10 meatless dinners to make during Lent

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 24, 2015

For some people, Lent is a time of fasting and abstinence, with meatless Fridays for the weeks leading up to Easter.

For others, it’s time to get back to the New Year’s resolutions or to make a lifestyle change that involves eating less meat and more vegetables and fish.

This story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel prsents numerous ideas.

By Alison Sherwood

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

These vegetarian and seafood main dishes may be meatless, but they’re still hearty. Whether or not you abstain from meat, try these recipes for a satisfying winter meal.

Beer Battered Smelt

This recipe is from Zach Espinosa, executive chef at Harbor House. “Smelt is one of our unique things for happy hour,” Espinosa said.

“(Smelt) is something so comforting in Wisconsin,” Espinosa said of traditional smelt fries. “But it isn’t that everyday fish like cod or perch.”

Makes 2 to 3 servings

Tested by Joanne Kempinger Demski


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

12 ounces beer, Pilsner style or one lighter in flavor

1 pound smelt (24 to 32 fish), cleaned if available

1/2 cup flour, for dusting fish

Lemon wedges and tartar sauce for serving


Mix the 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, cayenne and Old Bay in a bowl until combined well. Slowly whisk in the beer. Whisk thoroughly to avoid clumps from forming. Set in fridge to chill. A cool batter will be thicker and coat the fish better.

Lightly dust smelt with the 1/2 cup flour. Shake off any excess.

Heat a large, cast-iron or other cooking vessel with hot oil to 350 degrees. A vessel with tall sides would be ideal to reduce the amount of splattering oil.

Once all the fish has been dusted, submerge one by one into the beer batter. Lay some paper towels down, or have your batter close to the oil to avoid a mess.

Carefully place battered smelt into fryer in small batches and let cook 4 to 5 minutes, turning, until a deep golden brown.

Place fish on paper toweling and season with salt. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Fish Baked with Tahini Sauce

This dish might be served with rice and a chopped salad of tomato, cucumber, onion, parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Makes 4 servings


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil (divided)

2 medium-large onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt (divided)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 medium-large lemon

4 white fish fillets (6 ounces each), such as haddock

3/4 cup tahini

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 small clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees; brush 1 teaspoon oil over bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a medium-large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat until hot. Add onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cook until onions are softened and just starting to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Spread onions on bottom of prepared baking pan.

Cut lemon in half; slice one half into thin rounds, and juice the other half. (You should get about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of juice; set this aside for now.) Add lemon slices to pan with the onion.

Pat fish dry with a paper towel, then arrange on top of onion and lemon in pan. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes.

While fish bakes, make tahini sauce: In a small bowl, blend tahini with reserved lemon juice. Stir in water, starting out with just a drizzle at first until it’s all incorporated. Then stir in crushed garlic and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

After the first 10 minutes of baking, pour tahini sauce over fish and bake until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes more.

Sprinkle parsley on top and serve.

Eggplant Parmeson Soup

The presentation of this soup may not be as impressive as real eggplant Parmesan, but the flavor is outstanding. This recipe is from Joanne Chang’s “Flour, Too” (Chronicle Books, 2013, $35).

Makes 8 servings

Tested by Alysha Witwicki


3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

2 large eggplants, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

5 cups water

2 cups cubed bread

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


In a large stockpot, heat vegetable oil over high heat. Add onions and garlic and stir 1 to 2 minutes, or until onions just start to soften. Add eggplant and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until eggplant breaks down a bit and becomes slightly mushy.

Add tomatoes and water to pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add bread cubes and stir 1 minute, or the bread breaks down in soup. Stir in basil and Parmesan, turn off heat and let cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Return soup to a simmer. Season with the vinegar, salt and pepper. If soup seems too thick, thin with a little water. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve immediately. Soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.

