Lenten Gastronomy in the Spanish-speaking World

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If you grew up in a Latino family you will recognize many of the following dishes: Fish, Tortas de Camarón con Chile Colorado (Egg and Shrimp patties with Red Sauce), Calabacitas (Zucchini), Caldo de Queso (Sonora’s signature Cheese Soup), Verdolagas (Purslane) and other greens*** are among traditional Mexican dishes.

Many simple peasant dishes throughout the Spanish-speaking world consist of adding greens into a staple food. Examples of this are adding spinach to a pot of pinto beans (Mexico) or sautéing potatoes with garlic and torn pieces of chard (Spain). There are also Puerto Rican and Cuban dishes such as Bacalao a la Vizcaína (Cod), or dishes made with legumes such as red beans and rice. Colombia and Perú serve Sudado de Pescado (steamed fish) and in Argentina it is common to eat Empanadas de Atún (Tuna Turnovers). In Ecuador, a soup called Fanesca, consists of grains, vegetables, and salted cod. All of these dishes, plus more, comprise a very rich and diverse Lenten gastronomy.

Another typical dish eaten during Lent is, Capirotada, which was brought over by the Spaniards and quite possibly had its roots in Roman cuisine (remember that Spain was part of the Roman Empire), but it seems Mexican home cooks have perfected it, especially since it has so many variants, depending on the region where the cook is from! Early versions of Capirotada tended to be more savory and included meat, but in the 20th century it was sweetened, and thus became more of a dessert dish. This is one of many dishes that tend to disappear in the kitchen by the 1st or 2nd generation who are born in the U.S., probably because it is perceived as labor intensive.

Next week, LatinoFoodie will be showcasing the traditional way of preparing it with birote (Mexican mini-baguette known as bolillo in many parts of Mexico), and piloncillo (hardened, brown sugar cones), the two key ingredients in most Capirotadas.
*** Glossary of green, leafy vegetables:.

Beet greens or Beet tops: las hojas de la remolacha/del betabel
Chard = acelgas
Kale = col rizada, repollo rizado
Lettuce = lechuga
Quelites (common term in Mexico and Central America) = leafy greens
Spinach = espinacas
Verdolagas = Purslane (a succulent eaten in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia)

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