Christmas Eve Feast of 7 Fish Recipe Roundup

Fish Market, Ortigia Sicily
Fish Market, Ortigia Sicily

I’ll be with family and friends for Christmas. Our Neapolitan family tradition is to prepare a 7-fish Christmas Eve dinner, La Festa dei Sette Pesci.

Seven fish unless I’m with the Sicilian branch of the family, then it’s 13!

I hope you will be with the ones you love too.

Here’s a collection of my fish dishes that you can make for all your friends and family around your Christmas Eve dinner table to enjoy.

Buon Natale! Happy Holidays!

All in One

Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Cioppino, 7 fish stew, a delicious San Francisco treat

If you want all 7 fish in one pot make cioppino, the San Francisco fish stew treat.

This is my go-to recipe if I want to make something fast and easy for the guests around my table. All 7 fish are cooked in one pot. A hunk of grilled bread scraped with garlic and you’re good to go.

The hardest part of cioppino is the trip to your fishmonger. You can have cioppino on your table in about 30 minutes.

Antipasto Picks

If a 3 or 4-course feast is what you have in mind make these dishes for an antipasto course, many ready in less than a half-hour.

Rice balls with shrimp in the center & a spicy dipping sauce
Rice balls with shrimp in the center & a spicy dipping sauce

Arancini, everybody loves rice balls. They are a perennial favorite at my table.

They come in many different shapes with various fillings.

This version is from my friends at North Beach’s da Flora restaurant.

The arborio rice has shrimp hidden in the middle of the crispy orb. Eat these arancini with or without the aioli. But if you don’t make the dipping sauce you’ll be missing a real treat.

 

Crispy, tender fried calamari with spicy vinegar pepper confetti
Crispy, tender fried calamari with spicy vinegar pepper confetti

You gotta be careful with this one. Often my fried calamari never makes it to the table. Everyone gathers in the kitchen around the stove and grabs a tender fried ring or crunchy tentacle as soon as they come out of the hot oil. If that happens to you make sure you quickly sprinkle some sea salt on the calamari as they drain on paper towel.

If the fried calamari survive poaching in the kitchen make sure that you get them to the table while they are hot out of the oil. That’s the way to maximize your enjoyment.

Succulent mussels & clams quickly steamed in a  flavorful broth
Succulent mussels & clams quickly steamed in a flavorful broth

How about some steamed mussels & clams ready in about 10 minutes?

Be sure to pick out the heavy clams & mussels with tightly closed shells.

This is a quick dish. The hardest part is scrubbing the shells prior to cooking.

You can serve up a big bowl and let your guests help themselves.

Just make sure that everyone gets at least one slice of the grilled bread. Dunking the bread in the sauce is my favorite bite.

Halibut and potato fish cakes
Halibut and potato fish cakes

My Mom made her fish cakes with baccala. If you don’t have time to soak dried salted cod for 3 days use fresh cod or halibut.

You can make the fish cakes ahead of time and heat them in the oven just before serving.

A bonus with the fish cakes, a recipe for grilled trumpet mushrooms and another for pickled carrots.

 

Mussels with a hot tomato sauce and twice-baked bread
Mussels with a hot tomato sauce and twice-baked bread

Mussels with a spicy tomato sauce is a real crowd-pleaser. This is my Dad’s recipe.

Some of my nephews insist that I make these mussels any time we’re together. My Dad always made them when they visited.

That was nearly a half-century ago. It warms my heart that I can revive those moments gone by.

Be sure to have extra twice-baked bread. Everyone wants more than one piece.

Primo Piatto (The First Course)

Dungeness Crab
Spaghetti with spicy Dungeness crab

It’s crab season in San Francisco. Dungeness crabs are always an important part of our holiday meal in the Bay Area.

They’re big and tender this year and the price isn’t bad either. Use your favorite crab if you can’t get dungeness.

Here’s a recipe with a spicy tomato sauce that doesn’t overwhelm the sweet tender Dungeness crab. A marriage made in heaven.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Onions & Anchovies

Spaghetti with onions and anchovies is a simple dish that packs intense flavor in every bite.

The nutty flavor of the whole wheat pasta really takes this dish over the top.

Be sure you get a quality imported Italian whole wheat spaghetti or other long pasta for this dish.

With a few ingredients the pasta has to be the star. No mushy hippie whole wheat pasta will do.

Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce
Strozzapreti pasta and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce

Strozzapreti and prawns in a roasted red bell pepper sauce is beautiful to behold and an elegant addition to your holiday table.

Roast the peppers ahead to save you some cooking time on Christmas Eve.

You can make it in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.

