Preparing meals during Lent shouldn’t be a challenge, if you know the guidelines.
According to information from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, “The oldest Armenian Lenten traditions hardly allowed for the consumption of any food at all. Indeed, the Armenian Church sometimes refers to Lent as Aghouhatzk, meaning “salt and bread,” because at one time these elements were the only permitted foods. Over time, Lenten rules have changed to allow any food – except for those which derive from animals (meat and milk, e.g.). Alcoholic beverages were also forbidden. These rules were based on the Biblical principle that many human vices proceed from eating and drinking.”
Some choose to follow a completely vegan diet during Lent, which means they will only consume vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and will avoid animal products, such as meat, dairy, and even honey.
How strictly one follows a Lenten diet is entirely up to the individual.
To get you started, here is a Lenten-appropriate recipe for Eggplant-Chickpea Casserole.
Serves 4 as a main dish**; serves 6 as a side dish
1 eggplant, (approx. 1 to 1 ½ lbs.) cut into cubes
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
1 carrot, pared and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. ground sumac
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt, to taste
2 medium zucchinis, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 -15-oz can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 to 2 – 15-oz can(s) chickpeas (with liquid) **NOTE: If serving this as a main dish, add 2 cans of chick peas for a heartier meal.
Garnish: Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Place a colander in the sink; place cubed eggplant in colander; sprinkle with salt. Allow eggplant to release any bitterness for about 20 minutes. Rinse with water and pat dry on paper towels.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil on a medium-high temperature until oil shimmers. Add onions, peppers, and chopped carrot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, bay leaves, dried herbs and spices, and salt to taste. Cook another minute, stirring until fragrant.
Add eggplant, zucchini, diced tomatoes with liquid, chickpeas with liquid. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Remove skillet from stove top. Transfer ingredients to a lightly greased, oven-safe casserole dish or baking pan with 2-inch sides.
Ready to Bake
Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until eggplant and zucchini are tender. (About half-way through baking, check to see if more liquid is needed. If so, carefully remove casserole from oven and stir in enough water to moisten without making it soupy.)
When vegetables are tender, remove casserole from oven and drizzle top with a little olive oil; garnish with fresh parsley.
This dish can be served hot or at room temperature. For a main dish, serve with a side salad and lavash.