Creamy Veggie Tacos

Taco Tuesday doesn’t have to feature meat. These creamy vegetable tacos are packed with onions, red peppers, spinach and black beans for an earthy, delicious taco. Serve with soft or crunchy tortillas.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tested by Anna Thomas Bates


Vegetable oil for skillet

1 small onion, diced

1 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 or more teaspoon ground cayenne

Salt to taste

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 small bunch spinach, roughly chopped

3 ounces cream cheese

Juice of 1/2 lime

For serving: flour or corn tortillas, diced avocado, minced cilantro, chopped red cabbage


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper and sauté until beginning to soften. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne and a pinch of salt and cook until vegetables are soft and fragrant.

Add corn and black beans and continue cooking until both are warmed through. Add spinach and stir until beginning to wilt. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Add salt to taste and lime juice. Serve warm with tortillas and desired accompaniments.

Pan-Seared Sesame-Crusted Tuna Steaks with  Avocado-Orange Salsa

Fish is an item on many “will not eat” lists. And it’s easy to see why. Overcooked fish can have a dry, unappetizing texture. The trick to making a moist, tender fish is making sure the pan is hot enough before searing.

This recipe from “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook” (Boston Common Press, 2010, $34.95) not only demonstrates the optimal way to cook tuna, but it also features an interesting mix of textures. From the toasted sesame seeds that offer the right amount of crunch to the soft and juicy avocado-orange salsa, one bite of this dish is like a party in your mouth.

Makes 4 servings

Tested by Alysha Witwicki


3/4 cup sesame seeds

4 tuna steaks (6 ounces each), 1 inch thick

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)

Salt and pepper

Avocado-orange salsa:

1 large orange, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons minced red onion

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 small jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Salt to taste


Spread sesame seeds in a shallow dish. Pat fish dry with paper towels, then rub thoroughly with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Press both sides of each steak into the sesame seeds to coat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Gently lay tuna in the pan and cook until seeds are golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

Carefully flip fish and continue to cook until just golden brown on the second side, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes depending on your desired doneness. Serve with the salsa.

Avocado-orange salsa: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, adding salt to taste.

Roasted Radish Flatbread with Ricotta, Honey and Herbs

Crispy flatbread showcases earthy spring radishes, their bite softened with creamy ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Toss a handful of verdant herbs over the top, and you have an appetizer with spring appeal.

Roasted Radish Flatbread with Ricotta, Honey and Herbs

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Tested by Anna Thomas Bates


1 pizza dough recipe

1 teaspoon olive oil

3/4 cup ricotta (full-fat)

5 plump spring radishes, sliced paper-thin

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Flaky sea salt for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, preheat it, too. (Otherwise, use a baking sheet.)

Stretch dough into a thin round. Brush with olive oil and spread ricotta over dough. Lay radishes in a single layer on top. Bake in preheated oven 7 to 8 minutes, until crust edge has golden spots.

Remove from oven. Drizzle with honey, and sprinkle on herbs and salt. Serve immediately.

Danny’s Shrimp Creole

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Tested by Joanne Kempinger Demski


2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 medium green bell pepper, cored and chopped

2 to 3 jars (2 ounces each) chopped pimiento, drained

l can (28 ounces) tomato puree

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 pounds peeled and cooked large shrimp

3 to 4 cups prepared brown or white rice


In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onion, garlic, bell pepper and pimiento and sauté until onion is translucent.

Add all remaining ingredients except shrimp and rice and simmer about 2 hours, stirring regularly. When ready, add shrimp and just heat through. Remove bay leaf and serve over rice.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Cashew Curry

Take a meat break tonight. This 20-minute curry is from a new cookbook, “Quick Cook Family Meals,” where each recipe has a 10-, 20- and 30-minute variation.

Makes 4 servings


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons korma curry paste

1 can (about 15 ounces) chickpeas, drained

1 can (about 15 ounces) chopped tomatoes

1 3/4 cups canned coconut milk

2/3 cup toasted cashews (divided)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Warm naan breads or cooked rice or couscous (optional)


Prep time: 20 minutes. Start to finish: 20 minutes.

In a large, deep, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, until softened. Add curry paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add chickpeas, tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened slightly and potatoes are tender. Stir in half the cashew nuts.

Serve, garnished with cilantro and remaining cashew nuts, with naan, rice or couscous.

Serve with: Green vegetable or simple green salad, if desired

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