Feast of the Seven Fishes

I am not of Italian heritage, but starting from a young age I have had a longing to do an all-out Feast of the Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve dinner.  My family traditionally had our dinner on Christmas Eve, with an extended-family dinner at my grandparent’s house on Christmas day, and around the age of thirteen I started making some fairly elaborate dinners.  However, the seven fishes dream never transpired because there were family members who didn’t like fish.  So, when Whole Foods contacted me about doing a Feast of the Seven fishes post, I was delighted–and they are also providing a reader giveaway of a $50 Whole Foods gift card, so read on for details on how to enter.

If you are not familiar with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, it is a traditional Italian “fasting” meal (meaning abstaining from meat), which unfolds on Christmas Eve.  There is some debate about the actual number of fishes to be served, and whether seven is really the golden number.  I was discussing this with some fellow foodies over dinner at Volta restaurant, in Boulder (where we had a great chilled calamari salad that would be lovely for this feast), and much Googling revealed that the number is thought to be based upon the seven sacrements or, alternatively, the seven hills of Rome.  The general agreement is that so long as you are serving a lot of fish, you are doing it right.  In my preparation for the actual meal I prepared some dishes that celebrate seafood, and I sourced my ingredients largely from the Whole Foods seafood counter.  A beautiful appetizer that takes only minutes to prepare, seared sea scallops finished with a little cream and some blue crab roe is a great way to use expensive ingredients in a way that will serve a lot of people:

Seared Sea Scallops with Crab Roe

Seared Sea Scallops with Crab Roe

Whole Foods does not carry any “red-rated” fish or shellfish, which is a designation set up by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch to ensure sustainablity and best practices (you can find out more about the ratings here).  Anything you buy at Whole Foods will be a designated green (best choice) or yellow (good alternative) choice.  Given the complexity of purchasing seafood, this is a great service to people who want to buy sustainable products, because the research is done for you.

Seafood lasagna is another option for stretching your expensive seafood items to feed a number of people.  I made a grain-free seafood lasagna using Cappello’s excellent grain-free pasta, filled with shrimp, crab, and a little lobster.  Cappello’s is a Colorado company but their products are also available by mail order.

Grain-free Seafood Lasagna

Grain-free Seafood Lasagna

I will be rounding out my menu with a Caeser salad with white anchovies, my simple seafood stew,  and this beautiful, olive-crusted baked fish:

Olive-crusted Grouper

I used grouper for this, but you can use whatever type of fish you like that looks nice and fresh.  The tapenade can be made in advance, and you can use any sort of olives you enjoy–I used a combination of kalamata and castelvatranos. If your fillets are on the small side you can use any leftover tapenade to dress warm vegetables or to stuff some mushrooms.  Leftover tapenade is never a bad thing.

Olive-crusted Grouper
Author: 
Recipe type: Main dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups of your favorite, well-drained olives
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 4 fish fillets, 4-6 ounces each
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the olives, pine nuts, garlic, capers, lemon juice, and white pepper to a chunky paste. Refrigerate until ready to use (can be made a day or more in advance).
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a baking dish that will hold all of the fish in a single layer. Place the fish flllets in the prepared dish, and press some of the olive mixture in a thin layer over each piece of fish. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily. Serve immediately.

Olive-crusted Grouper

Other nice menu options would be Shrimp and Coconut Fritters, Crab Puffs, Wild Sardine and Grapefruit Salad, or Salt and Pepper Shrimp.  My adoration of seafood is evident by looking at my Fish and Shellfish recipe tab, so browse there if you need more ideas.

On to the giveaway!  Whole Foods is providing a $50 gift card for one lucky reader, and it is really simple to enter.  Here are the giveaway details:

Giveaway has ended!  Congratulations to Lesley P., who was the winner of the gift card. 

-To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below this blog post, indicating one of your favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes dishes–or what would be on your dream menu, if you have never had the opportunity to do the feast.

-U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, please.

-Giveaway ends at 5 pm. Mountain Standard Time on Saturday, December 21st.  I will select a winner using Random.org and I will notify the winner using the email address connected with their comment.  If I do not receive a reply within 48 hours of notification, I will select an alternative winner using the same method.

That’s it!  Good luck to everyone who enters.

Legal stuff: Whole Foods provided ingredients for this post, and they are also providing the reader giveaway.  All opinions are my own, and are genuine.

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56 Responses to Feast of the Seven Fishes

  1. Debbi Sheire December 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Sounds great. Always looking for recipes for fresh seafood. You always come up with such different things.

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

      Thank you!

  2. Betsy December 13, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    My friends have shrimp cocktail the day after Thanksgiving, as part of their family traditions. I’d love that as part of a fancy holiday meal!

