The Feast of Seven Fishes

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The Feast of Seven Fishes

A popular southern Italian tradition celebrated all over the world is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In Italy it is called “la cena della vigilia,” or Christmas Eve Dinner, December 24th, observed by abstaining from eating meat on Christmas Eve, enjoying the holiday meal with family, filled with a seafood spread. 

George Hirsch Lifestyle, Feast of the Seven Fishes

WHY SEVEN? Some say the number seven represents the seven sacraments, seven days of creation, or simply the fact that seven signifies perfection in the Bible. This may be speculation, however what is known is that this celebration is something that is very much appreciated and shared by most Italians and lovers of fish.

Fish: You will find virtually any Mediterranean fish prepared from this region. Everything from anchovies to eel. Popular fishes in the feast include calamari, smelts, clams, and shrimp. 

One of my favorite is baccalá, a dried, salted cod. 

Baccala How To: To reconstitute the baccalá, you soak it for two days, changing the water three or four times.

I prepare the baccalá several ways including sauted and with tomatoes, but it's also quite popular to prepare it in the oven with potatoes or even in a salad with potatoes and black olives.

The Seven Fishes is a feast that brings family and friends together to celebrate a very important evening, and the seafood is only the centerpiece of what really takes place..keeping a tradition alive with family and friends. Isn’t that what holidays are really about? Buone feste! 

Seafood Chowder

Fritto Misto

Linguini Calamari Sauce

Baccala and Potato Recipe

Capitone Arrosto & Fritto

Clam Pie Recipe

Mussels in White Wine Sauce

Stuffed Calamari Recipe

Shrimp Risotto Recipe

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Melanzane al Pomodoro

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Cooking Melanzane al Pomodoro is perfect this time of year when farms are abundant with eggplant and tomatoes. My Eggplant Sauce recipe is without a meat/protein in the ingredients, but feel free to add grilled sausage, chicken, or shrimp if desired. If you are looking for that under thirty minutes to-cook-to-table dish without compromising flavor for time, this is it. And, you can create variations on this recipe, which is very easy to do. 

This pasta sauce is great served warm or chilled added with a tube shaped pasta.

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George's Eggplant Sauce

Makes 4 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | from George Hirsch Living it UP! Cookbook

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups eggplant, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

8 cloves garlic, chopped

6 plum tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup pitted calamata olives, chopped

1/2 cup white whine

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, thyme, hot pepper flakes

2 Tablespoons pine nuts

2 Tablespoons fresh basil

parmesan cheese to taste and fresh black pepper

Preheat a large nonstick saucepan.  

Add half the olive oil; then eggplant, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and bell pepper.  Cook until light brown.  Add the wine, chicken broth, olives, dried basil, oregano, thyme and hot sauce.  Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Top with remaining olive oil, fresh basil and pine nuts.

Excellent with a rigatoni or tube shape pasta.

The G is Silent

Gnocchi, pronounced n-yo-key. This dish reminds me of one of my favorite places on earth - Castelletto di Montebenchi, the heart of this small medieval city in the Tuscany Region. One of my chef friends, Antonio from Northern Italy makes the best gnocchi ever! When I can't connect with Antonio, I just make my own.

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Gnocchi are excellent accompaniments for meat and poultry dishes. When prepared right they are light as pillows. The secret is not to over mix the dough and to use just the right amount of flour. There are so many ways to make gnocchi, I prefer to bake the potatoes instead of steaming to make a softer dough.

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Potato Gnocchi

chefgeorgehirsch.comGeorge Hirsch Lifestyle 

2 pounds russets (baking potatoes)

Approximately 2 cups flour (variable) 

1 large egg

A pinch of sea salt

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake potatoes until easily pierced with a fork or a paring knife will easy slip through potatoes. Cool slightly, then peel the potatoes. 

Mash them while they’re still warm (a potato ricer or food mill works best). Season the potatoes with a pinch of salt and slowly knead in enough flour to obtain a fairly firm, smooth, non-sticky dough; exactly how much flour depends on the moisture from the potatoes. Add the egg, and enough flour so the dough does not stick to your hands. 

Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, as it will resemble regular pasta dough. Divide the dough into four pieces.

Roll the dough out into a rope shape about 2/3 of an inch thick, cut the rope into one-inch pieces, and gently score the pieces crosswise with a fork to obtain slight ridges. With your finger, gently roll the pressed doughback off the fork. This may take a little practice. If the dough sticks to the fork, dip the fork in flour before you press the dough against it. Making this shape will help the gnocchi grab on to the tasty sauce it’s served with. 

Cook the gnocchi in abundant salted boiling water, removing them with a slotted spoon a minute or two after they rise to the surface. Drain them well and serve them with a few leaves of sage, melted unsalted butter and Parmesan, or meat sauce, or pesto sauce. 

Serve immediately while they are full of steam. The gnocchi are wonderfully light when hot. Once they cool off they become dense like a tire without air.

Make ahead Tip: Place any remaining uncooked Gnocchi in a container, dust with corn meal and freeze until you are ready to boil.

George's Spicy Tomato Sauce

Makes 4 cups |chefgeorgehirsch.com

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup chopped pancetta

10 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1/2 chopped onion, chopped fine

1/4 cup prosciutto, chopped fine

2 cups canned plum San Marzano tomatoes, crushed

1/4 cup dry white wine

2-4 teaspoons hot pepper flakes

10-12 fresh basil leaves, lightly torn

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a saucepan and heat the olive oil.  Add the pancetta and cook until it becomes light brown.  Add the garlic, onion and prosciutto and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, white wine, hot pepper flakes, basil and black pepper, stir well and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  You can regulate the spiciness of the dish by adding more or less hot pepper flakes.

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