Holiday Greetings (plus a new Cookie recipe).

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all well and you and your families are safe from the unfortunate Covid surge that is sweeping the nation.

I had every good intention to post my cookies and Christmas Eve seafood menu for the Italian, “Feast of the Seven Fishes “ on Christmas Eve, but time just got away from me with preparations and shopping for the holiday and I had to put the blog on the back burner for a little bit this holiday. My apologies….

Now that things are a little calmer I can get back to the blog. (My prayers go out to anyone that is going through any illness this time of year. We had Covid last year and I never want to go through that again and my heart breaks for anyone ill with this virus).

I did want to share with you some of the dishes I served this year. So this will be a montage of dishes for Christmas Eve- my favorite “food holiday”.

The majority of recipes I am posting today are already listed on the blog and you can find them in the right-hand column under Seafood, Christmas, and Christmas cookies categories, or just use the search box for the name of the dish you are interested in.

I did add one new cookie this year and I will post that recipe at the end of this post, but I wanted to share the pics with you.

I wish you many blessings, good health, and prosperity as we approach the end of 2021……

Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Here is a little background and definition of the meaning of the Feast of the Seven Fishes courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it is not called that in Italy and is not a “feast” in the sense of “holiday,” but rather a grand meal. …

This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.

Typical “fishes” include baccalà (salt cod), Frutti di mare (shellfish), capitone (eel), calamari (squid), scungilli (conch meat) and vongole (clams). Fried vegetables are also a popular accompaniment to the fish; expect fried artichokes, pickled vegetables, fried squash blossoms, broccoli rabe, cold broccoli & lemon salad, and other cold seafood salads.

The tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve comes from the Roman Catholic practice of not eating dairy or meat on the eve of some holidays, including Christmas. And the number seven is a symbol that’s repeated many times throughout the Bible – and in Catholicism, there are seven sacraments and deadly sins.

So let’s start with the first course…… the shrimp cocktail, followed by linguine with seafood sauce and then the additional fish dishes and sides, the fruit and nut course, followed by pastries, cake, Christmas cookies, assorted candies, coffee, and finally after dinner drinks… (It’s a long process).

There are other dishes that my mother used to add to her menu that I have eliminated over the years because it was just too much food for my small family and they included smelts, lobster tails, fried eel, fried shrimp, octopus, cod, salmon, tuna, and well the list goes on and on.

But no matter what, we make sure that we eat at least seven different varieties of fish. I have been known on occasion to add canned tuna to my seafood sauce just to make the official “7th fish”.

Cooks Note: the stuffed shrimp are stuffed with crabmeat, diced bell peppers, breadcrumbs, and a touch of mayonnaise & mustard (similar to a crab cake mixture).

The stuffed calamari is stuffed with breadcrumbs, shallots, eggs, parsley, cheese and I add diced shrimp and some sauteed calamari pieces.

The cold seafood salad consists of calamari, shrimp, scungilli, celery, lemon zest, olives, in a lemon vinaigrette.

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And now for the candy confections (torrone is a soft nougat with flavors of vanilla, lemon, and orange), assorted chocolates, a variety of Christmas cookies, and desserts (Italian pastries and cakes)… with espresso served with a splash of anisette liquor.

I always serve dessert with a jar of Amarena cherries on the table just like my mother did to top some of the desserts.

I am sure you have seen this famous jar in specialty shops or online shopping.

Amarena cherries are small stemless wild sour cherries in a rich syrup grown in Bologna or Modena, Italy. They can be used for gelato, cakes, and cookies and in some savory dishes as well.

We always have them in the house and I used them on the cheesecake in the picture below. They are very, very sweet so a little goes a long way.

And the new cookie this year that is added to my rotation is dead center on the tray and called “BRUTTIBONI” which translates to “ugly but good”. Ugly for the irregular shape and good for the taste.

It is a meringue cookie with a crisp exterior with a soft, chewy interior flavored with almonds, hazelnuts, and cinnamon.

My grandmother used to make this cookie when I was a child and I recently found this recipe on The Gazette.

Bruttiboni

Photo courtesy of The Gazette

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pure
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar granulated
  • 1⅓ cup whole almonds toasted
  • 1⅓ cup hazelnuts toasted and skins removes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Pulse almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor to obtain a coarsely ground texture. Alternatively, chop by hand. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl (of a stand mixture), with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until they start to foam.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  • Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisk until you obtain stiff glossy peaks.
  • With a mixing spoon, fold in the nuts. Gently combine.
  • Transfer this mixture to a heat proof bowl and place over a pot of hot, barely simmering water. This mixture needs to be stirred for about 15 minutes.
  • Portion with a medium-sized scooper and place on baking sheet. 
  • Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until tops are golden.
  • Allow to cool on baking sheet.

Notes

To roast the nuts: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position rack to the center.

Spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes to obtain a light roasting. Remove the skins from the hazelnuts.

Let the nuts cool to room temperature before using them in the recipe. 

  • The almonds and the hazelnuts can be roasted in advance and stored at room temperature until needed. This ensures the use of room temperature ingredients until you are ready to make these nut cookies.
  • Do not rush the process of adding the sugar while whisking the egg whites. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites.
  • The addition of cinnamon is optional.

*recipe adapted from The Gazette

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Until my next post, make every day a celebration!

Stay well,

Diane

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