Updated 2010-04-03 01:46:40 ID=593:1

© 2010 The Romantic Table
©2010 The Romantic Table, Rigatoni with Black Olives and Mushrooms 2010-03-02 21:33:22:248
©2010 The Romantic Table

Rigatoni with Black Olives and Mushrooms, a robust tomato ragu with mushrooms oil-cured black olives.

March Meatless Recipes Can be just the ticket for the Lenten season.

The 40 days preceding Easter Sunday are known as Lent and hold religious significance for those of us of the Christian faith. During this time, we are asked to fast and simplify our life to cleanse ourselves spiritually as well as physically in anticipation of Easter. Traditionally in the Mediterranean area the local people would also have abstained from eating meat as a main meal during this period. After the excesses of the holiday seasons, regardless of your religious orientation, this old custom make a lot of dietary sense we can all benefit from.

To help us all adhere to a simplified diet, we present a few simple recipes that in addition to our other vegetarian recipes already listed on our website, can make Lent a season to renew ourselves.

Lent is a time of self-introspection. Some liken it to "a spiritual cleansing" when you try to get rid of things that are spiritually and physically bogging you down- such as the unnecessary excesses of the holiday seasons. It is a time to simplify your life by giving up some of the daily delights you've grown accustomed to and make do with less. Beyond the religious implications, the wisdom of a dietary "timeout" is so Mediterranean --for good health we need keep our physical as well as spiritual life in balance.

©2010 The Romantic Table, Strozzopretti with Caramelized Onion and Mushrooms.  2010-03-02 21:43:37:249
©2010 The Romantic Table

Strozzopretti with Caramelized Onion and Mushrooms.
It is also a good time to reduce the heavy meat based meals of the holiday season and take note and appreciate the simpler Winter fare available in the markets. In addition, our recipes this month, because they are not based around a meat-centered diet, will definitely make less an impact on our pocketbook.

Our first recipe is Strozzopretti with Caramelized Onion and Mushrooms. It is a simple pasta dish based on caramelized white onions and Italian brown mushrooms with a little dried Porcini mushrooms blended together and seasoned with Thyme and white wine and served on strozzopretti . With a little Parmesan cheese added on top, it will make a mouth medley worthy of even a non-fast day.

For our second offering, we've come up with Rigatoni with Black Olives and Mushrooms.
©2010 The Romantic Table, Pappardelle with Collard Greens 2010-03-02 21:39:55:250
©2010 The Romantic Table

Pappardelle with Collard Greens and and just a little "homemade" Italian sausage added for flavor.
It is a robust tomato ragu that incorporates Italian brown mushrooms again, but this time with oil-cured black olives (or Kalamatas) garlic and a little red pepper on rigatoni pasta, topped with a little Parmesan cheese. This is a waist-friendly recipe that you'll be able to pull out whenever you're feeling like you need to "stream-line" your regime and get back "to basics."

Our last main course pasta offering is a real budget-saver. Pappardelle with Collard Greens and Sausage. It is based on Collard Greens with just a little "homemade" Italian sausage added for flavor. Actually it IS O.K. to use just a few ounces of meat for flavoring purposes during Lent even if abstaining. As long as the meal is not meat-based, it is considered meatless.

This is such a flavorful dish! What helps make it so tasty is the quality of pork used. I use a little fresh lean bulk pork sausage made by the local butcher. I season it myself with fennel seeds and Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. This saves a lot of expense and is so MUCH more fresh-tasting, easier to cook with --and healthier too!

Our last recipe offering this month, is one you may want to save for Easter. It's a Lemon Custard Tart with a Shortbread Crust. When I think of Easter, the first dessert that comes to mind is a Lemon Meringue Pie. Lemon meringue pies can be tricky, so if you want the taste of a lemon meringue without the extra fuss, you should try making this month's Lemon Custard Tart. It's so good and easy to throw together! Though influenced by the French-method for tarts, the crust is strictly our concoction that evolved over years of making pies crusts-as well as shortbread desserts. The filling is almost magical by the way it comes together with lemon juice, lemon zest, a little sugar and eggs with no flour or cornstarch added for thickening.

All in all this month is a time to renew and get back in shape physically and spiritually. Why not take a little "time out" from your busy life and share these simple recipes with family and friends. Remember to give thanks to what we have now, and look forward to a brighter future.

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A tip from Sue!

Stoves and Ovens

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to choose your major appliances, I recommend a gas stove-top and an electric oven.

A gas stove-top is much more versatile than an electric one because it has infinite heat options.

An electric oven is better than gas because it has more even temperatures for baking and heating.