American literary scholar Mary Ellen Chase once said, “Christmas is not a date, it is a state of mind.” Words that have resonated deep within me in a meaningful way.
Since I’ve become more aware of what’s going on in the world, I’m a journalism major after all, I’ve noticed holiday commercials advocate a message which sees its focus in the gifts rather than the true spirit behind Christmas.
Traditional holiday activities typically include family reunions, a dinner menu that if transcribed to paper would probably be longer than this article and of course plenty of “spiced” drinks to lively things up.
Though my name might not suggest it, I was raised Italian. My mother’s last name was Piacquadio, which translates to “it pleases God,” but I don’t think I’ll be making Santa’s nice list anytime soon. Every family has their own Christmas tradition. What’s special about an Italian upbringing is the ability to look forward to the Seven Fishes meal. This epic feast consists of a continuous flow of seven seafood dishes, hence the title given.
I’m a firm believer that it runs in the Italian bloodline to be a natural-born cook, for the most part at least, and truly enjoy pleasing people through a large meal and shared conversations. For $30, I created a festive dinner for one that takes minimal effort and little time to make.
But just as you would during the Seven Fishes feast, you would eat slowly to enjoy the simple and delicious flavors. I used a ½ lb. slab of a white, flaky fish called Chilean Sea Bass. I’ve cooked with this fish before and it’s known for its ability to maintain firmness but still be tender.
I quickly realized the act of chewing the fish became effortless, which is a good thing. Only the salty, crunchy bits of glazed pan drippings reminded me I was actually eating something- it was a cloud of the sea.
Add to that a rich butter sauce with a splash of lemon and briny capers and that’s amore! To complete the meal I kept the festive holiday colors in mind and sautéed spinach with red peppers and garlic, creating a sort of culinary wreath. Eating the veggies alongside the fish not only tasted great, it made me confident that I can pace myself during the holiday feasting season.
And no, I’m not into dieting, watching my weight or any of that sort. Give the pork, turkey and layered pasta a break and see food from a different angle. Chilean Sea Bass is high in omega-3 protein, spinach is high in iron and red peppers are vitamin C fortified. These extra vitamins and minerals will help give a boost to counter the infamous cold season.
Look, there is only about a week left and yes, it just so happens to be finals week, but I would like to offer some helpful advice before I sign off to bury myself in class notes. Eat well throughout the week, get decent sleep and when it’s all over shift gears like you would when leaving campus.
Forget what the TV says your holiday should be. If anything, the holiday season should be a time we disconnect, reboot ourselves and cherish what we are fortunate enough to have, not to ask for 10 more gifts we don’t really need.
Give and you shall receive, that is the essence of the holiday season. Chase’s quote said it all. Christmas isn’t just a date on a calendar; it is a state of mind we can choose to be in to make the holidays a great experience. So until spring, I wish all readers a successful finals week, safe travels and of course Buon Natale!
• ½ lb. Chilean Sea Bass or other white, flaky fish
• ½ Lemon, juiced
• Chives, minced
• ½ Bag of spinach
• Small jar roasted red peppers
• 3 ½ Cloves garlic, finely minced
• 1 ½ Tbsp. capers (optional, taste like little olives)
• 1 Tbsp. butter
• 2 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
• Salt & pepper to taste
Rinse and pat dry fish. Season with salt and ground black pepper on each side. Add 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil and butter, sear each side 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Should have golden brown crust. Turn heat to low, add garlic, lemon juice and capers, simmer 4 minutes. While fish is cooking, sauté garlic for 3 minutes on medium-low heat. Add spinach, red peppers, salt and pepper to taste. Cook with lid for 8-10 minutes on low. Let fish rest for a minute then plate with veggies. Garnish with chives and lemon wedge. Serves 1-2.