Now that it’s finally March, it seems natural to start looking forward to spring—the gentler weather, fresh air and new life; the change in seasonal produce, flavors, and cooking styles…
If you celebrate Easter, chances are you start this “countdown” to spring in another way: by observing the season of Lent. For many such people, this involves a tradition of eating fish on Fridays instead of meat. But do you know the back story to this tradition? Find out below.
Even if you don’t observe Lent, there are still great reasons to enjoy more seafood-based meals. We hope you “look forward” to spring with our Six Flavorful Seafood Recipes. Scroll to the bottom to check them out!
What is Lent?
The Lenten tradition differs slightly between the various denominations of the Christian religion, but it usually involves a period of fasting or abstinence. For example, you may have heard a friend say that they are “giving up something,” such as television or dessert, for the 40 days of Lent. In the same way, certain denominations, particularly Catholicism, practice fasting from meat during this six week span.
But what is all this about? Lent is meant to be a period of remembrance and preparation for Easter. By abstaining from something we usually enjoy, its absence acts as a reminder of this and its void is intended to be filled with deeper reflection on the true meaning of the holiday.
Why 40 days? The 40 days of Lent are meant to parallel the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the gospels.
What is the significance of meat? It could be that meat is such an important part of our diet and therefore its absence is felt more strongly. Or it may reflect a time when meat was more expensive and less common than foods like fish, and was weighted more heavily. Yet another interpretation is that it serves as a symbol of Jesus’ body and should be set aside as an act of respect.
Many Christians observing the Lenten tradition of abstaining from meat, choose to swap this protein for fish or seafood instead (which is generally considered a separate category of food). The typical “fasting” period is each Friday during Lent, but some churches have special exceptions for observances such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well. For this reason, churches often hold a communal “fish fry” each Friday in Lent for their congregation.
Benefits of Fish
You don’t have to be religious to want to eat more fish, or less meat. With popular trends like “Meatless Monday,” it’s clear that there is an increasing focus on health and nutrition, as well as making sure we are feeding our bodies the proper nutrients.
Here are some of great reasons to incorporate more fish and seafood into your diet:
- Fish is a source of high-quality protein
- Fish contains many important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B2, calcium, iodine, and other essential nutrients.
- The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish per week (about 8 ounces) as part of a healthy diet. Note: this recommendation may vary for certain individuals such as pregnant women or children.
- The fatty acids found in fish (particularly EPA and DHA) are commonly associated with heart and brain health. They may help to lower blood pressure, aid in healthy brain function, and reduce the risk of heart attacks and certain other health concerns. Look for options such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring, and tuna.
So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re participating in #MeatlessMonday or #FishFriday, try out these six flavorful fish recipes, once per week starting now! Each recipe features a different type of fish or seafood, to help keep things interesting; plus—it’s recommended to eat different types of seafood to get a variety of nutrients.
Recipe #1. Blackened Fish Sandwich with Spicy Mayo
Some people find fish to be too mild in taste. Not the case with this recipe! With blackened seasoning (a blend of spices including paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne) AND a layer of spicy sriracha mayo, this sandwich has double the flavor! For an added bonus, a bit of roasted purple cabbage helps cut the heat and also add even more healthy nutrients!
Recipe #2. Parmesan Baked Tilapia
Tilapia is one of the best fish for a baking preparation. The thin fillets tend to cook quickly and a simple bread crumb, parmesan, and herb crust adds a great contrasting texture to its light, flaky interior. Tilapia’s light, mild flavor pairs best with a bright burst of lemon juice and a creamy, tangy tartar sauce, for serving. This meal makes for a healthy light dinner, with a side of salad or vegetables.
Recipe #3. Crispy Fish Sliders
Looking for a fish recipe kids or picky eaters will enjoy? Your best option is to choose some type of fried fish like fish sticks or tenders. (There’s a reason many fast food restaurants include a fish option around Lent). For a quick-prep dinner, look for pre-breaded or battered fish fillets in the frozen section of your grocery store. Cook according to package instructions, then pair with a flavor-boosting sauce like chipotle-ranch on Martin’s Dinner Potato Rolls with a simple side like French fries.
Recipe #4. Tuna Burgers
If you’re having trouble with the whole “no meat” idea or are just in the mood for a nice grilled burger, try a simple substitution using tuna patties! The consistency of canned tuna, with the help of an egg and breadcrumbs for binding, works very well for forming burger patties. And by mixing in additional ingredients like onions, celery, and chili sauce, this flavorful burger won’t be missing a thing. Not only does this recipe make for a great meatless meal, but it’s also a nice lighter burger alternative for any time of year.
Recipe #5. Shrimp Flatbread
Don’t forget about other types of seafood—try mixing up your meal routine with other healthy seafood options like shrimp. (Shrimp are low in calories, high in protein, and provide many other essential nutrients like selenium and vitamin B12). This flatbread recipe is a unique way to incorporate your favorite seasonal flavors like basil, feta, tomato, and artichokes. Use Martin’s Party Potato Rolls, sliced in half and rolled flat, for a simple flatbread base. Try this fun idea for a dinner for four, or as a party appetizer for a crowd!
Recipe #6. Salmon BLT
For a simple lunch or quick dinner option, try incorporating fish into a classic sandwich like a toasted BLT. Easy grilled salmon works perfect for this and adds some healthy fats and protein, transforming an ordinary sandwich in a complete and filling meal. Now, of course if you are going for a completely meat-free meal, you will want to use a bacon substitute such as soy-based tempeh. Or—if you are just looking for a healthy alternative, try turkey bacon, which is much leaner than traditional bacon.
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