 

 

Another quick preparation for a busy night, spaghetti with clams.

Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples
Spaghetti with Clams from the Bay of Naples

A Neapolitan favorite, you can’t go wrong with this pasta.

Long strands of spaghetti with clams in a spicy garlic sauce. It’s a little bit of heaven.

Put on a big pot of well-salted water to boil. Steam the clams in the spicy broth while the pasta is cooking.

The clams will have opened and the sauce will be waiting as you pull the spaghetti out of the boiling water to finish cooking in the clam sauce.

 

Secondo Piatto (Main Course)

Petrale Sole in a Caper White Wine Butter Sauce
Petrale Sole in a Caper White Wine Butter Sauce

Sole is one of my favorite fish.

It’s easy to work with and has a delicate flavor.

Sole with capers is really easy. Saute the filets and make the sauce right in the same pan.

The delicate Petrale sole has a crispy crust with a moist flaky interior.

The capers perk up the sole. The light buttery sauce ties it all together.

 

Crispy quick-fried shrimp with a squeeze of lemon
Crispy quick-fried shrimp with a squeeze of lemon

 

Nothing easier and tastier than quick-cooked shrimp.

Shrimp on the east coast, prawns here in the Bay Area.

The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the shrimp.

Once that’s done the shrimp are ready in less than 10 minutes.

I take that back, the hardest part of this recipe is not eating them all up as they drain on paper towel.

To augment your main course choose from my collection of vegetable side dishes on my website or those in my Vegetable Recipes eBook. It’s my holiday gift.

Halibut roasted with cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives
Halibut roasted with cherry tomatoes, potatoes and olives

But if you want your fish, veggies and starch all in one go make my halibut roasted in parchment is the one for you.

Use halibut, cod or your favorite fish.

The halibut is wrapped in parchment or foil with the potatoes, tomatoes and olives so you get it all.

Drizzle some olive oil and dry white wine over the fish and vegetables and when you open the pouch you have a  complete plate for your table. Quick, easy and oh so flavorful.

Dolci

Crispy cannoli shells with a sweet ricotta filling studded with chocolate and candied citrus
Crispy cannoli shells with a sweet ricotta filling studded with chocolate and candied citrus

For these holiday meals we often buy some of our favorite pastries to end the meal. If you have the time make cannoli.

But if you want something homemade and light make strufoli, little fried dough balls in a honey glaze sprinkled with colorful holiday confetti. Another traditional sweet is to end your meal on a traditional holiday note is cenci, those delicate bow-ties. Be careful, the powdered sugar doesn’t get on you.

Buon Natale! Buon Appetito!

 

 

Cioppino: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco

Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Cioppino Video: Christmas Eve Stew of Seven Fishes from San Francisco
Learn to cook Cioppino.

Don’t miss the next new video recipe. Please subscribe now to my YouTube channel.

So how did I choose to do a recipe for the traditional San Francisco Cioppino stew for this Christmas Eve video?

We wanted to do a new episode for the traditional southern Italian Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner. I didn’t have time to cook seven separate fish dishes because I was hosting a holiday dinner for my office-mates the afternoon of the shoot.

I mentioned my dilemma when preparing Thanksgiving dinner with the Virginia branch of the family. “We were lazy last year,” my nephew confessed. “We just made a 7-fish cioppino.”

Problem solved. Cioppino, the famous fish stew invented down on Fisherman’s Wharf by the immigrant fishermen from Liguria and Sicily is just the quick and easy dish I need for a busy day in the kitchen with the cameras rolling.

The local tale is that when the boats were all in a big cauldron was put over a fire to cook the tomato broth. After selling their catch, the fisherman one by one would bring whatever fish were leftover on their boat. They “chipped in” and the dish they all shared on the wharf got its name. More likely the name is derived from the classic Ligurian dialect for the fish stew found around Genoa,  “ciuppin”.

This is an easy no mess recipe. Everything cooks in one pot. You can have cioppino on your table in way less than an hour. The briny seafood swims in a sweet rich San Marzano tomato bath. My favorite bite is dunking my garlic bread in the brothy sea-scented sauce.

Make sure you have plenty of napkins for your guests. You will get a little messy eating the crab and shrimp still in the shell.

If you want to make cioppino easier to eat take all of the fish out of the shells before serving. I like it best the messy way. I just love to scoop up some broth in each mussel and clam shell “spoon”. Any leftovers make a fabulous sauce for linguine.

If you want to cook 7 different fish dishes for your Christmas Eve dinner make some of my favorites. Choose from 11 fish recipes.

