The fact that today is National Tortilla Chip Day should be self explanatory. It’s a day set aside to celebrate the crunchy snack loved by millions. Tortilla chips with a big bowl of salsa or guacamole are the most common ways to celebrate the day. Using Tortillas Chips as a base for Nachos is another. And then there are those creative dishes that use Tortilla Chips as a breading to add a salty crunch to various foods.
But just what is Ember Wednesday? Ember Days are no longer celebrated in the Catholic Church as a whole, but Ember Days were days of significant importance very early in Church history. In fact they were observed so early in the life of the Church that some believe Ember Days must have been instituted by the Apostles themselves.
Ember Days were once observed four times a year, tied closely to the changing of the seasons. Like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Ember Days are marked with fasting (today that is no food consumed between meals, and that meals themselves are smaller in portion size). Unlike Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Ember Days abstinence is only partial. A partial abstinence allows meat to be served as part of one of the meals on Ember Days with the exception of Fridays during Lent. So you could have bacon and eggs for breakfast unless it’s Friday. Yeah, it gets confusing.
Simply put, Ember Days brought additional days of fasting and abstinence to the Church Calendar to serve a greater purpose. Days of fasting and abstinence are a means to focus the faithful on prayer, to thank God for the gifts of nature, and to instruct people to make use of these gifts in moderation. These days also serve as a reminder that if you can give thanks, you can assist with the needs of those who cannot.
The tradition of Ember Days began with the Romans. Romans connected the seasons with their native gods, and religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities. So how did pagan rituals become a part of the Universal Catholic Church? Since its beginning, the Church has sanctified any practice which could be utilized for a greater purpose of good. It was easier for the Church to convert Romans by simply transferring the focus of Ember Days from their gods to the Christian God. The Celtic Cross of Ireland is another great example of this practice. In Ireland, the sun (in the sky) was a pagan focal point. By making it a part of the Christian Cross, the focus moved from the sun to The Son.
Today is the first Ember Days of old within the secular calendar. The spring observations fall on the first Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the first Sunday of Lent.
With the revision of the liturgical calendar in 1969, the Vatican left the celebration of Ember Days up to the discretion of each national conference of bishops. In America, the conference decided not to celebrate them as a whole, while allowing individual Catholics to decide independently for their family. In Europe, particularly in rural areas, the celebration is more common.
In our house, while the fast and abstinence of Ember Days are not necessarily strictly enforced, the focus on giving thanks and reflections of prayer are a part of the day. Turning attention to the positive things in life is always good, right?
Tortilla Crusted Baked Zucchini Spears with Zippy Dill Dip
3/4 cup Tortilla Chips
3 medium Zucchini
1/2 teaspoon Salt, divided
1/2 cup Almond Flour
Roasted Garlic Powder to taste
1 large Egg, beaten
Note: For best results, select zucchini that are long, slender and uniformed in shape.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a wire baking rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Spray lightly with nonstick spray and set aside.
Finely crush Tortilla Chips in a food processor fitted with a blade. Set aside.
Clean zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half again in half horizontally for 4 zucchini pieces. Now cut piece in half vertically to create spears that resemble pickle spears.
Toss the spears with 1/4 teaspoon salt and let sit in a colander for about 15 minutes to draw out some of the moisture.
Meanwhile, mix the crushed tortilla chips, almond flour, garlic powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoons salt in a pie pan or shallow bowl. Set aside.
Beat egg in another pie pan or shallow bowl, set aside.
Pat the zucchini dry with paper towels. Working with one spear at a time, dip in egg, remove with a fork; allow excess egg to drip back into the pan.
Roll dipped zucchini in the flour mixture, pressing lightly to help coating stick to the spear.
Arrange spears on prepared baking rack with about an inch of space between spears for even baking. Place in heated over and bake for 18 minutes. Turn oven to broil, let crisp for 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove from oven, arrange on a serving platter with Zippy Dill Dip and enjoy.
Zucchini Spears inspired by Heartbeet Kitchen
Zippy Dill Dip
4 teaspoons Dill Dip Mix (about half of a 0.7-oz package)
8 oz Sour Cream
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons Chives
Additional Chives for garnish
In medium bowl, mix dip mix (dry), sour cream, and lemon juice. Snip chives into small pieces. Mix into the dip to blend completely. Chill dip well while making the vegetable platter.
When ready to serve, snip additional chives for garnish.