The Seven Fishes

Christmas has come and gone for 2012. The world did not end as predicted. And the launch of a new Italian American magazine was released in Boston called Bostoniano. The creator, my friend Nicola Orichuia and I were discussing Christmas and the traditions in Italian homes. Nicola being a native of Rome never heard about the “Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve until he moved to the States. I was surprised and figured that it was a Southern Italian tradition which is why my family still honors it, being from Calabria and all. My other friend who is Asian-American also asked me why Italian families cook 7 fishes. Upon some quick internet research and discussion with my mother we surmised that the 7 fishes cover the 7 Catholic Sacraments; while some others cook 13 types of fishes to honor the 12 apostles and Jesus. Whatever the case may be, we prepared a delicious seafood “pranzo”.

My mother prepared the most popular Calabrese dish which is Pesce Stocco. It’s not very popular here but a staple in my home every Christmas Eve. This type of fish is from the Cod family. It’s less meatier than baccala with more gristle. It goes through the same process as baccala which is soaking it in water to release the excess salt for days prior to cooking. My mother then cuts it up and makes the stocco into a hearty stew with potatoes, olives and cauliflower.

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My mother’s other dishes for the evening consisted of the ubiquitous zeppole. Again, there are many variations “zeppole”. Our tradition maintains that the zeppole are made with flour, yeast and potatoes. Once it rises into a dough base a handful is twirled and twisted into a cruller size shape stuffed with anchovy. Thanks to my sister, Maria who made them this year and are as good as the ones we grew up on. Of course, our mother was supervising.

This is a Calabrese Zeppole.

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Other dishes for the evening were:

Stuffed Clams
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Fried Baccala
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Shrimp Scampi
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Fried Calamari rings
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Lobster Pie, Crab Cakes – A dish I make that is not Italian yet very tasty – (thanks Ruth Reichl) among other “Americane” dishes that my father would never eat!

As my blog’s title is “Everyone Wants to Be Italian” I must mention that our good friend over in South Boston, Michael Flaherty stopped by earlier in the day to pick up a gallon of homemade wine (which he helped make this Fall) he lent a hand in making some zeppole. After asking a lot of questions of what we were making and how? We put him to work, after all if you want to “Be Italian” this is the only way how!

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Buone Feste!


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8 thoughts on “The Seven Fishes

  1. Mary Berninger December 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm Reply

    Lisa, the meal looks delicious. Merry Christmas!

  2. The Seven Fishes | December 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm Reply

    […] My latest blog Everyone Wants to Be Italian […]

  3. Lillian December 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm Reply

    Can you please share zeppole recipe.

    Thanks, Lillian

    • Everyone Wants to Be Italian December 29, 2012 at 11:21 am Reply

      I will do my best to share it but I don’t have exact measurements. Boil yellow potatoes until ready for easy mashing. We have only used that piece of equipment you see in the photos. I would suggest as an alternative to mash potatoes with a fork. Mix yeast and water together in a separate bowl. In a big pot mix the potatotes, yeast mixture and flour and pound it like you are making bread. Once it forms into dough lift it up and pour some olive oil in the bottom of the pot and place over the oil. Cover it up and my mother uses a blanket to cover the pot which is placed on the bed. It has to be kept warm. hours later once risen you then pick it apart and twist it to form a cruller shape. You can make them plain without anchovy or you can twist it around the anchovy, deep fry them until golden brown.

      I wish I had definitive ingredient amounts and exact recipe but I don’t. This recipe is hundreds of years old. Good Luck!

      • Lillian DiMaria December 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

        Lisa, thanks a bunch. It’s been a big help. My grandmother made them every New Years Eve. I remember how much sweat (literally) she put into the “cosi fritt”. My siblings and cousins have been craving them, but Mom and aunts are getting old and don’t remember la recite. They just keep telling us how difficult they are to make. So happy, I found this site.

        Continued success and Buono Anno Nuevo

      • Everyone Wants to Be Italian December 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

        It truly is my pleasure. Again, I wish I could be more exact, but my suggestion is to keep trying, trying and trying… my sister has taken over the job and she has been doing a great job. But she had to try a few times to get it right. Start with a small batch. Let me know how it goes!

        Buon Anno!

  4. Lillian December 29, 2012 at 12:30 pm Reply

    Did you notice I included a little Spanish twist to my Happy New Year,lol?

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