With the holidays here again, I'm enjoying a moment to be still.
Well, not entirely — there's cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping and plenty of work to be done, of course. But as much as I love to wander, for the month of December, I've happily stayed put. And on Christmas Eve, from the comfort of my cozy, fir-trimmed home, I'll continue my recent tradition of creating a Feast of the Seven Fishes for a few people I love.
In case you're not familiar, the Feast is an Italian holiday tradition involving seven courses that highlight fish and other seafood.
Over the years, I've given the meal my own twists — often planning the menu based on memorable dishes I've eaten during my travels and the unforgettable places I've gone.
The tradition gains new depth and variety each year. This season, once again, my treks will play a leading role.
The night will begin, as most great nights do, with a stellar cocktail — in this case, an Old Fashioned with a flourish of mezcal brought back from a sweltering trip to Mexico.
Early courses will also be peppered with odes to the global kitchen: a pungent anchovy and olive pizzetta that I found while flipping through an Italian cookbook I brought home (requiring translation and a little guesswork), and flaky empanadas filled with octopus, inspired by a food-filled jaunt through Barcelona. I'll use, as I often do, my collection of Icelandic sea salt for finishing touches, stored in pinch bowls procured in Japan.
For the final seafood course, I'll attempt to fashion a whole snapper into the delicious, herb- and fish-sauce-laden version I enjoyed in Cambodia.
And in a rare moment of pause, I'll be reminded again of the bounty the world has to offer, the fullness that exploring brings — and the joy of inviting new cultures, new flavors and new memories into my home.
Amelia Rayno covers food and travel for the Star Tribune. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @AmeliaRayno.