TODAY IS Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the start of Lent — 40 days of penance, reflection, and fasting for Catholics and members of various other Christian faiths.

During this time, when days are getting a little longer and brighter — don’t forget to spring ahead this Sunday — you’ll notice grocers and markets offer specials on fresh fish, especially at the end of the week.

Why? Because fish is the traditional meal for those abstaining from eating meat on Lenten Fridays.

I was at a neighborhood market recently and noticed they had monkfish.

A few weeks ago I watched a show about the fishing industry and learned that sometimes fish can be frozen four or five times before it reaches the store, so it’s important to know where the fish comes from.

Monkfish comes from the Atlantic Ocean. I hadn’t cooked it before so I took a leap of faith and brought some home. Since it’s a firm fish that doesn’t tend to flake apart when cooked, I decided to sear it in butter. I basted it while it was searing by spooning the butter over the top, then seasoned it and stuck it in a hot oven to finish cooking. Monkfish is not an attractive fish but it sure is tasty.

I served the monkfish over an easy cooked carrot slaw with sesame seeds and a little fine seaweed garnish called Furikake.

If fish isn’t your thing and you need a fast and easy way to put together a meatless meal, try Portobello mushroom burgers. You can roast the mushroom caps in the oven or give them a quick sauté on the stove and serve them on a bun with your favorite condiments. It’s so yummy (and good for you) you might not miss the meat.

Seared Monkfish

1 lb. monkfish

3 T. butter

2 cloves garlic

1/4 c. cashews

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 T. fresh chopped parsley, for garnish, if desired

Rinse and pat the monkfish dry. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the seasoning by adding the cashews, brown sugar, a teaspoon of the Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, coriander, cumin and paprika to a food processor and pulse several times to a crumb texture. Juice and zest the lemon and drizzle 1/2 the lemon juice over the fish and sprinkle with a couple of pinches of Kosher salt (about 1/2 teaspoon). Set a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the butter and garlic. When the butter begins to melt, add the fish. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, frequently basting the top of the fish with melted butter from the pan. When the outside of the fish is no longer translucent, remove from heat. Pack the seasoning mix on top of the fish and drizzle with remaining lemon juice, then stick in an oven heated to 375 degrees. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked throughout (no longer translucent). Garnish with the remaining lemon zest and parsley before serving.

Carrot Slaw Sautee

10 oz. bag of shredded colored carrots

1 tsp. sesame oil

2 cloves garlic

1 c. purple cabbage, thinly sliced

1 c. Brussels Sprouts, thinly sliced

1 c. orange bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 c. vegetable stock

1 T. rice vinegar

2 tsp. tamari sauce

1 T. cashews, crushed, for garnish if desired

2 tsp. Furikake, if desired, for garnish

Add the sesame oil, half the vegetable stock and garlic to a skillet or sauté pan and set over medium high heat. When the garlic starts to brown slightly, add the carrots, cabbage, sprouts and pepper. Sautee, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the Tamari sauce and rice vinegar and cook for an additional 2 minutes, adding the remaining vegetable sauce as needed so the vegetables don’t stick. Once the vegetables have soften, remove from heat and garnish with cashews and Furikake, if desired, before serving.

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

4 large Portobello mushroom caps

4 onion rolls

1 1/2 T. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 T. balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 T. mayonnaise or aioli

1 T. balsamic cream

Lettuce and purple onion for serving

Line a shallow baking dish with aluminum foil and set the mushroom caps (smooth side up) onto the pan. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the mushrooms and brush lightly to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set in an oven preheated to 425 degrees. Roast for 7 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms have softened and have slightly browned. Remove from oven. Mix the balsamic cream with the mayonnaise or aioli and spread onto the onion rolls. Set the mushrooms on the rolls and serve with lettuce and onion, if desired.