Saturday, December 24, 2011

"12 Days of Christmas" Day 12, "Buon Natale! Christmas Eve Italian Style"

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, Which shall be to all people. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, A Savior, which is Christ the Lord. – St. Luke

Italian food is one of the most popular and satisfying of all foods. (maybe because I am Italian) Whether you are Italian or not, food is love, and simple dishes of the freshest ingredients make a warm and loving holiday gift to share with anyone. As the Italians say, Buon Natale!

On Christmas Eve, many Italian American families will be preparing and feasting on what Italians revere as “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” or “La Vigilia Di Natale.” This has been a tradition for many generations and dates back to ancient times in mostly southern Italy. As the Italian people immigrated to the United States in the early 1900’s, they carried on their traditions with them.

The essence of the celebration is that seven different kinds of fish are served at Christmas Eve dinner and definitely no meat is eaten. The refraining of eating meat or milk products on Fridays and specific holy days is a tradition and was observed by eating fish, usually fried in oil. Some Italian American families have been known to celebrate with 9, 12, or 13 different seafood dishes. (depending upon what region in Italy your family came from) This is to commemorate the wait, for the midnight birth of the infant Jesus.

There are many speculations for what the number “7” represents. Seven is the most repeated number in the Bible and appears over 700 times. One popular theory is the number represents completion. For example, “By the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” However, there are many other popular theories. Many people say that the number represents the seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.

And while the ancient tradition seems to be dying out with the older generation, many families are trying to keep the feast going strong. They may not do all seven of the fish’s, but they do prepare fish that the family will enjoy to eat. In my family, when I was young, we did the “7” fishes years ago, when my grandmother and aunts were still with us. But sadly to say that we try to do at least a few, to give the young children a sense of what tradition was many years ago. Who knows. Maybe when they grow up and have their own families they will continue the tradition of “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” Some of the fish dishes that are traditional and popular are, Baccala, baked or deep fried Cod, Shrimp, Scallops, Fried Smelts, Insalata di mare,--(seafood salad) Linguine with Anchovy, Clams, Lobster, Marinated Eel, Octopus salad, Oysters, Scungilli, Fried Calamari, Lobsters, and Whiting.

Day 12, of “The 12 Days of Christmas” is finally here. You have made it through all 12 days! I hope that you enjoyed your journey and learned some delicious new recipes. So, as my last recipe for "Christmas Eve Italian Style", I would love to share a very festive dish called “Italian Baked Stuffed Clams.” May your Christmas be Merry and your food be heavenly.

Italian Baked Stuffed Clams Recipe

24 cherrystone clams
Salt & pepper to taste
4 sprigs of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of butter
Juice of 1 lemon

Scrub and open clams, leaving clam on one half of the shell. Chop garlic, parsley, and scallions together. Add bread crumbs mixed with grated cheese, butter, and salt & pepper, to taste. Blend until smooth. Spread equal amounts of mixture over each clam. Pour a little lemon juice over each. Bake in 475° F oven for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Yield: serves 4 (recipe from: All Fish Seafood

Till Next Time……….

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