February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season, which lasts until Easter Sunday.  For Catholics, Episcopalians, and some other Christians (or non-Christians, as the case is with me!), Lent is a time for reflection and, traditionally, ritual fasting.

There are as many interpretations of what it means or what it should mean to “give something up” for Lent, so I can’t speak for everyone who observes the ritual.  But I have been a little put off by all of the Lent-bashing I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook today.  Joking is one thing (“I’m giving up giving up things for Lent!” and the like), but why the need to disparage someone else’s tradition?  Just because you have no interest in observing Lent, or don’t see the value in observing it doesn’t mean that there IS no potential value.

My Lenten observance is not an attempt to correct some kind of behavior I find fault in myself, or to punish myself.  For me, Lent is an opportunity to be more thoughtful, more deliberate, and yes, a bit more disciplined.  When did “discipline” get to be such a dirty word?  I am lucky to have the freedom of so much choice, but I want my life to be a balance between what I feel like doing and the sometimes-tough choices that line up with my priorities.  And let’s be honest; that kind of balance does not magically happen without some work.

This year, I am going without desserts and red meat for the next forty days.  There is nothing inherently evil with either of these two categories, and I didn’t make this choice as part of a plan to lose weight, or because I feel there’s something wrong with the way I eat now.  Mostly, I feel like Jill and I sometimes get caught in “food ruts,” falling back on familiar recipes instead of trying new things.  I’m excited to have a structure that will force me to cook more fish and buy lots of different vegetables at the store.  I’m also looking to break my habit of filling up on sweets, just to be hungry again a short time later I know that a few weeks without desserts will remind my palate just how sweet a handful of blueberries can be.

Re-set and recalibrate—there are lots of ways to do it, and Lent happens to be one of mine.

recipe adapted from Whole Living

Rapini, or broccoli rabe, is one of those vegetables I’d like to cook with more often.  Related to kale and cauliflower, rapini is a flash to prep since all but the tough bottom stems are edible.  Here it’s cooked quickly under the broiler, but you can also blanch it, roast it in the oven, steam, or sauté it.  Personally, I plan to try this broccoli rabe pizza recipe next.

We served this dish as a salad course at a dinner party for four, and then made it again tonight as a main course for just the two of us.  Be warned: it’s still a bit bitter and chewy after the trip under the broiler, but I happen to love the taste of slightly-bitter greens and prefer most things al dente.  If you’re worried, simply employ another cooking method for the rapini, then assemble the salad as directed.


1 bunch rapini
1 can chickpeas, drained*
2-3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh ricotta
juice of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
olive oil

First, roast the chickpeas, which you can do ahead of time.  For this recipe, I used Aleppo pepper to season the chickpeas, but you can also keep them plain, using salt and olive oil only.

While the chickpeas are roasting, prep the rapini, rinsing it well and trimming the stem ends.  Dry the stalks well, then arrange on two cookie sheets and drizzle generously with olive oil.  Use your fingers to ensure that the rapini is well-coated with oil.  Spread the stalks out so they don’t crowd.

Sprinkle the chopped garlic and some salt atop the two cookie sheets.  Once your chickpeas are done, turn the oven to the broiler setting and slide the rapini in (I recommend positioning your oven rack a few notches below the broiler).

Broil for two to three minutes, then flip the rapini with tongs and cook another two minutes.  Remove from the oven and spread onto a large platter, dressing with the lemon juice, more olive oil, and some dashes of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes.  Salt to taste before distributing the chickpeas on the platter, and topping everything with a generous mound of ricotta.



  1. What a wonderful recipe! I’ve gone vegan in addition to being gluten-free (mostly. I confess I still eat eggs now and again, but everything else is out: cheese, other diary, meats…) and so this is ideal for me, except for the ricotta. But as I read the recipe, I realized that raw cashews make a nice substitution in dishes like this one! Now I just have to figure out what broccoli rabe/rapini is in French. Should be able to swing that one pretty easily!

    What I mostly wanted to comment on is the attitude towards Lent in your post. Wonderful. I was so inspired and have been feeling the need to “re-set and recalibrate” in additional ways to the ones I have been putting into place already this year. I am going to use the next 40 days to do just that! Thank you for your beautiful writing, as always, and I hope you find this Lenten season to be a good re-calibration and resetting time. 🙂

    Comment by Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) — February 22, 2012 @ 7:32 am

  2. Thanks for the pro-Lent shout out! Thinking of you today and all the marks people put on their foreheads.

    Comment by Katherine — February 22, 2012 @ 8:13 am

  3. Agree on Lent, yay Lent! But I’m not giving up bread. 🙂

    Comment by Sonya — February 22, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

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