Thursday, December 17, 2009

Swordfish For Christmas Eve Fish Feast

November 2009 538

In many Italian-American households, the Christmas eve meal is a multi-course fish extravaganza. Our household was no different, as my mother prepared fried smelts, baccala, pasta with squid and scores of other seafood specialties. I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve when my grandfather decided to decapitate the eels in the kitchen sink, just below my mother’s white lace curtains. I’m not sure what became more flaming red – my mother’s temper or the formerly white curtains! 

I don’t remember keeping count of whether we had 7 or 13 different dishes, but there was always a variety, and there were always neighbors popping in until the wee hours to savor some of the bounty. It’s a tradition I’ve been maintaining since I got married and continues today, although the variety of dishes has changed.

We’re likely to start off with a cold seafood salad, shrimp cocktail and maybe an octopus and potato salad. I made it for the first time last year and it was gone in a flash.


For the main event, there has to be stuffed squid in tomato sauce for sure, a dish my Abruzzese mother-in-law makes and that now my son prepares. It’s an all-time favorite.


The smelts and other fried seafood have been replaced with dishes that don’t use heaps of oil, such as seafood risotto:


and fillet of sole stuffed with shrimp.


I try to include baccala, the salt cod that has a distinctive flavor, but rather than deep fry it, I’ll use it to make either codfish cakes or baccala mantecato, a creamy seafood spread that I’ll serve with grilled polenta squares.

I still haven’t figured out the whole menu, but another dish that may make the cut for the Christmas eve table is this Mediterranean-style swordfish. It’s got all the flavors of Southern Italy with its capers, olives and tomatoes, and is delicious with not only swordfish, but other kinds of seafood, like tuna or cod.

This swordfish dish takes me back to Calabria and a town called Scilla, where several years ago, my husband and I, along with my brother-in-law Joe, ate nearly the identical meal at a restaurant overlooking the Ruffo castle, a fortress that was built by the Dukes of Calabria. Scylla is also the name of the sea monster in Greek mythology who is said to have swallowed six of Odysseus’ men in Homer’s Odyssey, right here near the straits of Messina.  I have to admit that while my dish is delicious, nothing compares to eating it with the view of the Mediterranean Sea. But maybe if Scylla had tried my version, he’d have preferred it to Odysseus’ men.

This swordfish dish is also my entry for the virtual Feast of The Seven Fishes that Joe of is running.


Joe’s accepting entries until December 18, and is offering a gift to a lucky someone chosen at random, so hurry and get your offering in. Buon Natale!

Mediterranean-Style Swordfish

printable recipe here

3 T. olive oil

1/4 cup minced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 green pepper, minced

3 T. capers

olives (I used about 8 Kalamata olives that I pitted and smashed, but you could leave them whole. To pit, take an olive, put it on a chopping board and smash it, using a can from your pantry)

1 small can of diced tomatoes (about 15 oz.)

1/4 cup white wine

salt, pepper

2 T. dried basil (or fresh if available)

swordfish (I used a one-pound piece, but this sauce is enough for two pounds)

chopped parsley

Saute the onion, garlic and green pepper in the olive oil. Add the tomatoes, white wine, capers and olives, salt, pepper and basil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the swordfish. Cover and cook another 10 minutes at a low simmer. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.



  1. Delish....all the photos are! I love Swordfish though I haven't had it in ages...and I love italian food, Al cartoccio, on it own....delish

  2. I've been wondering how to lighten the tradition as well. Aunt Fay did a lot of salads. Love the flavors and ingredients in the swordfish. Perfect!

  3. I know where I would like to be on christmas eve..and it is not here in the uk , it is with you and your family having this fabulous feast of fish dishes..!! Forget the turkey christmas day, I don't care about that..Such a wonderful tradition you have kept up, well done I think it is brilliant. Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

  4. Oh yum! What a feast!
    Love swordfish prepared this way too. Very delicious!
    Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas to you!

  5. Wow Linda, I would love to be in yours or your mom's house with all of those delicious dishes she prepared.

  6. am making a Cioppino with seven or so fishes...but your fish looks fabulous...Sheesh i am in NJ...what time is dinner!
    Merry Christmas Linda!

  7. That stuffed squid has may name all over it.
    S-T-A-C-E-Y! Happy Holidays.....enjoy the festa!

  8. Oh my, too many choices and all look so delicious! Wishing you happiness and peace in the New Year. Buon Natale!

  9. OMG. My mom use to make stuffed squid and last year my brother-in-law made some for Christmas eve and it was really really good. I hope he makes it again this year but if not thank you for the recipe! It is amazing how a recipe can make my day!

  10. Linda I have been making the Christmas Eve fish feast since marrying my Calabrese husband 35 years ago :-) he has to have baccala prepared fried, and I also make it very much the same way you made your sword fish. His family was from a town at the very southern end of Italy on the Ionian Sea, but it also contained the ruins of a Norman Castle dating back to the crusades era.

    My son also loved stuffed calamari and my daughter has to have fried shrimp. I love stuffed lobster tails and I make salmon for my Mom. There are always clams and mussels in tomato broth to start and lingine with calamri sauce next. It is a night of course after course but we love it!

    A family member will be on the Travel Channel tomorrow evening at 9PM with Samantha Brown doing a "Christmas in NY" special -- they will be showing Christmas light s and having a "Feast Of The Seven Fishes" in a restaurant in Brooklyn, NY -- hope you can tune in!

  11. Delicious. I've cooked swordfish and made stuffed squid before, but never in a tomato sauce. Both look very succulent - shall give both a try. Thanks and "Buon Natale".

  12. What a feast! That squid has MY name on it Stacey. M-A-R-I-E!

  13. I love Christmas Eve and this tradition. We have this every year when the entire family is together. The house smells like fried fish and we cook all day and seems like we finish eating it all in 30 minutes. I just copied our Christmas Brownie recipe from last Dec. and left a comment there also. Merry Christmas.

  14. Wow che prazetto delizioso, vorrei essere fra i tuoi invitati, complimenti.
    Anch'io sono molto legata alla tradizioni, anche se tu sai in Itlia ogni regione ha delle tradizioni diverse.
    ciao Daniela.

  15. Oh, my. I love fish, and these recipes are just what I want at this time of the year--hearty, filling, healthy. I love the photo of the risotto--it reminds me that risotto and paella are cousins of a sort. Thanks for this feast!

  16. Just found your blog! I had fun exploring. Your Christmas Eve feast looks fabulous!

  17. ...and what is your address exactly? The swordfish and stuffed squid are calling me (PETER< PETER)!

  18. That swordfish dish looks fantastic! A wonderful recipe!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



  19. Ha! I made a swordfish that looks very similar.
    I have to go check out Joe's Feast, I wonder how Maryann is doing...
    Wishing you a merry Christmas Linda!

  20. What a nice evening I am sure, your dishes look great! We also had our traditional seafoods...

  21. O you had fun on Christmas, FRESH FISH SAUCE ...Sounds yummy, pretty short INGREDIENTS, Great taste You make it pretty easy, and yummy, And it is helpful that you share the recipe, I will try at home.

    Term papers

  22. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work.

  23. This is generally a wonderful website i should say,I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work

    UK Education Consultants

  24. Wow, the Mediterranean-Style Swordfish looks like a delightful addition to the Christmas Eve fish feast tradition! The rich flavors bring back memories of Scilla. By the way, if you're looking for a different kind of feast – an educational one –"> check out our consultancy for valuable insights on academic journeys. Buon Natale and happy feasting!