lupini, wild cress; cockles, tomato, fresh sepia chitarra

It was the eve of Christmas. A lot of people take this date very seriously. Italian-Americans, for instance, have a tradition called Festa dei sette pesci. I love real Italian food, and I tend to relate to it a lot in my cooking, although not the Italian-American version.

I have never tried for 7 fishes on Christmas Eve, but I had friends in Rhode Island who did it every year, although sometimes stretching the definition of ‘fish’.

I do however like the idea of fish on the night before Christmas; maybe it’s a throwback to my Catholic upbringing in the last century, or maybe it’s just out of a sense of proportion, since the day that follows is almost certainly to be a meat feast. This year I could  have put two ‘fishes’ on the table, but neither of us ate any Salzige Heringe for dessert.

We get these licorice ‘herring’ at Schaller & Weber, a very, very northern Italian store.

The evening began with a vegetarian appetizer.

  • five ounces of fresh skinless cooked shelled lupini beans packaged in water from Eataly Flatiron, drained, placed inside a small bowl with the addition of some Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil; chopped parsley from Paffenroth Farm; crushed dried peperoncino Calabresi secchia and a few pitted Gaeta olives, both from Buon Italia; sea salt; and black pepper
  • wild cress from Lani’s Farm, drizzled with a bit of Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil and drops of juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and arranged on a plate as a thin bed for the beans
  • a small medieval baguette from Bobolink Dairy and Bakery, torn into portions at the table

The pasta course was also a fish course.

I’m not going to tell how far the the clams had to swim to get here, but they started in New Zealand.

The recipe I used on Monday, converted for using 30 cockles, or just under one pound, and adjusted for 12 ounces of fresh squid ink pasta, was ‘Spaghetti With Clams; adapted from Da Dora restaurant, Naples’.  I had cut it from the December 8, 1999 New York Times, and I still have the old clipping, which is what I used as a reference, but I just found it here on line.

  • the ingredients I used were one pound of New Zealand cockles from Eataly Flatiron; 12 ounces of fresh squid ink chitarra pasta from Eataly Flatiron; 4 Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market; 5 cloves of Krasnodar red garlic from Quarton Farm in the Union Square Greenmarket; Whole Food Market house Portuguese olive oil; and, because I haven’t found any in the Union Square Greenmarket for some time, parsley from Salinas, California, via Eataly (at least it didn’t have to come from New Zealand)