For Day 2 of our winter special, we are heading southward to (ever so slightly) warmer climes and the (supposed) birthplace of Christmas. If you're scratching your head in wonder, just think about the colors of Christmas - red and green, and streets lined with white -- Italy, of course.
Legend has it that la festa has its roots in traditions beginning long before Christ's birth, as a one-day celebration to boost Roman morale after losing face on the battlefield. What started as a single day soon expanded into Saturnalia, a veritable orgia stretching from December 17 until the 30th. Slaves were released from punishment, people ate and drank too much, and a good time was had by all. The Romans enjoyed Saturnalia so much that even attempts to shorten it (including one by Caligula) were unsuccessful.
While many things have changed since then, Christmas in Italy is still all about eating, drinking, giving presents, and merrymaking. Some families go to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and presents are exchanged either after mass or on the morning of December 25.
Christmas meals in Italy are as diverse as the country's cuisine. Lentils are common, as is fish. According to both Monica and Daniel from our Italian team, there is no such thing as a single 'typical' Italian Christmas dinner. Daniel says more fish, Monica says more meat, both say that lots of families have fish and then meat and then move on to the sweets (some things never change!). What both agree on is that would not be in proper Italian style to eat turkey or goose. And no one eats pizza on Christmas (except perhaps the Neapolitans!). Another food to avoid on this holiest of holidays: apples (they are a reminder of Adam and Eve and the fall from paradise)!
Everyone agrees that at the center of the Italian culinary Christmas is panettone, Italian Christmas bread. It is tender on the inside and crisp on the outside, and has just the faintest resemblance to a fruitcake (except it's much tastier!).
2 lb. cleaned eel with skin
2 tablespoons of raisins
2 garlic cloves
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 glass of white wine
5 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves
Cut the eel into 4-inch pieces and soak the raisins for 10 minutes in warm water. Sauté the garlic cloves whole in hot olive oil, then add the eel and bay leaves. Brush the eel with tomato paste and season it with salt, cinnamon and pepper or paprika.
Add white wine and raisins and cover the pot with a lid.
Simmer for 30 minutes; add water if necessary.
Serve with polenta.
Thanks to www.jupiter-57.com, we are pleased to give away a traditional Italian panettone to one lucky reader today. What is especially interesting about Jupiter 57 is that they are located in Singapore - run by an exceptional member of the Italian ex-pat community there, Giuseppina Pravato. Thanks to Guiseppina and Jahan at Jupiter 57, the culinary adventurous in Singapore have fallen in love with Italian food - panettone in particular.
The panettone we are giving away is a genuine, handmade Borsari panettone, which is made by 25 specially trained confectioners in Verona.
Now that we have gone from Italy to Singapore, it's time we headed back again for our next gift: a stainless steel designer kitchen faucet from A2F. If one winner is lucky enough, he or she could enjoy a panettone to top off Christmas dinner and then do the holiday dishes using this new kitchen faucet.
For the Jimdo Holiday Bash, Jimdo is raffling off an A2F Rampina. Rising in a graceful arch above the sink below, the Rampina was inspired by the victory of Genoese ships against the Pisan flotilla in 1284.
All A2F faucets are designed and produced in the picturesque region of Italy between the Orta and Maggiore Lakes, where steel craftsmanship and faucet manufacturing has a long tradition. High-quality design, attention to detail and and excellent price/quality ratio are the hallmarks of A2F.
Here's how to win:
Good luck to all our readers -- and a domani (see you tomorrow)!