How about a luscious pork roast for Christmas or New Year’s dinner? I made it for my office holiday gathering. The butterflied loin is smathered with a rosemary and sage paste that infuses its flavor into the mellow pork while roasting in the oven.

I served the porchetta with potatoes roasted with rosemary and sea salt and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil and broccoli rabe sautéed in garlic-infused olive oil.

Make this fabulous porchetta dinner for your friends and family this holiday season.

Buon appetito! Happy Holidays! Treasure your time with family and friends at your table.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cioppino Recipe: A San Francisco Treat for Christmas Eve
 
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Cioppino is the classic San Francisco fish stew invented by Italian fisherman immigrants when the boats came in for the day. An easy and delicious dish for a very special meal.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 steamed dungeness crab, cleaned and cracked
  • 6 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 6 clams, scrubbed
  • 6 prawns or shrimp in the shell
  • 6 scallops
  • ½ pound calamari
  • ½ pound halibut or your favorite firm-flesh fish (sorry I called it haddock in the video)
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO, plus some to drizzle on top before serving
  • 1 small onion, halved and cut in thirds
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch pieces
  • half a fennel bulb, cut in thirds
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand or pureed
  • 2 big sprigs of basil
  • 2 sprigs of Italian flat parsley, plus some chopped to sprinkle on top before serving
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • (slices of sourdough bread to grill, optional)
  • (1/2 cup of polenta to feed the clams & mussels, optional)
Instructions
  1. Put the mussels and clams in a big bowl of cold salted water and top with a ¼ cup of polenta.
  2. Let sit for 30 minutes stirring once in a while to distribute the polenta over the shellfish. The clams and mussels eat the polenta and any sand inside the shell will be expelled.
  3. (Simple bread rubbed with garlic is a must have when you're eating the cioppino. Slice sour dough bread and toast 1 or 2 slices per person in a grill pan. Put some weight on the slices to ensure they get grill marks. Toast the other side. Rub with garlic and sprinkle with EVOO. Set aside.)
  4. Take the clams and mussels out of the polenta bath and wash them well. Debeard the mussels if necessary. Set aside.
  5. Leave the prawns in the shell. Cut down the middle of the back and remove the dark vein. Set the prawns aside.
  6. Cut the calamari tubes into one inch bands. If the tentacles are very large cut them in half.
  7. Leave the fish fillet whole.
  8. Put the EVOO and garlic in a large enamel pot over medium-high heat.
  9. Toss the garlic in the oil to release its flavor but don't let it take on any color, about 1 minute.
  10. Add the onions, fennel, red bell pepper, bay leaf and red pepper flakes to the pot. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  11. Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.
  12. Over medium-high heat add the tomatoes and stir well.
  13. Add the basil, parsley and oregano.
  14. Cook the sauce until you reach the desired thickness. The volume should reduce by a third.
  15. First add the clams and mussels to the pot and give them a 2-minute head start.
  16. Next add the fish fillet, scallops, shrimp, calamari and prawns. Cover the pot and let it rapidly simmer for about 5 minutes.
  17. Then add the steamed crab and give the pot a good stir.
  18. Cook until the mussels and clams open, about another 4 minutes or so. Discard any mussels or clams that do not open.
  19. Put the cioppino in a large serving bowl.
  20. Top with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of a good finishing olive oil.
  21. Serve immediately with the grilled garlic sour dough bread to dunk in the sauce.
  22. Serves 4-6

 

Grilled Swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

Grilled swordfish with Samarglio Sauce
Grilled swordfish with Salmoriglio Sauce

The Sicilian summer heat came early one morning.

Rows of fish packed on ice sparkled in the morning sun as we searched the open-air fish market for the perfect catch for dinner.

I almost bumped into this guy in the picture below swinging a long stick with neon orange plastic strips on the end to keep the flies moving.

With this heat we’d cook on the grill when we got back to our house in Ortigia on the Ionian coast.

We settled on 1-inch steaks cut from a huge swordfish just out of the sea.

To finish the dish I made Salmoriglio, a light uncooked sauce with fresh oregano and parsley, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and garlic popular throughout southern Italy and perfect for grilled swordfish steaks.

Mix up a batch as you get the fire going. I takes about 5 minutes to make the sauce. Let it sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors meld.

Lightly brush the sauce over both sides of the swordfish steaks and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Grill the steaks over medium coals or medium-high heat in a grill pan. Grill the first side giving them a quarter turn halfway through to create the hatched grill marks, about 4 minutes total. Finish them quickly on the second side so that they are still moist and tender when you take them off the grill, about 3 minutes more.

Put the swordfish on a plate and drizzle with the Salmoriglio sauce. Put the extra salmoriglio in a sauce bowl so you guests can add more if they want.

