Happy Holidays! Seafood Feast! Buon Natale!
Ciao amici!
As the year comes to a close, we hope you're enjoying this holiday season with friends and family and savoring some special dishes!  We remember fondly some of our family traditions - making ravioli, seafood pasta and panzerotti (chestnuts pastries). This time of the year we love spending time around the table with our family and friends enjoying delicious foods and wines!

The Italian Christmas Eve celebration of the Feast of the Seven Fishes is considered ubiquitous to all Italian Christmas festivities, but in fact in Italy you will only find it in coastal communities such as Naples, Palermo or Genoa. The custom arose from the Catholic church's restrictions on eating meat during Advent, and with the abundance of fisherman and fish, the last day of Advent being Christmas Eve, the tradition took hold of eating an elaborate fish dinner before meat returned to the table on Christmas Day. Since a great majority of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries came from Naples and other seaside villages in southern Italy and Sicily, the feast of the seven fishes entered the Italian American vernacular as the accepted way to celebrate the holiday in Italian style!

Here we've included the recipe of a favorite seafood dish of ours, a simple fisherman's stew from coastal Tuscany called cacciucco ( pronounced: ca-CHU-coh).  Similar fish stews are known in the US as cioppino, which originates from our west coast. In this recipe below for Gina's cacciucco there are 5 different fishes included! Perfect for your seafood feast!

We wish you all a very happy holiday season and may your new year be filled with joy, peace and love. 

Buon Natale & Buon appetito!
Gina and Mary
This Month's Italian saying...
"Buon Natale & Buon Capodanno"
This means: Merry Christmas & "Good head of the year or Good New Year!"  
Cacciucco - Fisherman's Stew
Shrimp: wild caught, large 16-20 per lb, 3-4 per person, peeled and deveined
Calamari whole: 1 per person, sliced into rings with tentacles
Mussels: 3-4 per person
Clams: 3-4 per person
1 lb cod or other firm fleshed white fish, wild caught only and cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
3 cups tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
2 cups white wine
Sprinkle of oregano,Sea salt,hot pepper flakes, optional
   Use a large stock pot to assemble the cacciucco. Be sure to have one big enough for all the ingredients.  Put the mussels in a pot large enough to hold them when opened and place over high heat. Cook until all the mussels are open, shaking the pot to help them along and being sure not to over cook them. Take them out of the pot and set the liquid they give up to one side, separate from the mussels. Do the same with the clams, adding the clam liquid to the mussel liquid.
   In the largest pot, put the olive oil, garlic and 2 tbsp parsley, along with the hot pepper flakesif you're using them, and place it over the fire. Cook just until the garlic starts to sizzle and cook, then add the white wine and cook it for 5 minutes until almost cooked off. Add the tomatoes, sea salt to taste, a few pinches of oregano and a little additional olive oil. When the tomatoes have heated up, add the cod pieces and the liquid from the mussels and clams. Taste for salt. Allow this to simmer for a few minutes, until the cod is cooked and starts to fall apart. You can turn it off at this point if you wish until right before you're ready to serve. Take the shrimp and calamari out of the fridge 30 minutes before you're ready to cook them.
When you're ready to bring the dish to the table, bring the tomato sauce back to a simmer and add the shrimp all in one go and stir til the shrimp are
mixed in. Be careful not to let them boil, only cook them for a couple of minutes; if you overcook them, they become rubbery. When the shrimp have been in there two minutes, add the calamari all in one go and stir. Put the lid on the pot and turn the fire off while you prepare the plates
   To shallow bowls, add a slice of bruschetta and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the mussels and clams in the bowls on top of the bruschetta. Take the lid off the pot, add the final tablespoon of parsley and stir; portion out the shrimp to each plate. Using a ladle, scoop the soup on top of the seafood and bruschetta, portioning out the calamari.   Serve the cacciucco with lots of extra bruschetta or French bread and a good vermentino white wine. Enjoy!
Bruschetta: I like to use Tuscan Pane from Trader Joe's. It has the characteristics of Tuscan bread and stands up well to the sauce without getting sticky and gummy and falling apart. If you can't get that, use a good hearty country loaf. Lightly toast the bread, lightly run a clove of garlic over the warm toasted bread (no rubbing!) and drizzle it with a good extra virgin olive oil.
Buon Appetito!! 
Celebrating the new year!
Traditions in Italy for the new year are many! For the new year celebration we hope you'll be toasting delicious prosecco or something bubbly from the northern parts of Italy. For our New Year's lunch or dinner we'll be cooking up a
traditional Italian dish: cotechino con lenticche, or stuffed pig trotter with
Lentils on board Umbrian
lentils!  
 
In most cultures, the combination of beans and pork is supposed to bring good luck, health and wealth for the next year and Italy is no exception. The lentils are said to symbolize coins which you hope to amass in the coming year. And for poor Italian peasants and laborers, the sausage once represented opulence (meat). Originally from Emilia Romagna, a pig foot stuffed with pork and spices is traditional winter fare and comes both with the hoof attached, called zampone, and without, which is cotechino. As the pig skin cooks, it softens and becomes gelatinous and unctuous.Either of these can be found in specialty stores, generally precooked and packaged, and are delicious cooked and served with lentils.
Lentils e cotechino
 
Lentils have been grown and eaten through-out Italy for centuries. While any lentil will do for this recipe, the very small, delicate ones from Castelluccio in Umbria are especially good and creamy, and now available throughout Italy and the US. Steamed kale drizzled with extra virgin olive oil will make this the perfect New Year's lunch.
 
And don't forget to buy yourself some new RED underwear to wear on New Year's Eve! It's an old Italian custom that's supposed to bring you good luck.
We can all use some of that!
Un felice anno! 
Our Culinary Tours to Italy - 2019
We have some spots in our Piedmont and Puglia trips next year, so if you're interested 
contact Mary to get the details - mary@eccolacucina.com or call: 972-342-8308.
Gina Stipo and Mary Stipo Potter | Ecco La Cucina| 1-972-342-8308| Email | Website
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