Within the Christian world, today is Ash Wednesday and marks the start of the Lenten Season. While the calendar counts 46 days until Easter, the Lenten Season is actually 40 Days. Sundays are “exempt”, considered outside the penance of Lent. Why? As a Catholic, we celebrate the Mass. The act of celebration is separate from the act of penance.
While the church does not prevent you from continuing your Lenten Sacrifice on Sundays, it’s not a requirement. Some people feel a Sunday reprieve is a form of cheating or a sign of weakness. Those are personal choices, as are the very act of sacrifice during Lent. As a girl, I can remember a time when all Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays throughout the year. During Lent, this was extended to include Wednesdays and Saturdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It was a universal sacrifice within the Church. The Church believed universal sacrifices brought Catholics together as one body, making the same pilgrimage toward salvation and redemption together. With Vatican II, the restrictions were changed, leaving only Fridays during Lent as days of abstinence. Even the fact of fasting changed.
Another change within the Church are what defines personal sacrifices made by the faithful. We were once encouraged to give up something tangible such as chocolate or dessert or that cup of Starbuck’s Coffee, take that money we would have spent on self indulgences and place it in the collection plate or donate to a charity for good works. Now we are encouraged to give up anger, bitterness, resentment and other negative aspect that harm the soul and separate us from God. We are also encouraged to give up our time – do charitable works, visit the sick or shut-ins, find ways to share our blessings with those less fortunate. Not everything is monetary. Sacrifice of self is far more transforming.
It seems fitting, especially after the year we’ve all been through, that Ash Wednesday and Random Acts of Kindness Day are one and the same. Random Acts of Kindness can be something as simple as paying for the coffee of the person behind you in the Starbuck’s line, sending flowers to a nursing home to brighten their day or bringing donuts to the fire station to thank First Responders for all they have done. Write a letter of appreciation to those serving in the military. Or something as simple as a kind word and a smile to a total stranger.
Let the Lenten Season and Random Acts of Kindness make a difference and from that let us build a better world, a kinder world with true compassion. What the world needs now more than ever before is kindness.
In the spirit of simplicity, I hope you enjoy this beautiful salad with warm Pita Bread. Wishing everyone a blessed Ash Wednesday and a rewarding Random Act of Kindness Day.
Simple Ash Wednesday Supper
Nicoise Tuna Salad
Warm Pita Bread
Ash Wednesday Nicoise Tuna Salad
1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste
Juice lemon into a small bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and mustard. Add oil in a steady stream, whisking briskly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and ground pepper.
Set aside until ready to use. Whisk just before serving to re-emulsify dressing.
Nicoise Tuna Salad
1 lb small Red Potatoes
1 lb thin Green Beans
1 Head Butter Lettuce
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 cup Kalamata Olives
2 small cans Albacore Tuna, drained
1/2 cup Arugula
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Place potatoes in a saucepan; cover with cold water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and keep at a low boil for 12 minutes, until fork tender Lift out with slotted spoon and immediately plunge into an ice water bath to cool. When cool remove potatoes, pat dry and cut into bite size pieces. Set aside.
Place eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat. Cover pan with a tight-fitting lid. Let eggs steep for 15 minutes. Crack egg shells, plunge eggs into ice water for 20 minutes. Peel and set aside
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add green beans; boil 3-4 minutes until tender crisp. When cool (about 5 minutes), drain well in a colander and pat dry if necessary.
Wash butter lettuce, break leaves apart, set aside. Cut cherry tomatoes in half or quarters depending upon size, set aside. Drain olives, set aside. Drain tuna, flake meat and set aside. When ready to assemble salad, cut eggs in half.
To Assemble Salad: Line four individual shallow salad bowls with butter lettuce and a sprinkling of arugula. Dividing the remaining salad ingredients evenly, arrange potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, eggs and tuna on top of each serving.
Drizzle each salad as desired with dressing. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve and enjoy.
2/3 cup warm Water
2 teaspoons Dry Yeast
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup warm Milk
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Flour
4-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water until foam develops.
Stir in the milk, oil, salt, baking powder, and 2 cups of flour with a wooden spoon
Place bowl on stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Turn mixer on low and knead in the remaining cup of flour gradually until dough comes together and no longer sticks to the sides. Once all the flour has been added, knead for 5 minutes.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
Heat a medium-sized skillet or flat cast iron skillet to medium-low heat. Divide dough into 8 equal-sized pieces and form into balls. Roll each ball out to a 7-inch circle.
Cook pita for 2 or 3 minutes per side or until golden brown spotting and cooked thoroughly.