Thursday, December 15, 2011

Italian Mixed Seafood Salad


On Christmas Eve many Italian-American families preserve the Southern Italian tradition of having no meat, and only fish for dinner. This practice is often referred to as the "Feast of the Seven Fishes," or "The Vigil" (La Vigilia).  This celebration is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.  Every household has their favorite specialties that they make year after year, and in many houses even more than seven kinds of fish are eaten. I've made up to twelve different types of fish and shellfish dishes in years past, when my entire extended family would gather around our table on Christmas Eve.

A special appetizer treat is a Mixed Seafood Salad or "Insalata di Frutte di Mare."  Although I grew up in a Irish and Ukrainian household, and the thought of eating calamari was unheard of to me before I married my Italian husband, this salad soon become one of my personal favorites! I would be very content to have a large portion of this as my main course, but I usually serve it in smaller portions as an appetizer.


Mixed Seafood Salad

Serves 4 - 6 people as an appetizer.

Basic Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh or thawed frozen squid (calamari), cleaned and cut into 3/4 inch. rings,  leave tentacles whole.

I pound medium size shrimp, peeled and de-veined.

1 pound mussels

2 stalks of celery, sliced

1 medium red onion, sliced

1 small jar (8 oz) of roasted red peppers, drained and diced

1 cup green and/or black Italian olives, drained

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, minced

I small bunch flat leaf parsley, thick stems removed, chopped

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Scrub mussels with a stiff brush under cold running water. Remove any fibrous beards from mussels. Throw away any mussels with open shells.

2.  Put 1 tablespoon of water to just cover the bottom of a 4 quart saucepan and add cleaned mussels. Cover and cook over high heat with cover on the pot until mussels open, around 1 to two minutes. Pick out and throw away any mussels that fail to open. Transfer mussels to a clean bowl and let cool.

 3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Set a bowl of ice water nearby. Boil shrimp just until pink, about 2 minutes. Using a strainer, transfer to ice water to stop cooking and then place the drained shrimp into a large bowl.

4. Add squid to boiling water. Once pot has returned to boil, cook squid until tentacles curl back and rings are opaque, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Drain well, pat dry with paper towels, and add to the bowl of shrimp.

5. Strain liquid off the mussels and add to the bowl of squid and shrimp.

6. Add chopped onion, celery, and olives to the bowl

7. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, 1/2 cup lemon juice, the garlic, and parsley. Whisk in 1 teaspoon salt, or less to taste, and several grinds of black pepper.

8. Pour dressing over seafood and stir gently.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let salad marinate in the refrigerator a few hours or overnight.

9. Bring salad to room temperature and stir gently before serving. Serve with additional lemon slices.

If you wish you can add steamed clams, cooked and sliced scungilli (conch), boiled chopped octopus, lobster, or cooked scallops to this salad, adjusting the amount of oil and seasonings for larger quantities of seafood.  If available, a small portion of chopped arugula is also a flavorful addition to the salad.
 


Being an adventurous eater, when I was first married I tried everything my mother-in-law and sister-in-law made, and it soon became my mission to learn how to prepare food the same way, especially holiday specialties such as this salad. It was not an easy task, as my in-laws never used a written recipe or used exact measurements. Everything they made was by habit and by eye and taste. It was only by observing and reading many Italian cookbooks did I eventually learn to replicate many of their dishes, and there are still a few I'm trying to learn!  We are all so fortunate to have the Internet and food blogs to look up authentic recipes. If you look on my blog's sidebar you will see I follow many wonderful Food bloggers, and I'm still learning more about authentic and traditional Italian cuisine.

It's also nice to share our food customs and favorite recipes through the "Foodie Friday" event each week on Michael's blog "Designs By Gollum." Please join us all on her link!


Bookmark and Share

Pin It

43 comments:

Carol said...

Looks fantastic, Pat! I love calamari, mainly because I am allergic to shellfish so I make do. I'll make that salad with just the calamari! We go to my SIL for the Feast, can't wait.

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Flea Market Makeovers said...

That sounds wonderful! I have never cooled calamari at home, but I have mussels and shrimp. Sounds great!

Barbara F. said...

Pat, so glad you posted, you reminded me about celery! I left it out of my post lol. And I commend you for being an adventurous taster and a willing student to learn how to make these dishes that are far from mainstream but so-o-o- good. A great wife! xo

Happier Than a Pig in Mud said...

A beautiful salad Pat! Wishing you a wonderful holiday season-enjoy:@)

camp and cottage living said...

Pat
You have such a rich cultural background! I would imagine you are a wonderful cook, with many
traditional recipes.
This sounds so good. We live very far away from any fresh seafood, sadly. I'm always afraid to buy what's at the grocers, not knowing how old it is.
Enjoy your holidays-Kimberly

Vee said...

You are a good wife to learn her husband's family recipes. This salad looks so yummy. (I was horrified to learn what all was in it. LOL!)

ellen b. said...

Looks fabulous Pat!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I consider you an honorary Italian Pat- and I' sure Vinny does too! great seafood salad. I've never used olives in my seafood salad, but I will from now on, starting with this Christmas eve.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Oh My Heart... I would love that seafood salad.. I've never made it--but thanks for this recipe, I may just try it...

Now that I'm dieting, I eat alot of fish and chicken. My doctor wants me to eat alot of protein---so fish and chicken really work well for me---along with cottage cheese (which I love).

Thank you so much for this delicious dish!!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Hugs,
Betsy

Proud Italian Cook said...

Mmmm lucious, I would gobble that up Pat!

Theanne and Baron said...

