Feast Your Eyes On the 7 Fishes

pasta with fresh clams

pasta with fresh clams

When I think about William I think about how much he loved to fish and hunt. While cooking is my therapy I do believe fishing and hunting was his. He loved everything about being in nature and had a great respect for it. He only took from the waters and the forest what he knew he could eat and the rest was returned unharmed. He had amazing vision and often could spy the fish underwater, the deer camouflaged in the brush and the hawk way up high in the trees. We’d be walking a trail when all of a sudden he would spread his arms silently commanding everyone to halt. And then he would point towards some wonderful creature that we otherwise would have missed. It was impressive………

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And it was shocking to later learn from his Navy physical that he was color-blind. This disqualified him from his life-long dream of becoming a SEAL. Awe-too bad so sad thought his mother…and the gene for color blindness is passed from mother to son, so it was kind of all my fault. Truly, I felt bad, but at the same time was hopeful that he could do something a little less dangerous. The joke was on me as he later trained in field medicine and became part of the elite Scout Sniper Platoon. Those guys are bad-ass and Will was a natural fit.

Will's room

Will’s room

It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow and I sure am missing my son and those gorgeous, loving color-blind eyes. He loved the feast of the 7 fishes and he would be right beside me in the kitchen taste testing everything. Tomorrow we will have smoked salmon, crab cakes, seared scallops, shrimp fra diavalo, grilled salmon, calamari and baccala. I love keeping this Italian family tradition alive as much as I love honoring William here on this blog. I know he is here in spirit baiting my hook and rowing the boat.

baccala salad

baccala salad

Probably every Italian family has their own version of dried cod fish salad because there really is no right or wrong except when it comes to rehydrating the salted dried fish. It takes a good 3 days of soaking the fish in cold water changing the water daily. Then just boil it, flake it and start adding the goodness. Lots of fresh lemon juice, fresh chopped parsley, capers, chopped cured black olives, chopped sweet and fiery vinegar peppers, celery, good EVOO and anchovies.

Merry Christmas everybody. May you have peace in your heart and be surrounded by all those you love.

8 thoughts on “Feast Your Eyes On the 7 Fishes

  1. I am so sorry that I never met Will, he sounds like such a wonderful young man. I love the fact that he returned what he didn’t need back to nature unharmed. I know that you will be missing him greatly this Christmas. It looks like you have a wonderful celebration planned. I know that he is very proud of you for sharing you thoughts and recipes.

    • A few of my recipe cooking contester friends have met William. I will never forget when Marge Fortier of National Chicken Cook-off fame came up to me and complimented me on what a nice boy he was. We were both at the Delmarva cook-off and as I went up to the podium to receive a prize he said to all the other contestants sitting at the table…”your recipes are just as good as my mom’s, but she just got lucky today.” He was a real sweetheart and so easy to celebrate here.

  2. Although we do not have the 7 fishes, every Portuguese home you entered at Christmas had Bacalhau, dried cod fish. As did the Italians of which you write, we Portuguese had different versions Those from the Continent made it casserole style layered with potatoes. As for my ancestors, they were from the Azores Islands. My beloved mother made hers similar to that which you describe. Soaking and rinsing for several days. I cannot remember what she added to it other than onions. Served cold on a Portuguese Pop (bun) was the way to eat it. I will admit I did not partake of that particular tradition given that I was not nor am I a “fish” person.(Which made me wonder at times if I was adopted?). But I revere that tradition and would love to be sitting in my mother’s kitchen watching her prepare,
    with love, the Christmas Bacalhau .

    • I think I could love the Portuguese version of just about any fish dish especially if it was prepared by your mom’s loving hands. I can picture you sitting in her kitchen taking it all in.

    • Here is a big hint so you don’t have to buy multiple jars of olives and pickled peppers—go to the olive bar at your local Fresh Market or Whole Foods….maybe other markets have the same…and just buy a few of each thing–great variety and you can pick and choose the items most tasty to you. Grab some of the brine, too–it is essential

  3. Just tears now as I read this…missing that boy so much. He was the “crab whisperer” in RI, I treasure those days with him.

    • He loved to forage for his food and yes, those blue crabs were unbelievable. Remember that night we feasted on crab cakes and flounder that the boys caught on the deep sea excursion…..sigh

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