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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Happy Italian Holiday Foods

IMG_1274Just when the family is deep into Hanukkah jelly donuts and potato latkes, Benedetto is directing us toward his compadre culture. It’s not like we celebrated any Italian Christmas traditions for the first 25 years of our marriage, however, the children may be spurring hisIMG_1265 walk down memory lane in the last decade.

So here we are, in the approach to Christmas Eve and the guy cannot locate dry, salted cod (baccala’) anywhere. The store where he normally buys it for some reason doesn’t have any. My husband goes on a search which results in a cute Hispanic/Italian deli not that far away.

He buys the fish.

He tells an Italian friend in another city.

IMG_1278He goes back to the store and buys another fish for the other friend in the other city.

I go with him.

There we see the olives in the jars, the cheeses, the fish of every stripe and flavor. The fragrances of each section surround us. Benedetto takes me to the codfish display. The racks show filets, chunks, and whole flayed fish. Each one is totally covered in salt and dried.

My husband tells of using the hardened fish for the mock sword fights of his childhood. Naturally, in order to serve the fish, we’ll have to soak it for days, changing the water regularly as it loses some of its saltiness. WhyIMG_1270 he wants to cook it now when he gagged and hated the taste as a child is beyond me. But the baccala calls him.

IMG_1273A common way to cook it is to boil potatoes, while sauteeing celery and onions. When cooked, toss these along with olives and tons of plum tomatoes into chicken broth with the soaked baccala. Allow to simmer for awhile and the stew will make you happy come Christmas Eve.

But Benedetto turns the table on this, blending a creamy white sauce to cover the fish, potato, and onions. It’s truly delightful and I allow myself a bite or two.

However, coming from the Russian side of things, I tend to focus on soup preparation. Russian Christmas is not until January 7th, but we feel that soup is IMG_1266good any time, any place. I throw together an Italian Christmas soup, not that it’s anything that would probably ever be served in Italy, kind of like spaghetti and meatballs (meat sauce, yes, but no meatballs with pasta there…).

Anyway, it’s simple: a boiled chicken that I cut up after cooking to use the meat in the soup, chopped plum tomatoes, spinach, and white rice. It makes for a very colorful red, green, and white soup. Instead of the rice, you might use tortellini. The kids love it.

milanese-panettoneBenedetto likes some panettone for Christmas breakfast. This is a sweet Italian bread, usually dome-shaped, full of eggs, fruit and butter. It’s almost like the Russian kulich Easter bread. Think of a mostly-bread type of fruitcake. Occasionally, he’ll whip up some panettone French toast, which is really over the top.

There you have it. These are a few of my husband’s happy Italian holiday foods.

What do you generally make this time of year?




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