Holiday, The 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 and enjoying the holiday meal with family, filled with a seafood spread. 
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 this what holidays are really about?
Buone feste!

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Clam Pie Recipe

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Stuffed Calamari Recipe

Shrimp Risotto Recipe

Coupole

Serving cheese for outdoor entertaining may bring to mind several favorite options, but serving the right cheese does make a difference this time of year. You don’t want to feel weighed down by nibbling on too heavy a cheese in warm weather, or have a cheese that appears to be melting on your serving tray right before your eyes.

The solution is as easy as taking cheese out of its package. And, in this case, I’m offering a suggestion for serving an artesian handcrafted and slightly aged goat cheese. A distinct goat cheese, called Coupole. It is easily cut into wedges, making it an ideal way to serve in warmer and more humid weather.  

The Coupole is a fresh, young goat's milk cheese shaped like a small dome and lightly dusted with vegetable ash. It hails from the ambitious new Loire-Valley-style production facility at Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery which has been pioneering innovative dairy products for over 25 years. Their fresh chèvres, spreads, butters and fermented creams can be found in chef's kitchens across the country. As the Coupole ages, a slightly wrinkled skin develops, and the paste softens. This creamy, delightful goat's milk cheese is a wonderful addition to America's dairy products. One piece weighs approximately 8 ounces.

Goat cheese is an ideal lead-in to most summer foods which are on the lighter side and also pairs well served along side grilled fruit, grilled vegetables and grilled fish.   

Serve with quartered fresh figs and spiced nuts, or drizzled with honey for dessert. You may also go Genoa style by topping it with a freshly made pesto. If you really want to gild the lily, top with pesto & honey; a serving suggestion that was served to me from the master himself, Val Manning of Manning’s Food Emporium in Ballylickey, West Cork, Ireland.

Serve with summer beverages; lagers to wines such as sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, or rose.

 image credit: Vermont Creamery