The firm and moist swordfish steak is smoky from the grill. The fresh oregano and parsley are front and center in the clean and light lemon and olive oil sauce with garlic and hot red pepper in the background. A wonderful combination that lets the fresh briny swordfish shine.

I couldn’t stop eating this one.

Buon appetito!

Salmoriglio Sauce
 
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Quick grilled swordfish steaks with a light olive oil, lemon, garlic and fresh parsley & oregano sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried chili flakes or a small hot red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Sicilian Open Air Fish Market

Chicken with Olives, Capers & Lemon

Chicken "poached" in extra virgin olive oil, olives, capers and lemon.
Chicken “poached” in extra virgin olive oil, olives, capers and lemon.

Here’s a really simple dish from Naples for those times when you really don’t feel like cooking.

The recipe works well with chicken or with fish. It’s pollo (or pesce) con olive, capperi e limone.

You see this combination celebrating meaty olives, zesty capers & puckery citrus in many recipes from Campania. The cooking method is what sets this one apart. It’s a riff on “poaching”.

Just put extra virgin olive oil, the olives, capers and lemon juice in a big saute pan. Let it sizzle. Layer the chicken (or fish) atop the olives and capers and cook for less than 10 minutes.

I added escarole sauteed in garlic and dried chili infused olive oil to the plate. You’ll be eating a very healthy dinner in way less than 30 minutes.

The velvety chicken is moist and tender. The pan sauce adds color and a zesty citrus, briny finish to each bite.

Buon appetito!

Chicken with Olives, Capers & Lemon
 
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Just cook the chicken (or fish) atop a bed of green olives, capers and lemon for less than 10 minutes. Serve the tender moist chicken topped with the zesty pan sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in chunky pieces (or fish fillets).
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup pitted olives, roughly chopped (I use big fat green cerignola olives)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
Instructions
  1. Mix the olive oil, olives capers and lemon juice in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a heavy-bottomed saute pan.
  2. Over medium-low heat slowly bring the mixture to a gentle sizzle.
  3. Arrange the chicken pieces (or fish fillets) in a single layer. Cook in batches if necessary.
  4. Cook the chicken until fully cooked, about 4 minutes on the first side and about 3 minutes on the other side. I cover the pan for about half of the cooking time for each side. (Depending on the thickness of the fish fillets cook a minute or 2 on the first side and about a minute on the second side.)
  5. Sprinkle the chicken or fish with the chopped parsley.
  6. Taste the pan sauce and add some salt if necessary.
  7. Put the chicken or fish on a serving platter and pour the pan sauce with the olives and capers on top.
  8. Serve immediately.

 

Stay Healthy–Eat Italian

Campo di Fiori Produce Market in Rome
Campo di Fiori Produce Market in Rome

You may have seen the news reports about the Mediterranean diet study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

People who eat lots of beans, nuts, fish, vegetables and fruits, use extra virgin olive oil and drink wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart disease and other medical problems.

In Italia, you’ll find locally grown, seasonal produce markets in every city neighborhood and town. Campo di Fiori is one of the most famous. I shop it often when staying in the historical center of Rome.

Italians cherish fresh produce. They eat fish often. Nuts often end a meal. Extra virgin olive oil is an Italian kitchen staple. Meat is eaten in moderation.

Italians eat most of of their food at the midday meal. Supper is a simple, light meal.

I get a lot of exercise every day in Italia, including a delightful passagata or stroll after the evening meal. I’ll be enjoying the local bounty in Italia soon. I’ll share what I cook in Rome and Naples with you.

I try to maintain an Italian diet here in North Beach. Luckily I have ample access to local, seasonal vegetables, fruit, and locally caught seafood. Beans and grains are a significant part of my diet. And, I always use extra virgin olive oil except when frying.

Adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle and you’ll never need another diet scheme to lose weight or stay healthy. Eat Italian. It’s delicious and it’s good for you. Try this simple vegetable recipe and fish recipe to get a taste for yourself.

Here’s the New York Times article and a link to the Journal report.

Buon appetito!

Farro with Tuna & Tomato

Farro with Tuna and Tomato
Farro with Tuna and Tomato

Farro is the new kitchen darling. A few years ago most people didn’t know anything about this nutty, nutritious ancient grain. I just love it.

I usually make cold farro salads of one kind or another. But, here’s a delicious hot dish that you can serve as a first or main course.

Farro is easy to make. Cook farro as you do rice or barley. Dress it up like pasta and it’s ready to enjoy. Fast and easy.

This dish is from Puglia, the southern Italian region on the Adriatic.