    If I were to win the gift card, I can guarantee I’d spend it all at the olive bar, so I’d definitely be able to make this recipe then. :-)

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      Yeah, the olive bar is hard to resist…

  3. Karen Harris December 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    I love the opakapaka at Whole Foods which they tell me they usually always have available. This has proven to be true every time I’ve asked them at least. This looks wonderful Angela. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      Thanks, Karen, you too!

  4. Matt Hill December 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    OMG, Angela. I’m making that olive-crusted grouper. Soon. I have a go-to white fish recipe of roasted tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, and olives, but the grouper recipe might become the new go-to one.

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

      I think you will like this–I *loved* it, and it was really easy to put together.

  5. Lisa Huff December 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    We would always have shrimp scampi on Christmas Eve. That’s my favorite! Although I do love crab cakes too!

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      I love scampi…

  6. Jannine Fisk December 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    My family does the Feast of Seven Fishes every year and has ever since I was a young child. My seafood preferences are very limited so we usually make one of our “fishes” the gummy variety so my nephew and I have a “fish” that we don’t mind eating! That being said, I would have to say stuffed clams would be a must-have on my Seven Fishes buffet.

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

      I should probably do gummy fish as part of the dessert.

  7. denise heikinen December 13, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    hmmmm!

  8. Nann December 13, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    I have only heard of the feast of the seven fishes in the past several years and have wanted to try my hand at it. Since this Christmas Eve is just my husband and myself and he loves fish… I’m going to do it. It sounds like a wonderful thing and truly a great feast. I do love to make Shrimp Alfredo and also love soft shelled crabs. And I can certainly add to this. What a delightful ‘feast’ it will be. THANKYOU Angela for having this giveaway. I love Whole Foods and can always depend on the quality there. So sign me up for your drawing. And do have a Merry Christmas my sweet friend!….from Nancy Judd

    • Angela December 13, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

      Thank you, Nancy! And oh, I love soft shell crabs.

  9. laura December 13, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    I’m not much for fish, but I’m sure my husband would love this olive crusted fish, it sounds wonderful!

  10. Kim December 13, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    My husband is a huge fan of grouper, but for me, I prefer shrimp and crab cakes!

  11. Susan Dilleshaw December 13, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    I don’t know anything about the feast of the seven fishes; but our traditional Christmas Eve dinner would work — fresh Dungeness Crab feast!!!

  12. Debbie R. December 14, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    We normally have shrimp at Christmas, but that seafood lasagna is looking mighty delicious and may be added to our feast!

  13. Lesley Pew December 14, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Great give-away. I especially like the seared scallops. If I were to add a recipe it would be for gefilte fish even though it would take some time to prepare from scratch.

  14. Sandy Headtke December 14, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Shrimp scampi is a must have. But I am a big olive lover so i am adding the Olive Crusted Grouper to the menu this year.m

  15. Melissa December 14, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    I would LOVE the seared scallops with crab roe. I love scallops… they’re so delicate and decadent. I would definitely include them in my menu, as well as probably a fried calamari or a nice ceviche. For the main course, I love a crab stuffed flounder. It’s very inexpensive but super fancy for a holiday meal. I would love to shop at Whole Foods for the ingredients and the gift card would be such a big help!

  16. Janice E December 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    the scallops are calling my name-yum!

  17. Cheryl December 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Your olive-crusted grouper looks amazing! Even though my maternal grandfather is Sicilian, we’ve never done a Feast of the Seven Fishes. That said, I’ve been on a huge raw oysters with mignonette kick. Add some Cape Bay scallops and I’m happy, happy, happy.

  18. Kathy Keegan December 15, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    Seafood lasagna!
    I have tried many versions of this. Yours looks delectable!

  19. Lucy December 15, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    Your seven fishes meal looks fantastic. I would love to tackle this meal (as a cook or a diner) some day!

  20. Louise DePino December 15, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Where is the lasagna recipe? Please….!!!!

    • Angela December 15, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      Louise, let me tell you what I did for this–I used a package of Cappello’s grain-free lasagna noodles (they are very good and do not need any pre-cooking). I sauteed 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms in a little oil and then tossed in two pounds of peeled, raw shrimp, about 5 ounces of chopped lobster meat, and a little leftover crab. Into that I stirred in a cup of creme fraiche (cream cheese would also work), some white pepper, and a little salt. I used that as my two layers between the noodles, then on top of the last layer of noodles I spread a thin layer of creme fraiche and sprinkled on grated parmesan. I baked it for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Very simple, very rich, and really good.

  21. carol December 15, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    I would LOVE to try your seafood lasagna recipe! ;)
    a seafood pizza sounds like something I would like to make, too, with some kind of white sauce, lots of seafood, and cheese. :)

  22. Kadija December 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    I’ve never taken part in a Feast of Seven Fishes, but I do love fish and seafood. Your seared scallops look so good!

