Mix well. Pierce skin of fish in several places with the tines of a fork. Roll fish in juice mixture to coat inside and out. Cover. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour, turning occasionally. Remove fish from marinade. Reserve marinade. Place fish in hand-held hinged grill. Brush fish with marinade. Cook about 4 inches from hot coals for 5 minutes. Turn. Brush with marinade again, and cook 5 minutes longer. Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

Shrimp en Brochette

Serves 2

  • ½ lb. medium shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 12 small mushrooms
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 dashes of Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aide to marinate 10 to 15 minutes. Heat broiler. Thread 3 shrimp and 3 mushrooms alternately on each of 4 skewers. Reserve marinade. Broil skewers for 3 minutes. Turn, baste with reserved marinade, and broil 2 to 3 minutes longer until shrimp are pink and opaque.

Just a reminder…

In 1966, when American bishops lifted the obligation of meatless Fridays all year, they also said that “Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason, we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.”

This article was originally published March 2004.