Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recipes for Meatless Fridays: Crusted Tilapia Fillet

The season of Lent is about to start once more. Do you have enough meatless recipes for the Fridays of Lent and for Good Friday?  How about tomorrow?  Have you decided on what you'll cook for Ash Wednesday being a day of fasting and abstinence?
According to the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, specifically Canon 1251, "Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ." 
This means that, unless specified by the episcopal conference of a specific country and approved by the Pope, Catholics (from Eastern Churches or Western Catholics) all over the world will have to abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent and even outside of Lent except when solemnities are being observed or celebrated; since according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, all Fridays throughout the year are considered penitential days (Canon 1250).
According to this article that I read, in the Philippines, Catholics like me and my family, are no longer required to abstain from meat on Fridays outside of LentBut we are however asked to substitute this with other forms of penance or acts of piety like reading the Bible, going to Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Holy Rosary, or acts of charity like visiting the sick or prisoners, giving alms to the poor or teaching catechism. (The article I read cited Canon 1253 Norms approved by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines for the Local Implementation of Some Provisions of the New Code of Canon Law as source and published in the November - December 1985 issue of CBCP Monitor Vol. VI, Number 6, pp. 32-43).
Fr. Javier Gonzalez, OP said in his article about Canon Law published in 1997 that "abstaining from meat cannot be considered a penance for a great part or number of Filipino people who can no longer afford to buy meat."  This was cited in the same article that I read.
I called one of my priest friends yesterday to help me validate these things that I read in the internet and to help me clarify some points.  One example that he gave which was helpful is this: If you choose to abstain from meat but you ate an expensive seafood or fish like a blue marlin, which was more pleasurable to you, then that defeated the spirit of the law on abstinence. 
I thanked the Lord for leading me to these articles and for my priest friend.  They reminded me that all Fridays of the year, Lent or otherwise, are days of penance as we remember with reverence the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I therefore resolved to approach these days (Fridays outside of Lent) being mindful of what kind of penance I could do other than abstaining from meat if I choose not to do it as a form of penance.  I admit that I forgot about this teaching for a while and I was glad that yesterday I was reminded of this as I was preparing for Lent.  So, I thought of sharing this here in my blog, in case there are also readers who forgot that we need to approach all Fridays of the year in a posture of penance, whether we are required by our bishops or not, to abstain from meat on those days.
I have shared my "discovery" with my husband and we have decided that after I wean our second child, we will choose to abstain from meat eventually on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.  This was prompted by what I also discovered yesterday that pregnant and nursing/breastfeeding mothers are exempted from abstinence and fasting. You may click here and here to read more about fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church and those who are exempted from these laws.  But since I did not know about this in the past years that I was nursing my babies and didn't see any harmful effects on my children, I will still abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and on Good Friday. 
So there, after sharing with you some information and teachings about Lent, I will now share a simple, easy-on-the-pocket fish recipe.  This is part of my 4-week cycle menu for Lent.  You may click here to see what dishes I included in my 4-week cycle menu plan.  You can use this for any fish fillet other than tilapia. I just chose tilapia because it's abundant in the Philippines and it's relatively cheap which is in keeping with our Lenten virtues.  With the money that we can save by choosing to buy and eat less expensive food this Lent, we can have more money to donate to the poor around us and to the church so we can support their ministries.
Crusted Tilapia Fillet
Tilapia fillet (or other kinds of fish fillet) 
all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
egg (slightly beaten)
cooking oil
For the dip:
mayonnaise/all purpose dressing and catsup or
mayonnaise/all purpose dressing with squeezed calamansi juice (homemade sour cream) or mayonnaise/all purpose dressing and chopped dill or
mayonnaise/all purpose dressing and chopped garlic or
soy sauce with vinegar and chili
  1. Season fish fillet with salt and pepper and thyme.  Let it stand for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Dredge in flour.
  3. Dip in slightly beaten egg seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and thyme as well.
  4. Roll on breading. I like using Japanese breading but you can use other kinds of unflavored breadings, too.
  5. Pan fry for a few minutes each side until golden brown.  I use canola oil for frying because it's a healthier substitute to the other oils.
  6. Serve hot with rice and your choice of dip.

I'll be posting more meatless recipes that you can include in your menu this Lent. Watch out for these in the coming days!

May we all have a meaningful observance of the Lenten season. May we be drawn closer to God as we spend more time in prayer and as we to do penance for our sins.

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