Originally posted April 15, 2014. Updated June 2015.
Every Friday during the Lenten season, my parent’s house smelled like fish. Meatless dishes were not typically served in the Rodriguez household…except on Ash Wednesday and every Friday after that until Easter Sunday. Following the tradition that dates back thousands of years for people of Christian faith, no-meat-Fridays were strictly upheld in my parent’s home—and it wasn’t easy.
In typical Western Catholic practice, Lent is a season of fasting, spiritual growth and reflection upon the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us sinners. As a kid, all I knew was that we normally ate some type of meat at lunch and dinner so meatless Fridays were, in fact, a sacrifice. Spinning as much culinary magic as she could muster after a long day of dealing with demanding customers at the local gift shop, my mom would put every bit of creative effort she had into feeding us a food that we would eat, but had bit of difficulty adjusting to eating weekly. Breaded fish, boiled shrimp, tuna sandwiches, imitation crab meat salads….Mom tried anything and everything to avoid serving us the forbidden flesh MEAT.
During my first few years of college, it took considerable effort to avoid meat during Lent because I naturally kept eating the way I did at home. Animal meats continued to make my meals, well…a meal! But, Mom and Dad’s phone calls and Mom’s low-toned and loaded question,
“Did youuu eat meat todaaaaay?”
was the ultimate guilt-trip that kept me to my promise of animal flesh abstinence. The worst memories were the Fridays I’d order a burger from the student union, take my first bite, then realize “OH MY GOSH! IT’S FRIDAAAAY!” Ultimate Lenten Friday failure that provoked starving-college-student facepalms and a few tears.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat and I’ve had fun experimenting in the kitchen with meatless dishes. Medical research has proven that natural omega-3 fatty acids in foods like fatty fish (like salmon, sardines and tuna) and certain plant sources (like walnuts and flaxseed) have mental, heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits (The University of Maryland Medical Center has a nice summary of the reasearched health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids). Campaigns like Meatless Monday and the American Heart Association‘s recommendation to include at least two fish servings a week encouraged me to gradually cut back on our meat consumption at home. Since changing my diet, I feel better; I don’t feel overly-stuffed after meals and it feels good knowing that I’m feeding my family foods that can help all of us live longer and healthier. Today, no-meat-Fridays during Lent aren’t as much of a sacrifice as they are a reflection on the good things in my life.
Lemon Fish Soup with Broccoli and Pasta has come to be one of my favorite soups. Fortunately, my family agrees and we all enjoy eating this soup during Lent and throughout the year. Serve with a side of crusty bread or a few cheese quesadillas for a delicious and nutritious meal!
*To learn more about plant-based populations and religions, check out this article I wrote during the summer of 2013 in Food & Nutrition Magazine: Plant-Based Populations.
Lemon Fish Soup with Broccoli & Pasta
Recipe by Christy Wilson
Time: 25 minutes
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 pound white fish (I like using Dover Sole. I’ve also used Cod)
- ¾ cup small shell pasta
- 2 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
- 1 teaspoon dry whole Mexican oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Juice of 1 or 2 lemons–depending how lemony you like it!
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (adjust to flavor preference)
- 1 diced avocado
In a large pot heat oil over medium heat. Add celery and onion to the pot and heat for 2-3 minutes until softened, then add in garlic. Mix ingredients for about a minute until fragrant.
Pour in broth and increase burner setting to high. Once broth comes to a gentle boil, add in fish. Cook for a few minutes then add in pasta. Simmer until pasta is al dente (about 5-7 minutes). Stir in broccoli and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until pasta and broccoli are tender. Fish will break apart.
Add in dry seasonings and lemon juice, to taste. Serve into bowls and garnish with cilantro and diced avocado.