Today's piece is part one of a two-part article. Ironically, part one was written about a month ago before certain events happened which I'll share in part two next week.
This is the time of year - when I make sure we have a large supply of Tums close by - seems to offer food choices I love, but sometimes don't love me back. That's OK. Sometimes the good things in life cause a little pain, and at this time of year we turn to some of my lifetime favorite Lenten "Meatless Friday" dishes that used to be regulars on our table every Friday growing up. They contain a more than ample measure of acidic ingredients, and combined with things like my age, and my metabolism, that makes for some interesting feelings afterward.
I'm not a huge seafood fan. I love fried Haddock and Cod, but haven't eaten fried fish for years. I'll sometimes eat broiled fish, but that's kind of blah. I'll eat crab, but I don't miss it if I don't have it. I don't think lobster has much taste at all, so I'm certainly not going to shell out (pun intended) the enormous cost of that if I don't care for it. I like shrimp, but don't like to have to peel my own. I don't eat fried shrimp either. I like scallops, but they don't fill me up. I love clams, but sometimes they get the best of me, and if I order them as one of my Lenten meals, it's usually in a red sauce (and has to be only over linguini) which causes me to sing out, "Tum, Ta Tum Tum."
For some reason, Ash Wednesday, another meatless day for us, usually kicks off Lent with Spaghetti and Tuna Fish. Many people turn their heads when they hear this, but I say, "Try it, you'll like it." (By the way, about 20 years ago on our way back from a baseball coaches' clinic, we stopped at an Italian restaurant in Butler, Pa., and on their menu was spaghetti and tuna Fish, and it was about 98 percent as good as Sally's and Mom's. Does this help me get off the "chicken salad" hook a bit, Sally?) Unfortunately though, it's cooked and served in a red sauce as well. "Tum, Ta Tum Tum!"
One Friday during Lent usually has us visiting our parish's annual fish fry, just because we like to support the church and its events if we can. We usually order the broiled fish and get a break from the "heartburn attack" that accompanies some of our other menu selections, especially at this time of year. It's nice to have that week off to give my system a break from the heat, so to speak, but don't get me wrong, I love the taste of the saucy foods we put on the table. Like I said, often times they talk back to me. I'll keep eating them though, and the music will keep playing, "Tum, Ta Tum Tum."
Now, back to our menu. One of the staples of the Lenten Season for us is Pasta Lendicci ... pronounced "len dee' key" in our house, which is pasta (and I'm a fanatic about it being shell macaroni) with lentils in, what else, a red sauce which Sally seasons to taste just like my mom used to make. Top it, as all of these dishes can be topped, with a little parmesan cheese and you're one happy camper during that meal. As with many of these entrees, if you use Prilosec, it's better to take it as your appetizer before the main course. Even with that, I'm sure the band will be encoring, "Tum, Ta Tum Tum."
I already mentioned the linguini with clam sauce, and Sally sometimes also whips up her wonderful eggplant parmesan, made by baking, not frying, the breaded eggplant, then using a light mozzarella cheese and sauce, sometimes in each layer, or sometimes just on top, and topping it with the sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Sometimes she'll skip the mozzarella all together and just go the sauce and parmesan route. Either way, it's always delicious.
Every once in a while, if the Tums are running low, we'll break out the much milder, but equally tasty, tuna noodle casserole, with mushroom soup. My mom used to crush potato chips and sprinkle them on top before putting the casserole in the over. Sally has improvised using Ritz crackers, which are a little better for you than potato chips, but hey, after looking at many of these entrees and discussing Tums and Prilosec, it seems silly to be talking about what might be good for you at this point. Mac and cheese (homemade, not Kraft) is also another favorite of many people, though I try not to do too much with a lot of cheese, hence the different amounts possibly used in the eggplant dish.
Another simple and tasty dish we often have, and not just during Lent, is pasta and broccoli, or pasta and cauliflower (sometimes both). I'm picciunni, and it's pronounced "pi key u' ney" about what types of pasta is used with each meal. For this dish, I like the small elbows, or spaghetti, or ziti/penne is OK too.
Some of these dishes we enjoy throughout the entire year, not just during Lent, but the ones like spaghetti and tuna fish, and Pasta Lendicci, and for the most part, linguini and clam sauce, are more traditional (for us) during Lent in keeping with our Ash Wednesday/Fridays abstinence from meat. When I was growing up, and we didn't eat meat on any Friday, these were staple dishes weekly. I think that helped the creativity of different types of dishes and experimentation with different recipes. In any rate, I sure do enjoy all of these dishes at this time of year. And this is on top of a couple of St. Joseph Table Spaghetti Dinners and two monthly spaghetti dinners at a club I belong to, creating another chorus of "Tum, Ta Tum Tum."
There's one glitch though. Opening day for the Indians usually takes place on a Friday (this season, coincidentally, next Friday) each year, and almost every year that Friday is during Lent. Unfortunately, spaghetti and tuna fish, linguini and clam sauce, and eggplant parmesan aren't on the concession stand menu at Progressive Field, and since the All-American food at ballgames comes on a roll, I guess I'll have to bring my own food and try Pasta Lendicci on a bun at this year's game. "Yum, Ya Yum Yum!"