The nutty, toothsome farro is enrobed in a sweet tomato sauce flavored by briny cured tuna and capers. The red pepper flakes add a hot sparkle at the end of every bite.

Want a break from pasta? Make farro.

Buon appetito!

Farro with Tuna, Tomatoes & Capers
 
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Farro dressed with a cured tuna, tomato and caper sauce, a wonderful mix of farm and sea. Easy to make and full of zesty, nutty flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound (500 grams) farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-ounce canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Rinse the farro and drain in a strainer.
  2. Put the farro in a pot with 5 cups of water, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of EVOO
  3. Over medium-high bring to a boil and stir occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and let the farro simmer with the lid ajar.
  5. Cook until the farro is tender stirring occasionally.
  6. If the water is not absorbed, pour it out and remove the bay leaf. Put the cover on the pot and put the farro aside.
  7. Pour 3 tablespoons of EVOO in a pot or large skillet.
  8. Add the garlic slices and the pepper flakes.
  9. Saute until the garlic starts to take on some color, about 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt and the capers.
  11. Heat to a slow boil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
  12. Drain the tuna and put it in a bowl.
  13. Flake it into large pieces and add it to the tomatoes. Stir well.
  14. Cook for 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are reduced and thicker.
  15. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
  16. Add the farro to the pot and stir well into the tomatoes.
  17. Cook until the farro is heated through.
  18. Add the chopped parsley and stir well with the farro.
  19. Serve immediately.

 

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)

Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar
Savory Fritters with Anchovy & Sweet Fritters with Powdered Sugar

Frying is an important Neapolitan cooking technique practiced by generations of southern Italian-Americans.

One of my fans wrote that he continues his wife’s grandmother’s Christmas tradition by making savory fried fritters with an anchovy filet in the middle for the family to enjoy every year. I was inspired to fry up some.

Savory or sweet, I ate a lot of these fried dough balls growing up in Jersey. We’d crowd around the stove as my Mom pulled the golden orbs out of the frying pot to drain on a big brown paper bag and grabbed one as soon as she set them down. I get some anytime I’m on the east coast and I make them often in my kitchen.

Besides their proper name, pasta cresciuta, southern Italian-Americans in Jersey call these fried fritters zeppole. The fried dough is omnipresent at Italian street fairs dusted with powdered sugar.

In Rhode Island they dust them with powdered sugar and call them doughboys. Mix fresh chopped clams into the risen batter and Rhode Islanders call them clamcakes. When I’m in Point Judith I devour Iggy’s clamcakes with a bowl of chowder and finish the meal with a couple of doughboys for dessert.

I love frying and I’ve been doing a lot of it over the holidays. Frying is a quick cooking method that requires your full attention and you’ll get better at it over time. Just be patient and make sure that the oil in your frying pot is always at 375 degrees.

I like both savory and sweet pasta cresciuta. On the savory side, I enjoy mixing in chopped anchovies, chopped squash blossoms or chopped fresh clams after the batter rises. On the sweet side, I just fry up the fritters and shower them with confectioner’s sugar. The irregular golden fritters have a crispy exterior and are light and airy inside.

Pasta cresciuta should be eaten hot out of the oil, as soon as they drain a bit. The fritters don’t hold up well and are not not as tasty when reheated.

These fried yeast fritters are very different from sweet custard filled zeppole enjoyed in Campania, the region around Naples. Watch me make zeppole di San Giuseppe where I fry some and bake some.

But be forewarned, the cooked dough in the zeppole di San Giuseppe episode is not the same as the batter I use in this recipe. The one I use here is an uncooked batter that resembles a very loose or wet pizza dough.

Here are a couple of my other favorites that I fried up this holiday season, struffoli and calamari, one sweet and one savory.

Happy frying. Buon appetito!

Fried Fritters (Pasta Cresciuta)
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2½ teaspoons yeast (one package)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • Safflower or your favorite frying oil
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, using a fork or whisk dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of warm water (about 100 degrees), mix in a ½ cup of flour and let it stand for about 15 minutes until it starts to bubble up.
  2. Add the remaining 1½ cup of warm water and the salt and mix well.
  3. Add ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  4. When the flour is well incorporated add another ½ cup of flour to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Add the last ½ cup of flour a little at the time and mix well. You may not have to use it all. You want to end up with a soft, smooth dough that is on the wet side and very elastic.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour until the batter is bubbling and double in volume.
  7. (If your making savory fritters, add chopped fresh clams, chopped anchovy or chopped squash blossoms to the bowl and mix them well into the batter.)
  8. Heat about 3 inches of oil in a deep wide pot or cast iron skillet to 375 degrees. (I use a candy thermometer hung on the side of the pot to ensure the oil stays at 375 degrees while frying.)
  9. Drop an overflowing tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil. Add more tablespoons of batter to the oil but don't overcrowd the pot.
  10. Move the fritters around so they have plenty of room to fry.
  11. When the bottom side of the fritters frying on top of the oil start to turn golden, flip them over and fry the other side.
  12. When the fitters are golden all over drain the fritters on paper towel.
  13. Dust sweet fritters with powdered sugar and savory fritters with a sprinkle of sea salt and serve immediately.

