The Meatless Friday
Growing up Roman Catholic, meatless meals on Fridays were a way of life for my family. No bacon in the morning, no ham sandwiches for lunch, and definitely no steak for dinner. At one point, the rules changed and we were only required to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. As I child and even as a teenager, I found that rather challenging. As an adult, though, my culinary knowledge increased and I discovered that the meatless possibilities were truly endless.
Mom always served us fish during our Lenten observances. This was great for me since I loved seafood. Still, do. Nevertheless, in my home, we don’t limit these Fridays to fish alone. I find that meatless can mean any number of delicious foods. For instance, eggs. Now, I’m not talking breakfast here. I’m referring to something on the order of a delicious frittata or a rich quiche, boasting everything from fresh veggies and herbs to creamy cheeses. A light salad and a glass of wine make either a completely satisfying meal.
Pasta is another great option. After all, who doesn’t love it? The great thing about pasta is that it serves as a base to many a fantastic meal. Add a protein such as beans and you have pasta faggioli, a well-balanced repast. Combine any number of fresh veggies sautéed in garlic and oil – or butter if you’re feeling indulgent – and in no time it’s pasta primavera. Cheesy gnocchi anyone? Who could resist it?
OK, I know, this Italian guy just listed three Italian favorites as pasta choices. Well, what about Asian noodle dishes? That’s still pasta in my gastronomy book. Combined with fresh veggies and tofu and served with a side of steaming miso, it’s the stuff culinary memories are made of. I should note here that there are meatless versions of chicken and beef, made of tofu, that is amazingly similar to the real thing. Add these to your Asian noodle recipes as well. I promise you won’t be cheating!
Now, if you’re looking to keep it light and meatless, don’t underestimate a good salad. As we discussed a few blogs ago, a fresh salad can serve as a totally fulfilling dinner. It merits repeating here. Just add your favorite cheeses, mixed nuts – even beans – and there you go, dinner is served. Don’t forget the crusty bread and yes, a glass of good wine. Vegetable soups can also serve as a lighter supper option. I like to puree them, so they give the appearance of richness without the added fat of butter or cream. Or add barely to thicken the mix. Really sticks to your ribs.
Now, of course, I don’t eliminate fish from my Lenten Fridays. Besides loving the way it tastes, most varieties are light and always a good source of protein. Broiled, baked or poached salmon is definitely on my Lenten menu roster. Filet of sole, sprinkled with a bit of Italian breadcrumb and baked with a drizzling of olive oil is my childhood favorite. A variety of seafood swimming in a white wine accented marinara makes for some mighty good eats as well. Again, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
So, you see, anyone can do it. Abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, that is. It’s a tradition that I cherish, handed down to me from generations of good cooks. And while pizza or a cheese sandwich would suffice, why not brighten things up a bit? Be inventive, and remember, it’s only for forty days. When Easter arrives, there’s a beautiful leg of lamb waiting for you. But that’s a whole other blog.
Gnocchi with Caramelized Garlic, Broccoli Rabe and Parmesan Cheese
Pillowy. No other word comes closer to describing the perfect gnocchi. Not firm, not falling apart. Pretty close to melt-in-your-mouth. Gnocchi is incredibly versatile. It’s great with a brown butter and sage sauce, gorgonzola and smoked salmon, in fact, any sauce you might use with pasta. I made gnocchi for dinner tonight with caramelized garlic, broccoli rabe, and Parmesan cheese. I always ask my husband for a critique when I make something I haven’t made for awhile or something new. He loved my dish but had one suggestion. It needed some hot pepper flakes. Actually, I had meant to add them but forgot. Two pounds of potatoes makes four generous servings. If you make them for two, just cut the recipe in half and freeze half the gnocchi on a floured baking sheet before you cook them. Bag them and you’re ready for another meal.
2 lbs. russet potatoes
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
1 lb. broccoli rabe
2 T extra virgin olive oil
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
1. Make a slash around the circumference of each potato, cutting just through the skin. This will help you pull off the skin easily with tongs after baking. None of the potatoes will be wasted. Bake potatoes in a 350-degree oven until a knife can be inserted easily, about an hour.
2. Pull the skin off and press the potatoes through a potato ricer into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add flour, 1 t salt and eggs. Mix with your hands into a smooth dough. This works better if the potatoes are warm. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly.
4. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece with your fingers into a rope about the thickness of your finger. Cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll each on the back of a large fork along the tines, flicking it off into a grooved and rounded shape. Place gnocchi on a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper.
5. Clean and trim broccoli. Cut into 2 ½-inch lengths. Place in the colander and set aside.
6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil add 2 T salt. Add broccoli and cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a mesh skimmer, place in a colander over a bowl and set aside.
7. Gently add gnocchi to the boiling water in batches. Don’t put in more gnocchi than will rest separately on top when they float to the surface. Continue to cook for 90 seconds after they have risen. Remove with the skimmer, ladle into the colander with broccoli rabe, reserving ¼ cup cooking liquid.
8. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook just a few minutes until lightly browned, stirring frequently.
9. Add broccoli rabe, gnocchi and reserved cooking liquid to skillet, tossing gently and seasoning with salt and pepper.
10. Remove to individual plates and top with 1 T shredded cheese. Serve remainder of cheese on the side. 4 servings
Photographer Bill Brady
Written by Victor Ribaudo
Recipe Provided by Phyllis
Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika
Food Stylist* Brian Preston Campbell
Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com
Image of tuna was not styled by Brian Preston Campbell.