Welcome to the Feast of the Seven Fishes; a part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. Why me you might wonder (or not!). Sure, I might be like the Heinz 57 pups; mostly German but with some English and Irish thrown into the mix but in my heart? I’m Italian. My first food group. The cuisine that really got me excited about cooking even if what I thought was wonderful Italian food was a bit less than the real deal. But still; it’s food that I love and I just know that the first time I step foot on Italian soil that I will never want to return. The land, the wine, the outgoing people…we would all work out very well together, I just know it. That I love Limoncello with a passion too? Well here’s proof in this light and lovely Limoncello Sorbet; serving as the palate cleanser for our feast.
This feast is not really called such in Italy; it’s certainly not a holiday and as important as it is for some, it’s apparently a tradition that exists only in a few southern regions where it is known as The Vigil (La Vigilia). Here in the USA, land of excess abounds, some Italian-American families have been known to celebrate with nine, eleven or thirteen different seafood dishes. This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.
The long tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic tradition of abstinence. In this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products – on Wednesdays, Fridays and (in the Latin Church) Saturdays, as well as during Lent and on the eve of specific holy days. As no meat or animal fat (there is no prohibition on milk or dairy products) could be used on such days, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, typically fried in oil. My family was observant Catholics and can I just say I was OK when the no meat on Friday ban was lifted. Fish Sticks. Tuna Fish Salad. That was the rotation. Period. HAMBURGERS? Yes!
The meal may include seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. The most famous dish Southern Italians are known for is baccalà (salted cod fish). The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà is attributed to the greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years. For our feast we’ve also included some side dishes, a palate cleanser, dessert and a cocktail. Lots to choose from!
I knew right away I wanted to make a Limoncello Sorbet. Maybe because selfishly I, 1. Love Limoncello and 2. Knew it would be good year round, not just over the holidays. Perfect right? I fell head over heals in love with Limoncello on a trip to Boston almost 15 years ago and the love has never waned. I’ve even made my own but this year, I made some cranberry liqueur for holiday gifts so used a bottle I had on hand that is one of my favorites.
Such an easy dish and while we’ve used it as a palate cleanser it’s a great summer dessert too; so light and refreshing with fresh lemon juice and grated rind mixed with sugar and water. Simple right? And so good. One of my neighbors stopped by the other night with his 2 year old in his arms to give me some mail that had mistakenly been put into their mailbox. I was sharing goodies with my friend from across the street and asked if he would take some cake and sorbet home too. While we chatted his little girl wanted a taste of the sorbet. She went nuts…more DaDa, more! It took me a minute…oops, WAIT? There is liqueur in there! He laughed and said no worries…his hope was that she would sleep well that night. 🙂
Be sure to check out what my friends have made after the recipe…maybe it’s time to plan your own feast…you don’t have to be Italian either!
The Feast of the Seven Fishes was brought to America from Southern Italy where it is all now but forgotten, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a meal eaten by Italian-Americans that features (at least) seven fish/seafood dishes. Along with our hosts, Heather from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen and Lora from Savoring Italy, I’ve joined forces with several bloggers to share menu ideas for your Seven Fishes feast. Along with the traditional seven fish and seafood dishes, we’ve included some side dishes, a palate cleanser, a dessert, and a cocktail. Enjoy and Saluti!
Appetizer and Main Courses with Fish
- Salmon Rillettes from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Marinated Shrimp Salad from A Healthy Life For Me
- Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod from Cravings of a Lunatic
- Pasta con le Sarde from Savoring Italy
- Tuscan Seafood Stew from Food Done Light
- Mixed Seafood Risotto from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
- Linguine with Scallops and Broccoli from Kudos Kitchen By Renee
- Brussels Sprouts Risotto from Eats Well With Others
- Marinated Roasted Vegetables from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Limoncello Sorbet from Creative Culinary
- Zuppa Inglese from Christina’s Cucina
- Cranberry Limoncello Spritzer from Snappy Gourmet