The tradition of fasting has been a mainstay in Catholic tradition for thousands of years but fish has always been exempt from the fasting rules. Why, may you ask? It originates from the fact that Christ died on a Friday and a tradition of fasting on Fridays in acknowledgement of the sacrifice made on Good Friday has been recorded since the first century.
But, the reason fish serves a loophole is because, as an NPR story mentioned, “…it's the flesh of warmblooded animals that's off limits — an animal "that, in a sense, sacrificed its life for us, if you will," explains Michael Foley, an associate professor at Baylor University and author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Friday?” This tradition even impacted McDonald’s in the form of the Filet-O-Fish. This menu item came about because, because of the practicing Catholics in the United States partaking in the ritual, a McDonald’s franchisee in a very Catholic area of Cincinnati, Lou Groen, created the Filet-o-Fish to combat the decreased hamburger sales on Fridays.
We’ve come a long way since then, when fasting rules were relaxed by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s. Even though it’s no longer necessary to abstain from meat consumption every Friday, “[t]he Friday meat ban, by the way, still applies to the 40 days of the Lenten fast.” The tradition has been a mainstay in Latino communities, while most only follow fasting rules on select days. Many Latin American cultures integrate cod, or bacalao, as part of traditional foods this time of year, and olive oil is inevitably part of the preparation of these dishes. While bacalao a la vizcaína is a favorite in the Caribbean (where the cod’s stewed in olive oil, capers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olives, and capers over boiled potatoes) and olive oil is party of the dressing on traditional serenata de bacalao in Puerto Rico, there are plenty of ways to go more avant-garde in your Fish Friday consumption.
Dry Rub + Olive Oil= Simple
Dry rubs, which are spice mixes that you can place on meat and fish, are a great way to season your fish. Olive oil is an important ally for dry rubs. There are two options in which you can use olive oil.
Add some olive oil before you put on the rub: When you use a dry rub, you first need to pat the fish dry before you put on a rub. But before you apply the rub, you can mist a little bit of olive oil on top of the meat to help the rub stick onto the fish better.
But you can also apply them to fish by mixing the dry rubs with olive oil and using a brush that you would use to put barbecue sauce on your meat before you fire it on the grill.
If you want to increase the flavor, just leave the fish in the fridge overnight to make it even stronger.
There’s a reason why sofrito is such a versatile sauce
If you remember our Facebook post from January, we posted an easy version of a sofrito. Sofrito is commonly known for its key role in arroz con pollo and as a base for stew and rice. It’s not just for arroz con pollo; it works perfectly for fish, especially white fish like cod, tilapia, and hake.
Some other spices to try
Za’atar is a spice blend popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including in Israel. This is the seasoning of choice in this region’s fish dishes. The spice blend works for any type of fish (if it’s fresh of course). You can order it online or buy it in your local grocery or gourmet stores.
Many peppers that are that the basis of many Spanish and Latino dishes, like paprika, smoked paprika, chili flakes, and chili powder. You could also try ginger, ground mustard, curry powder, and peppercorns. And there’s another piece of great news: cilantro works great with fish
There are lots of spices, in combination with olive oil to keep it on, you can experiment with to have 7 Fish Fridays that will be some of your best Lenten feasts ever!