Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent which means practicing Catholics are required to observe fasting and abstinence. Fasting essentially refers to eating just one full meal in a day as opposed to the usual three squares. Abstinence, on the other hand, means not eating meat or chicken as a personal sacrifice. Of course, cheese, eggs, and fish are all still permissible.
I grew up with a wealth of fish dishes served only during the Lenten Season: a kind of tinola featuring fish poached in a clear broth with ginger and malunggay [moringa] leaves, bangus en tocho where milkfish are first fried then braised with onions and garlic in soy sauce, and lumpiang isda – crunchy spring rolls filled with finely minced poached fish mixed with jicama, carrots, and red onions. I also remember steaming bowls of sardinas con sotanghon, canned sardines in tomato sauce sauteed with onions, garlic, chopped upo (bottle gourd), and glass noodles. Ladled over rice, this sardine stew has always been one of my favorite dishes.
Of course, over time, we’ve been exposed to other seafood dishes from numerous restaurants. Currently, Amici is one of our favorites for seafood pasta. Indeed, the Penne Al Salmone Affumicato (penne rigate with a creamy smoked-salmon sauce) and the Spaghetti Vongole E Gamberetti (spaghetti with a garlicky tomato sauce topped with clams, prawns, and mussels). Rice fans, on the other hand, would go for the Risotto di Mare where saffron-scented Milan-style risotto is topped with sauteed seafood.
However, if you aren’t exactly in the mood for eating out this season, why not try the following recipe with things you can easily grab out of either your fridge or your kitchen cupboards? I refer to it as my Cappelli Primavera as it involves fresh veg and pretty green pesto basilico served over angel’s-hair pasta.
- 1 pack angel’s-hair pasta, prepared according to package directions
- 1/2 cup basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (not extra-virgin)
- 1/4 cup green peas
- 1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the minced onion and cook until softened and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant. Add the remaining vegetables and cook until the eggplant is softened but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the pesto and cook till just warmed through. Pour over the prepared pasta and scatter Parmesan on top along with chili flakes if desired.