Overshadowed by a more well-known feast day of this week in March(St. Paddy's Day), Saint Joseph's Day falls this Friday, March 19th. In my household, corned beef and cabbage will be enjoyed on Wednesday and a Sicilian feast on Friday. The patron saint of Sicily, Saint Joseph, is honored on this day with the best way any good Sicilian knows how-with a feast. This Lenten feast features items like Pasta Milanese and Baccala, which is salt cod. Salt cod is the traditional fish served at this dinner because it was once an inexpensive fish that was available even on Fridays when most other fresh fish was sold out. The salt cod is preserved in salt of course. Before eating the Baccala, the fish must be soaked for hours and hours to rehydrate. It can be served simply with lemon juice and mayonnaise or with tomatoes and wine. Since times have changed and fresh fish is available on Fridays or whenever Saint Joseph's Day falls, I prefer fresh cod for this dish.
Recipes for this dish vary, but I know you will love this simple, lightly breaded, sweet spin on Baccala. While this Saint Joseph's staple will complete your Saint Joseph's Day feast, this dish also makes for a great, healthy dinner for any night of the year. If you are trying to incorporate more fish in your diet, but you aren't really into fish, then you must try cod. Light, white flaky cod is mild in flavor and very low in fat. Saute cod in just a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, and you have yourself a healthy dinner entree that the whole family will love. To get your kids into this, cut the cod filet into strips. Lightly bread with bread crumbs, Panko bread crumbs or flour and cook in a non-stick pan in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. These delicious "fish sticks" are certain to be appealing to even the pickiest of eaters.
Lizzy M.'s Sweet Saint Joseph's Day Cod
1 Filet of cod (serves two or one large serving)
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Plain or Italian bread crumbs
3 tbsp honey
1. Drizzle the uncooked cod with extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Dredge the cod fish into the bread crumbs until lightly coated.
3. In a large pan, heat a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over medium to high heat. Place the breaded cod into the pan gently. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes before turning the fish over. You need the fish to cook through, so if the heat is so high that the bread crumbs are burning, then turn it down.
4. Turn the fish and cook on the other side another 3-4 minutes. You will know when the cod starts to split at the top and you see a solid white color.
5. In a small bowl, mix 3 tbsp of honey with 1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice. This should be sweet with a slight tang. If the lemon is too overpowering, then add a bit more honey.
6. Serve the cod with a drizzle of the honey and lemon mixture and garnish with a wedge of lemon.
With this being a Lenten feast, many vegetable dishes are served. Some include cabbage casserole, stuffed artichokes, eggplant, carduni (cardoon-a thistle-like plant from the artichoke family) and fava beans. The eggplant and carduni are often served lightly breaded in bread crumbs and fried. My favorite, the stuffed artichoke is stuffed with Italian cheeses, bread crumbs and seasoning and then pressure cooked to until tender. This filling appetizer is perfect for sharing family-style. The fava beans are served simply with a drizzle of olive oil. I am unsure of the significance of the cabbage casserole, however with Saint Patrick's Day being two days before this feast, it makes sense to have lots of cabbage leftover. Since cabbage casserole is a simple and quick dish to throw together, I decided to give this one a try.
Lizzy M.'s Italian Cabbage Casserole
1 Large head of green cabbage, cut into large squares for layering
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp allspice
1 cup Italian bread crumbs, divided into 3 parts
1 cup Parmesan (grated), divided into 3 parts
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp butter, divided into 3 parts
1. In a large pot, bring a large amount of water to a boil. Add the cabbage to the pot and push down with tongs, so the water hits all of the cabbage leaves. Allow to cook for just a minute. Drain the cabbage and set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, garlic and allspice.
3. In a large casserole dish, add one layer of cabbage to the bottom. Sprinkle 1/3 of the 1 cup of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Add another layer of cabbage and then sprinkle another layer of bread crumbs and cheese. Finally, add the last layer of cabbage.
4. Pour the egg mixture over the casserole. Top the casserole with last 1/3 cup of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Divide the butter into 3 parts and scatter on top of the casserole.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and then bake for another 15-20 minutes or until firm.
I hope you will enjoy these wonderful dishes and traditions of Saint Joseph's Feast Day. Try these recipes to celebrate this feast day. The cod and cabbage casserole together would make for a lovely meal at any time of year. Enjoy the traditions of other cultures by getting in the kitchen and eating as they do. Happy Saint Joseph's Day!