1. Food

Favorite Lenten Recipes

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Lent is the 40 days before Easter, and is designated by the Catholic Church as a period of spiritual renewal, a time to prepare to celebrate Christ's resurrection. Contrary to popular opinion it's not a time of penance, but the Church does ask that people avoid meats out of respect for Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross, and to share the hardships of the poor. This is not to say one must go hungry; fish are allowed, as are vegetables and eggs, and there are many options to choose from.

Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Rice is one of the finest ingredients for a soup, far superior (I think) to noodles at providing body, and works especially well with lentils.

Cacciucco alla Livornese

Fish soups or stews are an obvious choice during Lent, and this soup, which the fishermen of the Tuscan port of Livorno would make with whatever was left over after selling their catch, is wonderfully tasty thanks to the variety of fish, and delightfully variable too, since the fish change from day to day.

Minestrone

Minestrone is, well, vegetable soup, and as such it is again tremendously variable, because what you like or is in season where you are may differe from what I like or can find at the market. This link leads to five tasty variations on the theme.

Acquacotta

Acquacotta literally means cooked water. The dish is generally served as a one course meal, and in the past was eaten in the field by shepherds and stockmen in the Tuscan Maremma, the wild, craggy southwestern part of the region. As is the case with any regional dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks. This one is especially nice.

Risotto with Bell Peppers

Voghera, in Piemonte, is famed for its bell peppers, and they are quite nice in risotto (use vegetable rather than beef broth here). For that matter, they're good in bagna caoda too, and it's certainly suited to Lent.

An Onion Frittata

Of all the many frittata recipes out there, this is one of my favorites, especially if it's made slowly, giving the onions time to caramelize in the pan before adding the eggs: The contrast between savory egg richness and the sweetness of the onions is delightful.

Baccalà and Potatoes

Baccalà is salt cod sold by the slab, and it used to be the readily available fish inland. Potatoes do an excellent job of supporting it in this recipe, which has a Sicilian feel to it.

Baked Snapper -- Spigola Arrosto

This is an interesting variation on the standard roasted fish one generally encounters in Italy, which simply has rosemary and lemon in the cavity, and a little more rosemary and lemon outside. Here there are anchovy fillets instead; the dish will work with any kind of fish, and is perfect for when you have guests.

Fish Loaf, or Pan Pesce

When Lino Bottoni, Mayor of San Remo, a city on the Ligurian coast west of Genova, was asked about the conspicuous consumption that's all the rage among vacationers visiting his city, he said it was time people rediscovered pan pesce (fish bread), one of the standard frugal Ligurian dishes of Yore. And gave the recipe, which is quite easy and can be done with any kind of fish.

Reef Mullet alla Livornese

Since the Livornesi have reef mullet, that's what they use, cooking it deftly in a tasty tomato sauce that gains zing from red pepper. You can use any fish you like, but it should be quite fresh.

Dessert?
Fresh fruit.

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