 

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year’s Eve Menu

Dungeness Crab Salad
Dungeness Crab Salad

San Franciscans love dungeness crab this time of year. The crabs are big and meaty this season. I’m making a celebratory dungeness salad with celery and shallot, EVOO and Meyer lemon.

The lemon perks up the briny sweetness of the crab bathed in mellow olive oil. The celery and shallot add a background crunch to the crab salad. Simple and sinful.

If your have steamed, cleaned and cracked crab the salad is done in 10 minutes. Use the recipe below and put a celebratory crab salad on your table. Add fried calamari and giardiniera and your antipasti is complete.

Lentil soup with cotechino is a traditional New Year’s Eve first course. It brings you good luck in the new year. The dish full of tiny lentils represents the coins you will amass in the new year and the fat boiled sausage your impending opulence.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the New Year’s Eve dinner menu I posted the other day. Something was amiss. As often happens I found inspiration in the market.

There it was, a beautiful boneless leg of veal roast sitting in the display case at Little City Meats. The roast with a zesty spinach stuffing will be the anchor of my meal. I’ll post this recipe soon.

I’m all set for New Year’s Eve dinner at my place. Are you?

Except for the Prosecco, we’re drinking some nice California reds.

Buon Capo d’Anno! Happy New Year! Buon appetito!

Gianni’s New Year’s Eve Dinner Menu

Antipasti

Calimari fritti. Fried calamari served with vinegar pepper confetti.

Fresh dungeness crab salad with celery, shallot, EVOO and fresh Meyer lemon (recipe below).

Giardiniera

Zeppole. (fried savory, light doughnuts with anchovies)

Prosecco, a sparkling dry wine from the Veneto in northern Italia

Primo Piatto

Lentil soup with cotechino

Pinot Noir, Beulieu Vineyard, Carmeros Reserve, Napa, 2007

Secondo Piatto

Leg of Veal Roast with spinach stuffing

Roasted spaghetti squash

Cabernet Sauvignon, Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, Ivory Label, Napa, 2010

Dessert

Sfogliatelle (crispy Neapolitan pastries filled with sweet ricotta)

A sip or two of my homemade limoncello and my strawberry liqueur

Italian still and sparkling bottled waters throughout the meal

Celebration Crab Salad on My New Year's Eve Menu
 
A fresh clean taste of the sea, dungeness crab salad with shallot and celery,
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 steamed dungeness crab
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 shallot
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Steam the crab or buy steamed, cracked crab at the market. (Blue crab or boiled shrimp can be substituted for the dungeness crab.) Put the crab meat in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Clean and crack the crab. Pull out out all of the meat leaving the pieces as intact as possible.
  3. Cut the celery in very thin slices.
  4. Squeeze the lemon juice in a small bowl.
  5. Mince the shallot and add to the lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 minutes to mellow its flavor.
  6. Add the EVOO and whisk well.
  7. Pour the dressing over the crabmeat.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  9. Roughly chop the parsley and add to the crabmeat. Mix well.
  10. Put the crab salad on a serving dish and serve chilled.
  11. Serves 4-6.

 

Christmas Eve Seven Fish Feast

Fish Market Ortigia Sicily
Fish Market, Ortigia, Sicily

Cena di Vigilia (Christmas Eve meal) is a Neapolitan tradition.

I’m cooking with my friend Susan in her New Jersey kitchen. Along with her brother Joe, we’ll prepare our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner for 20 friends.

I’ll miss the dungeness crab this year. The San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf crabbers are back after a brief strike over wholesale prices. I’ve eaten some since the crabs came back on the market last week so I think I can survive without them on Christmas Eve. If you’re in town buy some crab. They’re fresh, big and meaty.

Create your own Cena di Viglia with these recipes and an extra fried shrimp recipe too. I’ll definitely be frying up some calamari and shrimp for my Jersey Christmas Eve.

Buon Natale e buon appetito!

Crispy Succulent Shrimp (Gamberi Fritti)

When I was a kid on a steamy summer Friday night in Jersey, fried fish was one of my favorite dinners. My Mom lightly dredged an array of fish in flour and quickly fried them in olive oil. We ate the fish hot out of the oil with just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt.

