Lenten seafood nourishes body, soul

Lent, the 40-day period of fasting in preparation for Easter, has been on the church calendar since the first or second century.

Early Christians began a tradition of eating fish on Wednesdays and Fridays in memory of Christ’s fasting for 40 days in the desert. While Lent is supposed to be about the soul, the season is famous for provoking culinary creativity.

Challenged to spark up her convent’s Lenten diet, a medieval French abbess in-vented bouillabaisse, the now classic seafood “stew” that incorporates numerous species of fish. The abbess must have lived close to the sea, but these days, thanks to modern processing and transportation, we enjoy a tremendous variety of seafood throughout the year.

If you, like the abbess, need some inspiration to come up with meatless Lenten meals, follow her example and look to seafood.

Seafood makes delicious Lenten suppers a snap to prepare and a healthy menu choice. In fact, eating fish twice weekly is a good idea year round, not just during Lent. Every kind of seafood contains some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so you can enjoy a wide variety of fish and shellfish.

Besides being a top nutritional choice, seafood is perfect for today’s busy families.

A complete seafood dinner can be ready in a half hour or less and still have the eye and taste appeal to spark clean plates in even the youngest family members.

Inspirations for Lenten seafood entrees, salads, appetizers and snacks – as well as great seafood recipes for all times of the year – are just a click away at www.about-seafood.com.

This recipe for Mexican Shrimp Pilaf from the National Fisheries Institute covers all the bases: it’s a complete meal for a family of four incorporating the important “five-a-day” servings of veggies along with high protein, palate- pleasing shrimp in a yummy rice mixture topped with kid-friendly chips and cheese.

Mexican Shrimp Pilaf

1 package (6.8 oz.) Spanish rice

and vermicelli mix

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

2 cups water

1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained

* pound large shrimp,

peeled and deveined

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed

2 tablespoons ripe olives, sliced

2 tablespoons tortilla chips, crushed

* cup cheddar cheese, grated

2 tablespoons green onion, chopped

1 jar picante sauce

Saute rice in margarine in a large skillet until golden, stirring frequently. Slowly add water, seasoning packet from rice, and tomatoes; bring to a boil.

Cover; reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp, zucchini, corn and olives; cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until shrimp are pink and rice is tender.

Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with chips, cheese and onion. Serve with pi-cante sauce.

Makes 4 servings.