Seafood hasn’t typically been a staple of holiday season menus, particularly in the United States. Our holiday feasts have long been centered around turkeys, hams, and other foods. There’s nothing wrong with those delicious choices of course, but sometimes it’s refreshing to try something different. After all, a shrimp cocktail is a wonderful appetizer to go along with holiday feasts, but there’s so much more!
Planning a holiday meal around seafood along with other traditional foods can provide you with the best of both worlds to satisfy everybody’s preferences, and at the same time include something that’s high on the nutritional scale. That’s because seafood is rich in nutrients, a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, along with the omega-3 fatty acids of DHA and EPA.
In many Italian-American families, there’s a Christmas Eve tradition of a seafood meal called “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”, or “La Vigilia” (The Vigil). This tradition which seems to have its roots in southern Italy, features a feast of fish and seafood dishes prepared and presented with flourish of style. Historically, part of the tradition of serving seafood on the eve of a religious holiday or festival was to eat lean so that your body would remain pure for the holiday. The important factor is that it’s a way to maintain family ties and remember those who have passed on.
Some of the many seafood dishes that are served at the Feast of the Seven Fishes include pezzetti, which is fried cubes of ricotta cheese or artichoke pieces combined with zucchini or broccoli sauteed with seafood. This incredible dish is a holiday favorite from Naples Italy. Another favorite from Naples is vermicelli with clams or mussels.
Many dishes have their origins from other regions of Italy include pasta dishes from the northern regions of Italy such as Lombardy and Piedmont. From these locales come pasta dishes like lasagna covered with anchovies, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasonings. And while there are no set rules about what kinds of fish should be a part of the meal, the number of courses cooked don’t always have to equal seven either.