Seven or Thirteen , What's your number ?

I often tell friends that on the eve of Christmas, my town tradition calls for at least 13 dishes, all seven of which must be seafood and no meat allowed. Each time inevitably a good debate ensues and I usually come up on top.

The 13 dishes is my in effect my family's version of the the tradition of the "Seven Fishes" as it is known here among Italian-American families. This year I think we scored exceptionally high, having exceeded the 13 count. Below I list most, but not all of the goodies that made it to our table on the eve.

The island was particularly rich on Christmas day. For details, see the follow up article.

2009 Christmas Eve Dinner Menu

Rositi sott'olio imported from Calabria (wild marinated mushrooms)
Italian "Boquerones" (White Anchovy fillets marinated in oil and vinegar) See facebook
Sicilian tuna fillets in extra virgin olive oil
Spicy Neonata Tartines (baby fish spreadable appetizer in hot chili and olive oil)
"Gambas al ajillo" (Spanish for Shrimp sauteed with garlic)
Sicilian Anchovy fillet

Primi and Secondi
Spaghetti alle vongole (little neck clams cooked in oregano and white balsamic vinegar sauce)
Baccala' in saffron broth (salted cod fish stew)
Baked Baccala' with lemon, bread crumbs
Fried scallops
Fried shrimp

Warm Cauliflower with cracked pepper and EVOO
"Insalata a Mappina" (spicy raw escarole "pressed" salad with lemon and dried chili peppers)

Toasted Corn Bread (they make great tartines)
Semolina French Bread
Calabrian "Pitta" (Calabria's version of ciabatta bread, )
"Cuddrurridri" , fried potato bread dounuts from Calabria (here's a recipe)

Here is what I call the real "pitta" bread (it's the round loaf with hole) from a photo I shot in Southern Italy a few years ago

Semi Sweet Red Georgian Wine
Peche Royale, peach flavored sparkling wine
Yellow Tail White Sparking (a surprisingly good bargain sparking)
Crisp Sardinian Vermentino

Desserts and Spirits
Assorted Sicilian Torroncini (nougat-based dessert See Google)
Sperlari "Tenero" soft almond torrone (nothing like the stuff you get at NYC street fairs)
Sperlari "Zanzibar" Fondente Torrone (a must for you lovers of rich chocolate)
Challah bread filled with crème Chantilly and berries
Panettone al cioccolato
Homemade apple crisp
Handmade whipped cream
Espresso coffee
Assortment of Italian "Amaro" liquores"
Fresh fruit


I have two for you . First, if there is anything you would like to try to make on your own, go for the "Insalata a mappina", it is very easy to make and is great salad.

To prepare, buy some fresh esarole, wash thoroughly, extrat the central and inner leaves. The outer leaves are more bitter and are best cooked. Toss the leaves without cutting, with EVOO, S/P and lemon juice. Then layer the leaves in a deep dish .

Also, do not underestimate both anchovies and salted cod fish. Both have a bad rap. Next time you go to a favorite tapas bar, ask for boquerones. They have no resemblance to the "stinky" stuff most pizzerias use as a dreaded topping. As to the cod fish , well that calls for an entire set of articles.

Lesson of Today
Make sure that your New Year's resolution includes some serious fasting after all of this.



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