I liked the crispy sweet shrimp the best. I’d grab one from the stove and shove the whole thing in my mouth. If I tried to get another my Mom always shooed me away. “Save some for the table!”

The fat white Gulf prawns at the fishmonger this morning were just right for today’s lunch. I’m eating at least a half dozen with abandon.

A quick meal with the pristine taste of the sea. Fry the shrimp and serve them hot out of the oil with a squeeze of lemon. The shrimp are paired here with my version of panzanella, a summer tomato and bread salad. Just add a bottle of crisp, chilled pinot grigio to the table and eat.

Fry up your favorite fish as well. I really like a nice piece of fried sole. You can quickly fry up some squid too, as I did in my calamari fritti video.

Buon appettito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:99]

North Beach Italian Restaurant List

Two of Many Green Street Restaurants

I found a Yelp list of North Beach Italian restaurants listed 1 to 50. Actually there aren’t 50 places. Some are listed more than once and a couple have closed. Before you get to the list and all of the comments I can’t help adding my updates and observations about North Beach restaurants with links to a few recent posts. I even threw in recipes from 2 of my favorite restaurants on the list.

La Felce is closed. It’s now Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Pulcinella closed but Tony will soon launch Capos featuring Chicago deep-dish pizza in that space. A total renovation down to the studs is moving at a rapid pace. Large black and white photos of infamous Chicagoans like Al Capone and an Art Deco bar with a vintage cash register from Chicago are part of new interior mix. Then there’s that mural found behind a wall during the renovation. The oil on canvas mural that captures Vallejo Street in all its 50s glory will be re-installed. I can’t wait to see the new space and eat a deep-dish pizza.

The list includes some of my favorite places like BaoNecci and da Flora where I hosted private dinners. da Flora’s chef Jen McMahon shared her arancini recipe with us. A star at the Tuscan dinner at BaoNecci was Stefania’s Ribollita vegetable soup. I was able to coax the recipe out of her after the dinner.

Ten on the list are included in my North Beach walking tour. Sotto Mare is one of them. I’ll tell you what I think of the others too and let you know my favorite North Beach places for souffles, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, po’boys and more.

North Beach is on fire. A new place just opened last weekend. Don’t miss out. Visit our Village soon. I’m sure you’ll find a good place to eat. Here’s the Yelp list of North Beach Italian restaurants.

New Year’s Eve Menu

Cotechino
Cotechino with Lentils (Image from Cellartours.com)

Still recovering from a wonderful Christmas? Rest up and get ready for New Year’s Eve.

We eat late on New Year’s Eve so that at the end of the meal we can flow right into the midnight ball drop. I minimize my time in the kitchen so here’s a simple menu to maximize your time with friends and family.

Cioppino is a traditional New Year’s Eve dish among North Beach Italian-Americans. I’m combining it with a traditional Italian dish for good fortune in the new year, lentils with Cotechino or roasted Italian sausages.

A glass of Prosecco, the light Italian bubbly, gets things moving in the right direction as your guests arrive.

Start with some antipasti. Keep it simple, maybe some prosciutto di parma with fresh mozzarella drizzled with a great finishing EVOO, or soppressata salami and young pecorino. Scatter some olives around the plate and you’re done. My giardiniera or sweet vinegar peppers make an nice addition to this antipasti platter and my celery mostarda (relish) is always a hit.

Serve the lentils and sausges as your primo piatto, your first course. You can make this dish ahead and just heat it before serving. Make sure you have some good crusty bread on the table to soak up the broth. A fruity, dry red goes well with this dish, a Dolcetto d’Alba or Nero d’Avalo pairs nicely.

For the main course, cioppino is really easy to make so you won’t be away from the party for long. It’s a great fish stew from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf all cooked in a single pot, less than 30 minutes start to finish. The sour dough bread is a must have with this delicious dish from the sea. I like a Chianti Classico with the fish in a zesty tomato sauce.

For dessert, affogato, a scoop of vanilla gelato showered with a shot of espresso. This is the ultimate simple dessert and the espresso will help you make it to the ball drop.

It never hurts to have a panettone around. The sweet dome bread is studded with candied citrus and raisins. If you have any left over it makes great french toast the next morning.

I’m feeling generous as 2011 draws to a close, so here’s another menu suggestion for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

Crab is in season and they are heavy and meaty this year. Get one live or steamed from your fishmonger and cook the picked crab in a spicy tomato sauce over linguine. A nice start to the meal.

How about a roast?

