Nov 25, 2012

"Feast of the Seven Fishes"

(Hawaiian Pink Snapper)
A dinner, in many ways, is much more than just a meal, it's a collaboration of food, loved ones, and tradition. 

A few years ago my wife and I invited a few friends (10) over for dinner on Christmas Eve. The house was all decorated and ready when the guests arrived, and naturally I was in the kitchen preparing the meal. 

The theme of the party was "The Feast of the Seven Fishes", which is a traditional Italian Christmas Eve celebration, consisting of seven, or more, different seafood dishes. You can use any fish recipe you like. Anyway, everyone sat down around the table as I brought out the courses one-by-one. Needless to say, everyone had plenty to eat, and the party was a success thanks to good friends and food. 

I am sharing those recipes with you in the hopes that you will enjoy the same experience. The important thing is to prepare well ahead of the party, gathering all of the components. If you wait until the last minute, especially during the holidays, you may not find the ingredients you need for these dishes. Here is the menu for the...

"Feast of the Seven Fishes"


Appetizer – “Aperitivo”
Mixed Marinated Vegetables Served with Char Broiled Scampi and Cuttlefish Salad

Soup – “Zuppa di Pesce” 
Tomato Based Fish Soup with Crab, Mussels and Clams, Served with Garlic Bread 
and Assorted Bread Sticks

Pasta – “Farfalle con gamberetti e piselli”
Pasta Bows with Shrimp, Peas, and Mushrooms

Fish – “Pesce”
Broiled Opakapaka (Pink Snapper) with Garlic, Tomatoes and Olives, 
Served Over Baked Polenta

Salad – “Insalata”
Romaine Salad with Capers, Roasted Red Peppers and Creamy Anchovy Dressing

Dessert – “Dolce”
Apricot Cherry Cobbler Served with Homemade Honey Ice Cream and Coconut Macaroons

Naturally, all of this, from beginning to end, was accompanied by good table wines and friends with large appetites.

Mixed Marinated Vegetables Served with Char Broiled Scampi 
and Cuttlefish Salad
Ingredients for marinated vegetables:
2 cauliflower
8 carrots
8 stalks celery
2 green peppers
2 red sweet peppers
15 green beans
3 cups wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
freshly ground pepper
1 cup or more pitted green or black olives
fresh Italian parsley and capers for garnish
2 jars marinated artichoke hearts

Wash cauliflower, cut into small flowerets, and slice the remainder. Peel the carrots and cut into 1 1/2-inch logs or diagonal slices. Wash and string the celery and slice diagonally. Wash, trim, and cut the peppers into strips. Wash, trim stem end and remove strings from green beans. In a saucepan, bring to a boil 1 cup water, the vinegar, oils, sugar, salt, oregano, and pepper to taste. Add the vegetables and olives. Cover the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, cool and refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley and capers. Marinated artichoke hearts may be added to serving platter. Makes 15 servings.

Crispy Cauliflower with Olives, Capers and Parsley
2 tablespoons Kalamata or black olives, finely chopped
1 teaspoon capers, drained and finely chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups cauliflower florets\cooked
1 tablespoon flat leaf or regular parsley, chopped

Combine first 3 ingredients and 2 Tbs. oil in a bowl. Heat remaining oil in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Cook cauliflower 10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Uncover skillet and sauté cauliflower another 5-10 minutes, until tender and browned. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and toss with olive mixture and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes approximately 4 cups.

Char-Broiled Scampi with Herbs
3 pounds large fresh shrimp - peeled and deveined with tails intact
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 cloves garlic - crushed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt

Combine olive oil and remaining ingredients in a large zip lock freezer bag; shake well; add shrimp, stirring gently; cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least 8 hours, stirring occasionally; remove shrimp from marinade, using a slotted spoon; reserve marinade; place shrimp on water soaked skewers; grill over medium hot coals 3 to 4 minutes on each side, basting frequently with marinade. DO NOT OVER COOK. Makes 8 servings.

