I first came across the idea of the Feast of the Seven Fishes a year or two ago when I saw other bloggers posting recipes for it. Naturally, I had to look up to find out what it was all about. I was a little surprised when I read that it was a largely Italian-American tradition. My husband’s family has Italian ancestry and he hadn’t heard of it. However it may be it originates from a different area of Italy or has otherwise passed him by.
In any event, the idea of dining on a meal of all fish and seafood on Christmas Eve, a time when many would abstain from meat, seemed wonderful. I knew I wanted to give it a go sometime. That said, with young kids I doubt we’ll manage to adopt it this year at least. But I did think it was a good excuse to share some of my favorite seafood dishes that would be perfect for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, or really any time you want to enjoy seafood.
Seafood finger food
The Feast of the Seven Fishes might seem daunting at first, but eating seven seafood dishes is not really such a challenge if you start with some finger food. These might not be completely traditional, but they are all tasty. You can make things easy on yourself with things like smoked salmon pinwheels (just skip the prosciutto crostini to stick with the no-meat part) or smoked salmon bruschetta. Smoked haddock pate makes a nice dip/spread with eg crackers. It’s a nice alternative to thing like crab or salmon dips (although they are good too). Although not Mediterranean flavors, my mildly-Thai salmon cakes are always popular. Langoustines with herbed cream might be a little messy but are delicious too.
Small plates and salad
Moving on from nibbles, some lighter seafood dishes make a great next course. While it’s Nordic in origin, gravlax is a delicious kind or cured salmon. Or try mussels in white wine which taste fancy, but you can cook them in mere minutes. New England style stuffed clams are a variation on a popular Feast dish that you should make sure you try. Calamari is also a common dish for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. If you want a healthier take than your usual fried version, this calamari salad is incredibly fresh and tasty. While it might not be Mediterranean, ceviche has all the right flavors and we’d find any excuse to have it. This time of year, you probably won’t be able to have pea shoots with it as in this recipe, but it’s great on it’s own or with a simple salad.
Seafood main dishes
There are so many wonderful ways to enjoy fish as a main dish, which is a common part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. You can go from the simple to the spectacular, traditional to a little different. My spinach feta salmon burgers are incredibly easy to make and loved by young and old. True, they might not exactly be traditional, but they’ll be a crowd-pleaser. White fish such as sea bass with salsa verde is a classic Mediterranean fish main. It’s simple and so tasty. The traditional Sicilian-style stuffed squid is a wonderfully flavorful dish that will have even squid-sceptics enjoying it. It might be Spanish rather than Italian, but romesco de peix (Catalan fish stew) is perfect for this time of year with a wonderfully warming, flavorful sauce. It’s a big favorite in our house.
You can’t have an Italian feast without a seafood pasta dish. But which one? I know I would find it hard to pick a favorite. Maybe crab pasta as it’s so easy with delicate flavors, and the red pepper flakes give it a slight kick. My fish ragu pasta is a versatile dish as you can vary the fish used. I’m a big fan of pasta con sarde a mare, a traditional Sicilian pasta that literally means the sardines are at sea (ie not in the dish, but it does have anchovies). Simple ingredients, packed with flavor. And finally, fideua might be a Spanish pasta paella, but it’s filled with such great flavors and lots of seafood, it’s worth sneaking on the menu.
Do you celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes? What do you have or what would you put on your menu?