Beautiful, I'm coming to your home Christmas Eve! LOL! Except for salmon I rarely eat seafood anymore but your salad is very tempting! You reminded me of the mother of one of my best friends in high school...she was Irish and married an Italian and she made the best Italian food I've ever eaten! I know you do too Pat, just look at that salad!

Ginny said...

O.K., so what is the difference between squid, calamari, and octopus?? I have been wondering for years. Have you ever had squid ink?

Vicki/Jake said...

UGH, sorry but calamari just IS NOT my thing... The rest of it looks delish though:) Enjoy your feast..

Claudia said...

We are home this eve - and afternoon celebration and a Christmas Day celebration - but the beautiful eve is ours and I shall make this. I was planning an all-fish meal. And you know Pat - you are so Italian!

The Gathering Place said...

Your salad does look tempting. I'd like to try it.

Paz said...

Delicious! I love seafood!

Cindy said...

Hi Pat,
Your recipe sounds amazing! I would really enjoy that salad, thanks you for the recipe.
As a Ukranian, did you have perogies? If so do you still eat them? Winnipeg has a large population of Ukranians, they were some of the first people to settle here. We have some great Ukranian meat shopes and perogie shops.
Hugs, Cindy

Margaret said...

YUM!!! Pat, thank-you very much for this delicious sounding recipe :) Such a wonderful photo too! Seafood and fish is my favorite food! Wishing you many memorable holiday moments...
Margaret from B.C.

Margaret said...

YUM!!! Pat, thank-you very much for this delicious sounding recipe :) Such a wonderful photo too! Seafood and fish is my favorite food! Wishing you many memorable holiday moments...
Margaret from B.C.

Old Kitty said...

It's a lovely and very yummy tradition!! Yay for these pics - gorgeous! Take care
x

Ola said...

Itneresting! In Poland we also do not eat meat traditionally on 24th, it is called similiar - Wigilia. We eat a lot of fish and some cakes, pierogi etc.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

I remember loving to read about the Feast of Seven Fishes last year!! A new thing to me. Your husband is a lucky man to have found a woman who can replicate the delights of his childhood on the dinner table! blessings ~ Tanna

From the Kitchen said...

I love your salad. I had never tasted calamari until an adult. When we lived in Texas, our pediatrician (Italian descent) lived across the street. His wife had mastered the preparation of food from his mother. I have to admit that when I sat down to a similar salad, I was a tiny bit hesitant--for one bite only!! After that, it was love. Calamari is so much easier to find in the Chicago area than it was in Lubbock, TX!!

Best,
Bonnie

Mister Meatball said...

It wouldn't be Christmas Eve without it.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a fabulous salad Pat. I would declare I'm Italian, even if it's just for the evening, just to be included around the Christmas Eve table with this seafood salad.

May your holidays be happy and filled with good cheer.
Sam

Snap said...

I love seafood salads ... YUMMMMM!!!

Houseelf said...

I didn't know of that tradition. It does look so delicious. Good on you for trying to continue reproducing old recipes.

Marilyn said...

Oh, I so love seafood.... If it resides in the water my DH says I will eat it!! However, DH hates seafood so I only have it when we go out!!
Great Post !!
Happy Holidays !!
Marilyn

bj said...

O, I know my family would love this. I'm not a seafood eater but they all are. :)
Merriest Christmas...
xo bj

bj said...

O, I know my family would love this. I'm not a seafood eater but they all are. :)
Merriest Christmas...
xo bj

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I love everything in this salad! Taking a copy of your recipe with me :)

Jenny said...

My husband would love this!

I would have to eat the bread, though!

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Your seafood salad looks very tasty.

Marg said...

I just read about those Italian customs as I was looking for some new ideas around Christmas Eve.
I like your version of the salad and I think I will use this as a base and add our favorite seafoods.
Looks fantastic.
I want to go to Italy just to eat food and take some cooking classes, but I may save myself money if I just come to NY.

Yvette said...

I'm sorry, Pat, but call it what you will, I can't get my mind around the idea of eating squid.

I decidced years ago that I'd never eat anything remotely gray and I never have. HA!

But it sure does look good. :)

RNSANE said...

Does this ever sound scrumptious, Pat. I love all kinds of shellfish and calamari, too, is a favorite with me.

Here in Mumbai, it's a different kind of Christmas. I'm loving my time in India, thus far. After the holidays, I'll explore other areas of India. People are treating me so well.

Sheila said...

This looks like a wonderful recipe. For the past 7 years we've had an Italian meal that our daughter makes on Christmas Eve but this year she won't be home so we'll save that for Christmas Eve when she'll be home again. Have a wonderful Christmas Pat. You must be looking forward to spending time with your grandchildren. Safe travels!

Betsy said...

Oh yum! I could eat a great big plate of that...NO problem! ha.

Lovella ♥ said...

I think it is so wonderful that as a young bride you made it your mission to learn your husbands favorite foods. What a wonderful way to honor his customs and his family.
That salad would be knew to me but I can almost taste the flavours. Yum.

From Beyond My Kitchen Window said...

This looks amazing. I would love to serve this on Christmas Eve.

Pondside said...

That looks delicious!
We'll be having seafood on Christmas Eve as well. My husband is a Dane,and their special dinner involves herring in several different marinades, shrimp and salmon open faced sandwiches etc etc. Lots of work, but very good!

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

This looks delicious, I've only started finding good calamari recently! I may try and make this! Happy Sunday!

Annesphamily said...

Wow! What a beautifully presented salad! Thank you Pat for sharing with us.