Cuttlefish Salad
2 pounds fresh cleaned cuttlefish (whole)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 small clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons wine vinegar

Boil the cleaned cuttlefish in a pan of water with the vinegar for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Once the cuttlefish are cooked, remove them from the water and let them cool on a plate for 15 minutes. After they've cooled cut them into thin slices and put them in a bowl. Using a fork beat the oil with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the oil mixture to the cuttlefish along with garlic and parsley and then combine well. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve later.
Notes: This dish makes a good appetizer, you can serve in small plates on top a lettuce leaf. Makes 6-8 servings.

“Zuppa de Pesce”
Tomato Based Fish Soup with Crab, Mussels and Clams,
Served with Garlic Bread and Assorted Bread Sticks

2 pounds fish fillet*
1 cup onion -- chopped
1 cup celery -- chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper -- chopped
1 clove garlic -- minced
2 tablespoons oil
28 ounces canned tomatoes – un-drained
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 parsley -- chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon basil

Remove skin from filets & cut into 1 inch cubes. In a 5 quart pan, cook onions, celery, bell pepper & garlic in oil over medium heat until tender but not brown. Add tomatoes, broth, wine, parsley, salt, sugar & basil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add fish & cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Stir occasionally.
*Note: This recipe is for basic fish soup, however shellfish can be added for variety like crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, etc. Makes 6 servings.

Garlic Bread
2 loaves French bread
garlic powder
Italian seasoning or parsley
Parmesan cheese

Slice French bread, coat with mayonnaise, sprikle with garlic powder, Italian seasoning and or parsley and Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 300˚F oven for about 20 minutes, then lightly brown under broiler.

Olive Bread Sticks
8 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup olive paste*
2 egg whites
1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry thawed

*You may substitute a mixture of 1/2 cup pureed pitted Kalamata olive and 1 tablespoon olive oil for the olive paste.

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Grease a large baking or cookie sheet. In a medium bowl, combine feta cheese, parsley, olive paste, and egg whites. Unfold one of the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface, keeping the remaining pastry sheets in the refrigerator. Roll into a 14x16-inch rectangle with a floured rolling pin. Cut crosswise into halves. Spread half the olive mixture over one pastry half. Top with the remaining pastry half. Roll gently with a rolling pin to seal the layers together. Cut the pastry crosswise into 1/2-inch wide strips. Arrange the strips 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheet, twisting each strip 3 or 4 times. Bake approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed and light brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Repeat the process with the remaining puff pastry and remaining olive mixture. Serve at room temperature. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes approximately 56 bread sticks.

Creamy Phyllo Cheese Straws In Pesto
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 box phyllo dough, thawed
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
store-bought pesto, for dipping

Preheat oven to 375˚F. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, lightly beaten egg, Parmesan, and salt. Stir to combine. Spoon mixture into a plastic zip-top bag. Set aside. To use as a pastry bag, cut corner off bag to make a 1/4-inch diameter opening. Lay out thawed phyllo dough. Working quickly to keep dough from drying out: brush top sheet with melted butter, pipe cheese filling along long edge of phyllo 1/2-inch from each end. Fold over ends to seal in filling and roll up straw. Repeat with remaining sheets of phyllo and place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Serve warm with pesto for dipping. Makes 36 straws.

“Farfalle con gamberetti e piselli”
Bow-tie Pasta with Shrimp, Peas and Mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 pound shrimp, shelled
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 pound bow-tie pasta

Bring a large pan of water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly cook and stir mushrooms in the butter until tender. Mix in shrimp. Cook until pink, about 2 more minutes. Remove mushrooms and shrimp from saucepan and set aside. Reduce heat to low. Place flour in pan. Cook and stir approximately 2 minutes, then stir in chicken broth, heavy cream and pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened. Stir mushrooms, peas, shrimp and Parmesan cheese into the sauce mixture. Continue cooking 2-3 minutes. Add approximately 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook for about 8 -10 minutes. Drain the pasta when it is al dente. Add it to the pan with the sauce. Stir over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, coating the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs and more cheese and serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Broiled Opakapaka (Hawaiian Pink Snapper) with Garlic, Tomatoes and Olives, Served Over Baked Polenta
4 x 4-oz opakapaka fillets (Hawaiian pink snapper)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 can sliced tomatoes
3 tablespoons garted Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil or parsely

