Hope you are all well.
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Now that my Christmas cookies are baked, wrapped, and delivered, it’s time to start preparing for my favorite holiday of the entire year…
Christmas Eve, the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Every Italian home prepares multiple seafood dishes for La Vigilia (Christmas Eve) – a day of abstinence.
In the Catholic Church, this prohibits the consumption of meat, so La Vigilia was ALL fish, NO meat. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is celebrated in Italy from Rome on down to the south and my family comes from Naples and Bari.
This seafood salad is always a part of the dinner selections. I don’t have the exact recipe my parents made so this recipe is adapted from “Italian Food Forever” by chef Debra Mele and I have always admired her talent. I have tweaked it over the years and here is the end result. I hope you enjoy it.
Simple to make and it tastes better, in my opinion, if it is made a few days ahead of time so the flavors can marry.
Seafood Salad – serves 6
3 Cups White Wine
5 Bay Leaves
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Pound Calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
1 Pound Medium Shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 Pound Scallops
1 Cup Black Olives
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
3 Large Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley
Dash Red Pepper Flakes
Salt & Pepper To Taste
In a stockpot, combine 3 quarts of water, the wine, bay leaves, and crushed garlic. Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the mixture. Drop the lemons into the pot. Bring the mixture first to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.
First cook the shrimp, cook for 2 minutes, and remove them from the pot. Cook the calamari for 1 ½ minutes and remove it from the pot as well. If you are cooking scallops, cook them in the same manner for 2 minutes. Mix the seafood together and set aside.
Place the seafood in a bowl and add the chopped celery. Add the dressing ingredients and mix well. Cover and let marinade for a minimum of 12 hours. Just before serving, adjust the seasonings, and add the black olives if you are using them. Serve at room temperature.
If you want to include Octopus in this salad, you will need 3 cups of cooked Octopus chopped into 2-inch pieces.
If you are cooking octopus, add it to the pot after cooking the scallops (once all the other seafood is removed from the pot), and cook it for about 45 minutes to an hour or until it is tender.
Remove it from the pot and let it cool.
Remove the skin and suckers, and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
Mix the octopus with the other ingredients.
Here is a sample of My Christmas Eve Menu and I think I go over the seven fish requirement.
Linguine with Fish sauce (consisting of crabs, clams, mussels, scungilli (conch), shrimp, tuna, calamari (squid), and scallops).
mussels in white wine and butter
and the two most traditional fish dishes
Baccala (dry salted cod fish) with potatoes in a tomato sauce
fried eel with a sweet & sour sauce
Sauteed broccoli rabe with LOTS of garlic and lemon
Fruit and nuts – including roasted chestnuts
Variety of Christmas cookies -including pignoli
Italian bow tie cookies topped with honey and sprinkles (similar to Struffoli)– sorry I don’t know the name. It was my grandmother’s specialty.
Yes, dinner lasts for hours and hours and every bite is so delicious.
When my husband and I were dating (he is not Italian), his first Christmas Eve with us was very overwhelming. Now, after 37 years, he is accustomed to the menu and all the courses; and he even has a few favorites.
After this huge fish dinner, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to sausage and peppers (you could eat meat after midnight), and then we opened all of our gifts. (only the children opened gifts on Christmas morning).
Buon Natale !
Until my next post, make every day a celebration!