A shared meal to strengthen you on your Lenten journey
Lent is my absolute favorite season. I treasure the 40 days and 40 nights when the entire church retreats to the desert in prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other Lenten observances.
Growing up in a Catholic home, we were taught the meaning and significance of Lent and Easter. We observed fish Fridays, saved coins in a paper origami “rice bowl” and participated in charitable works through our parish and schools. We did these things outside of Lent too, but our Lenten intentions made everything new and earnest. Many of our Lenten observances were practiced at home within our family or in private prayer.
When I was a new young adult, I encountered my first parish soup supper and Stations of the Cross, which gave me a deeper understanding of Lent. I had always understood Lent as a personal spiritual journey we each made alongside one another. There was comfort and consolation in that. Lenten observances were meant to be discreet and hidden, between yourself and God. Weren’t they?
Experiencing that first penitential meal of soup and bread (not to say the soup tasted penitential!) with a crowd, and then moving en masse to the church to pray the emotional Stations of the Cross, initially felt a bit too revealing, even a little mortifying. But as we walked the Stations of the Cross, our earnest communal prayers filling the church, I could feel my discomfort turning into revelation. Christ died for us all and has drawn us into a communion — the church — so that we might share in his immeasurable, ineffable love. During Lent, in communion as one body in Christ, we enter into Christ’s passion and are invited to know God’s transfiguring grace, and in communion we truly walk the passion of our Lord.
Drawn from the essence of this distilled memory, I offer an elemental and elegant preparation for your Lenten journey. Part ribollita and part fricassee of fish, I hope you find this preparation flavorful, easy, and one you will want to share with family and friends over and over again.
Pan-seared white fish and vegetables in broth
- 4 Petrale sole fillets, bones and skin removed (cod, roughy, snapper or
other white fish will do)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, cut into ¼-inch julienne
- 3 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch rounds
- 1 medium stalk celery, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 sprigs thyme, leaves pulled
- 2 sprigs sage, leaves pulled and chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth (chicken stock or water may be substituted)
- 4 cups baby greens (supergreens mix, baby spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
- kosher or sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Pat fillets dry and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, turning to coat. In a Dutch oven or high-sided pan over medium-high heat, cook fillets for 3 minutes, then turn and cook for another 2 minutes or until nicely browned. Carefully remove from pan and portion fish into four serving bowls. In same pan, add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery, thyme and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to color. Add wine to deglaze pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 21 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add greens to the pan and remove from heat. Gently stir greens into soup mixture. Ladle vegetables and broth over fish. Enjoy with warm crusty bread and whipped butter.
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