Thaw snapper, if frozen. Rinse and pat dry. Spray a 10x6x2" baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. In a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, chives or green onion, and Worcestershire sauce. Spread mayonnaise mixture over fish fillets. Saute onion and add to baking dish with sliced tomatoes to cover bottom of dish. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add fish over top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, in a 450˚F oven for 12-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve over baked polenta (recipe follows). Garnish with freshly chopped basil or parsley. Makes 4 Servings.

Polenta Baked with Cheese
1/3 cup butter
cooked polenta, made with 2 cups cornmeal
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup mozzarella or sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into thin slices
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Stir a third of the butter into the cooked polenta. Sprinkle a work surface with a little water. Spread the polenta out onto the surface in a layer 1/2 inch thick. Allow to cool. Cut the polenta into 2 1/2 in rounds. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan with 1 tbsp of the remaining butter. Add the onions, and stir over low heat until soft. Season the onions with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an oven proof dish. Spread a few of the onions slices in the bottom of the dish. Cover with a layer of polenta rounds. Dot with butter. Add a layer of the sliced mozzarella or Cheddar, and a sprinkling of parsley and Parmesan or Romano. Season with salt and pepper. Make another layer of the onions, and continue the layers in order, ending with the cheese. Dot the top with butter. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Serve from the baking dish. Makes 4-6 servings.

Romaine Salad with Capers, Roasted Red Peppers 
and Creamy Anchovy Dressing
3 large cloves garlic
8 anchovies, rinsed to remove oil and salt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons blue cheese
16 cups 1-inch pieces romaine lettuce
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 soft-cooked egg, boiled only 1 1/4 minutes
1/2 cup capers
4 roasted red peppers, sliced

In food processor, mince whole garlic cloves; add anchovies. Finely chop. Add mustard, Worcestershire, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, pepper, grated Parmesan, blue cheese and egg; process until smooth and thick. This dressing will keep in refrigerator for days. In bowl, toss lettuce and dressing. Top with capers, roasted red pepper slices and remaining Parmesan cheese. Makes 10 servings.

Apricot Cherry Cobbler with Honey Ice Cream 
and Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzles
Ingredients for filling:
1 1/2 pound fresh apricots, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
7 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Ingredients for topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

To make filling, toss all filling ingredients together in a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate and let stand until juicy, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.

To make topping, sift together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk with a fork just until combined (do not over mix). Drop rounded tablespoons of dough over filling, leaving spaces in between to allow topping to expand. Sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake cobbler in middle of oven until fruit is tender and topping is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly, about 15 minutes, and serve warm with honey ice cream (recipe follows). Note: Other fruit may be added to the cobbler like canned cherries. Makes 4 servings.

Honey Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup honey
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a large saucepan, add all ingredients. Stir to dissolve the honey. Heat over moderate heat, stirring from time to time, just until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes to cook the egg yolks. Remove from the heat and let steep, covered, for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Stir the mixture again to blend. transfer it to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions, or about 1/2 hour. Remove from ice cream maker into plastic containers and freeze at least 3 hours. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before serving to soften. Makes 6 servings.

Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Drizzles
3 cups (8 ounces) shredded, sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 egg whites, beaten
2 cups confectioners sugar
semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Have ready in a bowl: 3 cups moist shredded coconut: 8 oz. Add: 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Combine these ingredients with: 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk to make a thick paste. These cookies are much improved by folding into batter: (1 to 2 stiffly beaten egg whites) Roll the paste into balls or drop it from a teaspoon onto well-greased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. They may be rolled in sifted confectioners sugar or dipped into or drizzled over with melted semi-sweet chocolate. Makes about 20 1-inch cookies.

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