  23. Kristina December 16, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    The Olive Crusted Fish and Crab Puffs would definitely make my menu! Those recipes look amazing!!

  24. Rosie December 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    I grew up in a town with many Italians who celebrated this feast, and it is wonderful! I would love to try the grain free seafood lasagna – it looks sooo good! I adore scallops, too. I’d love to go to one of these feasts.

  25. Cook In / Dine Out December 16, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    This looks amazing! I only learned about this tradition this week, and I’m definitely intrigued by it. My feast of the seven fishes, were I to have one, would probably include a spicy smoked salmon dip appetizer and a shrimp Caesar. That grouper with olives looks particularly tasty.

  26. Angela S December 16, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    I, also, have been intrigued by the Feast of the Seven Fishes, although not being a huge fish fan have not tried to host the dinner yet myself. I think I would include mini crab cakes as one of the seafood selections and perhaps seared scallops.

    Thank you for the chance to win the giveaway!

  27. Becca F December 17, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    Those seared scallops are calling my name for sure!

  28. Jersey Girl Cooks December 18, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    Bacon wrapped scallops is one of my seafood fans and I have made it on Xmas eve. Your seafood looks delish. Thanks for the giveaway chance!

  29. Ginger December 18, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    My dream Feast of the 7 menu would include lutefisk, our Christmas Eve dish until my Norwegian grandma could no longer find it. Best described as “ocean flavored Jello,” its uniquely awful smell/texture/flavor is the perfect culinary foil to further enhance the enjoyment of all the mouthwatering dishes you described.

    • Angela December 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      I tried lutefisk once, when I lived in the U.P.–your description is perfect!

  30. Carole R. December 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    I would do shrimp 7 ways

  31. Michaela December 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

    I love white anchovies; happy they are now easily available.

    • Angela December 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Oh, me too–I was thrilled when the local cheese shop started carrying them.

  32. Rachel (yes Rachel) December 18, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    Great blog. I do not eat a wide variety of seafood because of the “fishy” taste, preferring mild tasting and tender fillets. I’ll share the recipes with my sister, the adventurous cook of the family. We both enjoy shopping at Whole Foods.

  33. Stephanie December 19, 2013 at 6:55 am #

    That grain-free lasagna looks amazing! I just recently went grain-free because of some gluten sensitivity and have never felt better. I haven’t delved into grain-free pastas yet, but the lasagna looks very tantalizing :)

    • Angela December 19, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Stephanie, I really missed pasta until I found this brand–it’s sold refrigerated and it is a little pricey, but totally worth it when you really want some pasta.

  34. Denise in Michigan December 19, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Trout with dried black beans. It’s a Chinese dish that tastes great!

  35. Lanie Smith December 19, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    Wow! You really made some incredible dishes. I love this. I may plan to do this next year. I bet seven is the magical number, especially since there are so many references in the Bible to the number seven. I’ve always considered 7 a lucky number. For seven fishes, I would probably choose a considerable variety, like clams, two or three different crabs, lobster and some white fish and base each on a particular verse to share with my children.

    I’d probably smoke some fish and serve that with chewy bread and warmed cream cheese.

    John 21:9 “When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.”

  36. Angela Williamson December 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    That grouper looks absolutely AMAZING, Angela. Truly, you are a genius in the kitchen. I have a mild allergy to fish, but if it was made in your kitchen, I’d be thrilled to try it!!!

    • Angela December 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      You are the best, you know that? And I would make something other than fish :)

  37. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com December 20, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I’d like to make the scallop recipe for my sister-in-law! AND introduce her to Whole Foods!

  38. Mary Louise December 21, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    While growing up, we always had my Mom’s homemade
    oyster stew the evening after Christmas which was my Daddy’s favorite. I loved the stew but not the oysters so he got double portions……. :) :) :)

    • Angela December 21, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      I love it…I did that with oyster dressing when I was growing up.

  39. Linda W. December 21, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Angela, I hate to admit it, but I have never learned to love fish. BUT, I’d be willing to try your Wild Sardine and Grapefruit salad. It just sounds so intriguing!

    • Angela December 21, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      Linda, it’s really good, but probably not the best way to get you to love fish :) You might like grouper, though–it’s very mild in flavor.

  40. Glenna December 21, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    I love seafood for Christmas dinner. I love the Coconut Shrimp and the broiled Sea Scallops. Yum Yum

  41. google.com December 27, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be just what I’m
    looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content for you?

    I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on a lot of the subjects you
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    • Angela December 27, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      Hi Josef: I do not do guest posts, as my policy is to post only my own content. I’m so glad you like the blog!

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