Soups and Saints for a Holy Lent
Lent is a time for restraint and penance. Consumption is scaled back whether it be consumption of foods or of worldly goods or of entertainment. Meat is out on Fridays. It used to be the case that meat was given up most days as well as other animal products - eggs, milk, butter, cheese. Food was simple and focused mostly on vegetables and grains. Yet there are also some wonderful saints to celebrate during the season of Lent like St. Frances of Rome, St. Patrick, St. Turisibus of Mongrovejo, and St. Pedro Calungsod among others. A cost effective and simple way to celebrate these saints right on the tail end of winter and beginning of spring are with some delicious and nourishing soups.
St. Frances of Rome, March 9: Minestrone Soup
Though she lived in medieval Rome, St. Frances shares many characteristics with Cora Evans - she was a wife, mother, and mystic. She also longed for religious life. She and her sister-in-law became Benedictine oblates who served the poor and the sick, especially as a terrible plague swept through Italy. She is a faithful example of what it is to live a secular life very much devoted to the service of family and of God. We can celebrate her with the comforting and ancient Roman minestrone soup. This recipe comes from the popular blog Cookie and Kate.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium ribs celery, chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
2 cups chopped seasonal vegetables (potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans or peas all work)
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their liquid (or 2 small 15-ounce cans)
4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 bay leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole grain orecchiette, elbow or small shell pasta
1 can (15 ounces) Great Northern beans or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked beans
2 cups baby spinach, chopped kale or chopped collard greens
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnishing (optional)
Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and the onions are turning translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the seasonal vegetables, garlic, oregano and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices, broth and water. Add the salt, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with the lid, leaving about a 1” gap for steam to escape. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, beans and greens. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the the pasta is cooked al dente and the greens are tender. Remove the pot from the heat, then remove the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Taste and season with more salt (I usually add about ¼ teaspoon more) and pepper until the flavors really sing. Garnish bowls of soup with grated Parmesan, if you’d like.
St. Patrick, March 17: Pureed Vegetable Soup
Born in what is now Scotland in the 400s, St. Patrick was captured by pirates as a teen and sold into slavery in Ireland where he worked with sheep until he escaped. He later returned to the island of his servitude to shepherd in a new way as a bishop. He led many people to conversion and spread the faith throughout the Emerald Isle. This basic vegetable soup is a staple anywhere you go in Ireland today. When I studied abroad it was the cheap and cozy choice as we explored Ireland’s small villages and pubs and I craved it when I returned to the States. This is my go-to winter soup, especially for days when my family abstains from meat.
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp butter
½ an onion
2 stalks of celery
2 russet potatoes
4 cups of broth
Peel and roughly chop parsnips, carrots, and turnip and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Chop onion and celery, sautée with a tablespoon or two of butter for 5ish minutes. Add roasted veggies, broth, and peeled and chopped potatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, lid on, for 30 minutes. Remove lid and then blend soup with immersion blende or ladle in batches into regular blender. Salt and pepper to taste. Best served with Irish brown bread or soda bread!
St. Turibius of Mongrovejo, March 23: Sopa de Quinoa
Turibius was born in Spain in the 1500s and became a brilliant lawyer, professor, and judge. He was later chosen to become the new bishop of Lima in what is today Peru. He went to a country rife with the worst actors of colonialism and set about God’s work to serve the people by administering the sacraments and serving the poor. He spent over 25 years in Peru serving the people, and confirmed the young St. Rose of Lima. This quinoa soup is traditional, simple, and a great Lenten meatless option. It comes from EatPeru.
3 ounces dried quinoa
1 large carrot
1 large leek
2 celery stalks
¼ medium white cabbage
4-5 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon garlic minced
Salt, black pepper, and cumin to taste
Fresh cilantro or celery leaves chopped (optional, for decoration)
Chop the carrot, leek, and celery into pieces, set aside. Chop the cabbage into pieces, set aside. Pour the water (or stock) into a large cooking pot and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and boil for 15 to 20 minutes. You’ll know the quinoa is cooked when the little “tail” from the seeds has uncurled itself. Add the vegetables, garlic and desired seasoning to the same pot which you have just boiled the quinoa in. Bring back to a boil and cook until the vegetables are soft (approximately 15 minutes). Serve the soup while still steaming hot, sprinkling some fresh cilantro or celery leaves on top.
St. Pedro Calungsod, April 2: Chicken Tinola
St. Pedro lived in the mid 1600s in the Philippines. He was well educated to become a catechist and missionary and joined the Jesuits as a teenage missionary to Guam. There he and his fellows missionaries faced pushback. He and a fellow missionary were martyred by spear and machete after baptizing a baby girl with her mother’s consent but against the wishes of her father. Chicken Tinola soup is a comforting soup with many nutritional benefits recommended to me by a dear Filipino friend. This recipe comes from the popular Filipino food blog, Panlasang Pinoy.
1 whole chicken cut into serving pieces
36 ounces rice, washed
1/2 piece green papaya cut into wedges
1 tablespoon garlic minced
1 piece onion chopped
1 thumb ginger cut into strips
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 cup hot pepper leaves
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sauté the garlic, onion, and ginger. Put-in the chicken and cook until color turns light brown. Add the fish sauce. Stir. Pour rice washing into the cooking pot. Let boil. Cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes. Note: add water if needed. Add green papaya. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the hot pepper leaves or malunggay leaves. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Season with ground black pepper. Note you can also add fish sauce or salt if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve hot. Share and enjoy!