Saturday, December 25, 2004

Buon Natale a tutti!

Christmas in LA [photo: d_orlando]

We had a wonderful Vigilia di Natale last night. My sister Jo went all out. There were many Italian dishes: the classic baccala con polenta [salt cod in tomato sauce with fried corn mush]; fish stew with calamari and shrimp; and sausage and onions also served with polenta. My niece Francesca made the traditional pignolata [honey balls] and tarali cookies for the first time. She made a great batch. The tradition will live on.

One dish that has become a standard at Christmas dinners are tamales - living in California has rubbed off on us. All it took was my brother's Mexican-American friend's mother's homemade tamales sent as a Feliz Navidad gift years ago to make us appreciate the dish. Soft and warm, with a trace of hot spice normally not found in Italian dishes... well, except for the occasional hot sausage, pepperoni, capocola, and Calabrian-style salami. ; )

Today's Christmas dinner will include my sister's version of my Dad's braciole - a flank steak roast rolled and string-tied around hard-boiled eggs, mortadella slices, provolone chunks, scallion, tomatoes, parsley, breadcrumbs, grated romano cheese - then brown the surface, and place it in tomato sauce, simmering it until cooked. Serving it room temperature is best!

Tomorrow: Fasting.

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