The Vegaquarian's Guide to Lent
As a vegaquarian (a.k.a. pescatarian) living in the Midwest, I have to say I love Lent. For those seven Fridays (+ one Wednesday!) out of the year, I feel how a cocker spaniel must feel whilst watching a black-and-white movie: you're in my neck of the woods now, darlin'!
I know the point is supposed to be sacrifice, but I also know that they sell beer and cupcakes at fish fries, so I'm not 100 percent buying it. And, personally, I don't see where the sacrifice is in basically eating a Mediterranean diet. So, in the spirit of not sacrificing, I'm sharing some of the vegaquarian dishes that my family requests again and again.
Fish or vegetarian tacos
For parties, I like to put out an extravagant taco bar with lots of homemade fixin's and tortillas from Jacobo's Market in South Omaha. But I also always keep taco pantry staples on hand for when I need to get dinner on the table quickly. You can grill fish to top them, or you can use the tortilla-crusted tilapia from Costco (for my fish-averse children, we just call it tilapia and they're none the wiser). My husband and I like these because we can skip the tortillas and make a relatively healthy taco salad, and the girls love them because we get to use our taco trucks!
My mother-in-law gave me Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Every Day cookbook for Christmas and pizza beans! was the first recipe I turned to when I opened the book. Since then, I've probably made them four times -- and in my head, I always say their name with the exclamation point, because they deserve it. They are gluten-free, if you skip the garlic bread (but try not to do that), vegetarian and to die for. Just thinking about them makes me want to make them right now.
Admittedly, lobster is a little expensive for every day (although my dad used to say that when he was growing up, it was common as cod), but when stretched with a little mayonnaise, some chopped celery and tarragon, and served on a buttery, toasted roll, it will make you feel like it's 4th of July and you're by the sea. You can buy frozen lobster at Whole Foods or swap in another seafood salad like shrimp, crab or salmon.
I have never in my life been bored with pizza but when I feel like switching it up a bit, I make Stromboli (or pizza beans). If you've ever made a homemade pizza, the technique won't be foreign to you: spread out your dough, homemade or frozen, on an oiled baking sheet. (For extra crunch, rub some cornmeal in with the olive oil.). Cover the whole surface with a thin layer of the sauce of your choice (I usually have homemade marinara in the fridge, but you could use jarred, pesto, or whatever). Top that with your family's favorite veggies and cheese. Roll it up carefully, jelly-roll style. Brush the whole thing with olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt, then bake according to the directions on your dough, or until golden, and slice into individual servings.
Salmon and leek pie
This pic is one that I made for a St. Patrick's Day Party (note the puff pastry shamrocks), but salmon and leek pie is one of the first things I ever cooked, and it's still one of my favorite crowd-pleasers. It's fairly easy to put together and has a comforting salty, buttery richness that even non-salmon eaters will appreciate.
This is a great way to use up whatever veggies are around -- and camouflage them for salad-dodgers. Whisk however many eggs you want with the vegetables, plus fresh herbs or salsa, pesto, tapenade, harissa or any other sauce or seasoning. Toss in some cheese, if you like. Ladle into muffin tins and bake at 375 for a half-hour or so. I keep these around for grab-n-go breakfast, or have one or two with a salad for lunch or dinner.