Saturday, December 8, 2007

Our Christmas Traditions

Since there isn't any point now in posting the vegan pumpkin chocolate chip mummy cupcakes or the Thanksgiving leftover stromboli since they are so yesterday, I thought I'd get a jump on the whole Christmas thing before it is too late.

First, I'm Italian, so our Christmas tradition is the "seven fishes" feast on Christmas eve. So, we've never had turkey or ham or any of those things. On Christmas day, we have Panettone for breakfast and then leftovers the rest of the day. Panettone is a very light and tasty cake with small amounts of dried fruit. It is NOT like an American fruitcake. It usually has golden raisins and citrus peels. I found a cranberry version at Trader Joe's this year. My mother likes her piece toasted with butter. I just eat mine plain. We've never tried making these, we just buy them. Do NOT pay $34 at Williams Sonoma for these. You can get them for $7 to $15 at Italian bakeries or grocery stores with ethnic foods.

My absolute favorite dish for Christmas, and possibly my favorite dish EVER, is my mom's stuffed squid. She basically buys cleaned squid, cuts up the tentacles and makes a stuffing out of it, and then shoves it into the bodies. You bake it all up with tomato sauce. Here is the recipe:

Stuffed Squid

  • 2 lbs cleaned squid bodies (get BIG ones) plus 1/2 lb tentacles.
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced fine
  • 1.5 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (like Progresso)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • a few cups thick, homemade tomato sauce
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 1/2 c dry red wine
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Wash all the squid and chop the tentacles.
  3. Mix the tentacles with all the other ingredients EXCEPT the tomato sauce
  4. Stuff the squid bodies with the stuffing. Secure each body with a toothpick.
  5. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, place the stuffed bodies on the sauce.
  6. Cover with the remaining sauce.
  7. Cover pan with foil
  8. Cook for about an hour, remove toothpicks before serving.

For some reason, we got into the habit of stuffing everything and we ended up with stuffed squid, stuffed clams and a stuffed shrimp casserole. I could post those recipes if you want.. so post a comment if you want me to. There is usually a pasta dish, it could be linguine with clam sauce, but recently my mother started making a really good salmon with bow ties and peas, probably because my nephew and brother are picky about things. Again, just leave a comment if you want these recipes.

I will post my other favorite, and that is Baccala, which is an Italian version of dried, salted cod. Sounds delicious, huh? Well, it is! My grandmother (rest her soul) always made this as the first course and served it cold with big chunks of tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, and olives, like an antipasto. My sister is usually the one to re-create it. You need to do this ahead of time, because the fish needs to soak in water for about 12 hours to get most of the salt out. Unfortunately, like many family recipes, I don't have measurements here. But I feel you can prepare it to your own tastes.


  • Dried, salted cod
  • Vinegar peppers (these come in the jarred section).
  • Black Olives
  • Roasted red peppers and/or big tomato chunks
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Pepperoncini (if you like them, these are hot)
  1. Soak the cod in water for 12 hours, then poach.
  2. Break the cod up into 3 inch chunks
  3. Add veggies with some vinegar from the peppers.
  4. Add olive oil and lemon juice.

OK, finally, there are the cannolis. We make the shells from scratch, no boxed, yucky shells. I'll get to those in the next post.

Well, I hope you enjoy some of these recipes. Why not try a traditional Italian christmas this year? : )