FISH SALAD FOR CHRISTMAS – DECEMBER 2022
This year has been a sad and difficult one. We lost close friends and relatives. Among them, Anita’s sister, Mary Cannella, passed away in September after a long battle with Mesothelioma. We miss her and think about her every day. She was a gifted musician, a wonderful mother, grandmother, and friend to many. Ironically, she died from the same disease as her father, Cosmo Cannarili. It’s believed that Cosmo got Meso from his work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a painter, where he was exposed to asbestos. The doctors didn’t think Cosmo passed it on to his daughter. Mary thought she might have gotten it while she worked at several Florida schools.
Before Cosmo became too sick, Anita and I spent some time with him. He knew he was dying. He took me into his garage and said, “I’m gonna give you some tools.” He gave me a number of tools that he thought I could use. Some of them, I didn’t even know what they were. Cosmo patiently told me what they were for and demonstrated how to use them. And as the years wore on, I used many of the tools he gave me that day, and I still have them. I felt honored that he bestowed upon me those tools, but overall, it was a sad day.
Besides the tools, he gave me something else—his fish salad recipe that he had clipped out of a magazine many years ago. He made that delicious salad at Christmas time and maybe, for Easter, too. You can see from the picture that it has many different fishes. We believe he gave it to me because he knew I liked to cook, and he felt his daughters Anita and Mary wouldn’t make it. So, I continued that tradition after his passing.
The salad contains clams, mussels, squid, shrimp, and you can add any other types of fish you like. Over the years, I have also added conch (scungilli). When we lived in Los Angeles, I could get most of the fish fresh from the market. One year in L.A., I found fresh scungilli in a market in L.A.’s Chinatown. Usually, I have to use canned scungilli that I purchase from an Italian store in Long Island. Living in the Colorado Rockies, I had to improvise and use some frozen items instead of fresh ones. There were a few Italian stores in other parts of Colorado where I could buy canned scungilli, or like last year I was in Long Island for our Grandson DJ’s wedding. I bought cans of scungilli and shipped them home. Living in Santa Fe, I can get fresh fish, but I still use frozen items too. This year I ordered the scungilli from that Long Island store.
I’ll be making the salad in a few days. There’s some cooking involved. You must simmer the items in a clear broth with dry white wine, water, celery, and bay leaf. All the fish, except for the scungilli, gets simmered in this broth. The scungilli can be added as is. In addition to the broth, you make a salad dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, chopped garlic, capers, parsley, and white pepper. I also mix in a little of that broth and put in some small slices of lemon, as Cosmo suggested doing. After the fish cooks and cools, I toss it into the dressing and put it into jars that we place in the refrigerator. We let it marinate for several days before Christmas Eve, turning the jars every day to make sure all the fish is well coated in dressing.
That’s it. Before we serve it on Christmas Eve, we let it sit at room temperature for a while before serving, then we garnish it with more chopped parsley and slices of lemon to squeeze on your serving. I have been making it every holiday season since the 1980s. It is so delicious, and we usually have enough for an appetizer with our Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s dinner, and sometimes beyond.
If you enjoyed this blog, you might like my other blog: CHRISTMAS EVE FEAST – DECEMBER 2020, which talks about a traditional Italian Christmas Eve fish dinner.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday Season and good health in the new year.
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