Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Recipe from Gusto, and a Mom


Grilled baby octopus with celery and olives, from Gusto’s “La Vigilia” menu

As Christmas Eve approaches, it’s difficult for this Italian peasant blogger to focus on her work. I’ve got fish on the brain, people. So I thought I’d share some sea-based recipes with you this week, whether you are cooking up a La Vigilia feast or not. First, my mom’s baccala salad recipe, which I posted last year, is a real crowd pleaser, and it’s nearly impossible to mess up.

And next, a zuppa di pesce recipe from Gusto’s special menu (printed in full below):

Zuppa di Pesce
Serves 4

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups basic tomato sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 small piece of wild striped bass
8 giant head-on prawns
8 mussels, scrubbed, bearded, and rinsed
8 manila clams
½ pound calamari
½ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

In a large casserole pot, heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the fennel, celery, garlic, onion and pepper flakes and cook until translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, wine and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the fish and shellfish, cover and return to a boil. Uncover and reduce the heat to a simmer until the shellfish have opened, 5 to 6 minutes.

Divide the seafood between the 4 bowls, then divide the broth, and sprinkle each bowl with parsley. Serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ Spanish onion, chopped in ¼ inch dice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ½ tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves or ½ tbsp dried
¼ medium carrot, finely shredded
1 (28 ounce) can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
salt, to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice then bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt to taste.

“LA VIGILIA” at Gusto
December 24, 2007

Polipetti alla Griglia
Grilled baby octopus with celery and olives

Zuppa di Pesce
Spicy shellfish soup

Bucatini con le Sarde
Hollow spaghetti with sardines, pinenuts and raisins

Tonno alla Livornese
Pan seared tuna with tomato, cippolini onions and black olives

Semifreddo al Arance e Limone
Frozen orange and lemon mousse

Wine pairings $40