My porchetta (roasted pork loin stuffed with herbs) with sauteed escarole and truffle roasted potatoes is a celebratory meal. If you want something really quick try my simple roast pork tenderloin or my roast beef studded with garlic and parsley.

Get my free Italian vegetable eBook and pick the side dishes you want to enjoy.

Felice Anno Nuovo! Happy New Year!

 

Holidays in America

Lidia Bastianich, Holidays in America
Lidia Bastianich, Holidays in America
Lidia Bastianich. Photo by PBS.

Need a boost as the holidays near? I got one watching the first episode of PBS’ Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables and Traditions.

Lidia Bastianich explores holiday traditions that bring family and friends together at the table.  The show is a celebration of diversity and of the common human experience. If you missed it on TV catch it on the web. You’ll feel good.

The Mexican Christmas dinner with four generations of the Cortez family who own Mi Terra restaurant in San Antonio and Passover Seder with a New York City family and food maven Ruth Reichl are great. But my two favorites are the Feast of the Seven Fishes Lidia cooked in her kitchen with Stanley Tucci and the Chinese New Year meals here in San Francisco with Chinatown legend Shirley Fong-Torres.

I love Tucci’s insight into the role of food in Italian families. Shirley tells a fascinating story of how the Fong family from China became the Torres family in the Philipines and prospered in San Francisco.

Go shopping with Lidia and Mo Rocca on Arthur Avenue, “New York City’s Real Little Italy”. Explore the streets of San Franciso’s Chinatown and glimpse Shirley’s deep understanding of this great neighborhood.

There are some great recipes on the site too. If you need more recipes for your own Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes try some of mine.

Buon Natale!

Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes (Cena di Vigilia)

Arancini with aioli

UPDATE: There is now a video recipe for Cioppino, the simple and easy seven-fish San Francisco stew: WATCH NOW

Italian-American families have their favorite dishes for Christmas Eve fish dinner – some serve 7 fish (for the 7 sacraments or 7 virtues), some serve 10 (for the 10 stations of the cross) and others 13 fish (for Jesus and the 12 apostles). I serve 7 fishes not for the religious symbolism but to draw family and friends to the table to enjoy a great 3-course fish meal and each other during the holiday season.

When I was growing up my family ate fish because it was a Catholic rule, no meat on Christmas Eve. We loved this meal so much we still cook it many years after the meat ban was dropped by the Church. It’s a big part of my holiday tradition. You can catch some of my excitement in the video we just released. I fried up some squid.

If you want to eat some fish on Christmas Eve or any day of the year check out some of my fish posts from the past year. Cook one dish or a bunch at the same time. You’ll be eating well in any case.

Let’s see if we can get to 7 fish dishes. Your first one is Calamari Fritti above.

Continuing the antipasto (before the meal) theme, how about some steamed mussels and clams with a hunk of garlic bread for dunking in the broth? (Like the calamari fritti eat these as soon as they’re done.)

Cod fish cakes anyone? If I was serving the cakes with other dishes in the antipasto I’d make the cakes much smaller, almost bite size. (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)

Maybe arancini (fried rice balls) stuffed with bay shrimp and served with a spicy aioli? (You can make them ahead and warm them in the oven before serving.)

Here’s one that you can put out in the antipasto course or use as a secondo piatto (second course) dish. I always have to have some sole on Christmas Eve.

For the primo piatto (first course) linguine in a spicy crab tomato sauce.

Here’s a great secondo piatto (second course), halibut baked with roasted cherry tomatoes, potatoes and green olives. I like to roast the whole fish, a branzino or sea bass, using this recipe. Just put the herb(s) inside the fish otherwise follow the original recipe. Debone the fish before serving.

That’s 7, but hey, it’s the holidays so here are a few more: fried shrimp, sword fish with salmoriglio sauce and  shrimp with oregano and garlic, simply roasted in a hot oven; and baccala salad below.

Check out my free vegetable eBook for some ideas of sides to serve with these fish dishes. Buon Natale!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:78]

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:79]

 

Fried Calamari with Vinegar Pepper Confetti

Fried Calamari.

Fried squid (calamari fritti) is a quick antipasto that has to be eaten hot right out of the oil. Often my guests eat this first course in my kitchen standing around the hot stove. The calamari is crispy and tender. The vinegar pepper confetti adds a nice kick. The calamari is great on its own too with just a squeeze of lemon.

My friends and family always ask me to make calamari fritti. I make a big batch to enjoy as part of our Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner but you can have this delicious, fast dish anytime of the year.

No heavy batter here or breadcrumb coating to mask the taste of the calamari, just a light dusting of flour. No dipping sauces to get in the way either. Just enjoy the fresh, clean taste of the ocean.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:77]