The Frugal Foodie: Dean Gold

A holiday spread doesn’t have to eat away at your budget. Dean Gold shows us how to feed six people with a Feast of the Seven Fishes for under $60.

Gold serves crostini with a variety of toppings, including tomato-and-garbanzo-beans and tuna spread.

>>Check out more photos of Dean Gold's Feast of the Seven Fishes in our slideshow.

>> See our full Holiday Guide 

The Frugal Foodie numbers game is always tricky business, but computing seven fishes for six people for less than $60 turns out to be a complex mathematical equation.

Contemplating the fish counter, Dean Gold, owner of the Cleveland Park Italian restaurant Dino, seems up for the task. He’s agreed to put a budget spin on the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Historically, Italians abstained from meat on Christmas Eve. In true Italian fashion, this fast became a feast of seven, ten, or 13 fishes. The numbers symbolize different things, from the seven sacraments to the 12 Apostles plus Jesus.

I’m sure these aren’t the numbers going through Gold’s head as he stares at the case of fish. In the end, he chooses cod, haddock, shrimp, and swordfish. He grabs canned tuna—he likes the Genoa and Cento brands because they use better-quality olive oil. And I throw him a bone and offer up some leftover frozen calamari.



With the seven fishes taken care of, Gold grabs the remaining ingredients, including fennel, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic and Lebanese zucchini.

At my apartment, Gold makes use of everything. He purchased the shrimp with the heads still on—he uses the heads and discarded shells along with vegetable trimmings for a stock. Fennel leaves season the roasted tomatoes, and the bulb is used for a dish of escarole. He reserves a few pieces of cod for the baccala, a salted-cod dish meant to bring good luck, as well as the soup.

In the end, Gold dishes up a feast that includes an antipasto of escarole, roasted tomatoes, tonnato, and crostini, baccala, pasta with shrimp, and a seafood stew. As course after course comes out of the kitchen, I realize it really does all add up.


Feast of the Seven Fishes From Dean Gold of Dino

All recipes serve six.


1 baguette
Olive oil as needed

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Thinly slice the baguette into oval-shaped cross-sections. Brush each slice with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about a half hour (flip the crostini midway through, then rotate the pan) The crostini should be crisp and slightly colored. They can be made earlier in the day if left uncovered on a serving tray. Serve with the Gorgonzola-anchovy, tuna, fennel-escarole, and tomato mixtures below. Reserve 18 slices for soup.

Crostini With Gorgonzola and Anchovies

¼ pound Gorgonzola dolce
12 slices crostini
1 can good anchovies, flat in olive oil, preferably Cento brand
Chopped parsley as needed

Spread the cheese on each piece of crostini. Top each with half an anchovy fillet. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.


1 five-ounce can tuna in oil, preferably Genoa or Cento brand
1 ounce capers in brine, drained
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ onion, chopped
Pinch aleppo pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed

Place the tuna, the oil from the tuna, the capers, the lemon juice, and the onion in the bowl of a food processor. Process until fairly smooth. With the food processor running, emulsify the mixture by drizzling in a little olive oil. Drizzle in more oil until the mixture has the consistency of a thin mayonnaise. Adjust the flavors with salt, aleppo pepper, black pepper, and lemon juice. Put in serving bowl and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up the texture.

Roasted Tomatoes

2 pints cherry tomatoes
Fennel leaves from one bulb fennel
1/8 red onion, slivered
1 20-ounce can garbanzo beans (reserve half for the soup)
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the tomatoes and fennel leaves in a bowl and moisten with olive oil. Toss with salt and pepper to coat. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the tomatoes pop and lose some of their juice, about 30 minutes. Put the tomatoes and any accumulated juice in a mixing bowl. Add the onions and garbanzo beans plus the remaining olive oil and toss to mix. Stir in the lemon juice and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Let cool to room temperature.

Stir-Fried Escarole

1 bunch escarole, about 2 to 3 cups uncooked
¼ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
Pinch aleppo pepper
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed

Trim the hard bottoms from the escarole (reserve for stock). Rinse the escarole and let the water cling to its leaves. Set aside a few of the outer leaves for the fish soup. Heat a pan over high heat and add the onion and oil. Stir-fry until the onion starts to turn soft and translucent. Add the garlic and the aleppo and stir-fry until the garlic begins to take on color. Add the escarole and lemon juice. Stir-fry until desired degree of doneness. “A Tuscan grandma would cook it for 45 minutes until the escarole is quite mushy and brown,” says Gold. “I prefer it slightly toothy with no crunch. Modern cooks may like it crunchy.”

Sautéed Fennel

½ bulb fennel
Pinch aleppo pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed

Trim the stalks off the fennel. Reserve the feathery leaves for the tomato recipe, and keep the stalks for the fish stock. Trim out the hard root from the fennel bulb. Slice the fennel into bite-size rounds. Heat a pan with good bit of olive oil over very high heat and add the fennel. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the aleppo pepper. Add the lemon juice and lower the heat to medium. Cook the fennel until it begins to color. When cooked to your preferred degree of crunch (Gold cooks it until soft, about 15 minutes), remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Mix with the escarole if desired.

Wilted Arugula

1 bunch arugula, about 2 to 3 cups uncooked
Pinch aleppo pepper
¼ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil as needed

Rinse the arugula well and remove the bottom stems (reserve for stock). Heat a pan with oil over high heat. Add the aleppo pepper and stir until it darkens a bit. Add the onion. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook until the garlic turns slightly golden. Add the arugula and lime juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cook until the arugula wilts.


2 whole cod fillets, reserve one small fillet for the soup, then cut the remainder into 1-inch bite-size pieces
1 cup flour
1 cup tomato sauce (recipe below)
Olive oil as needed

Coat the cod with the flour. Cook in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Serve with spoonfuls of tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce

1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
½ cup white wine
2 28
-ounce cans whole tomatoes
Olive oil as needed

Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add the white wine and cook until the wine burns off. Add the tomatoes and cook 1 to 2 hours. (The sauce will be done in 1 hour, but letting it sit longer helps it develop more flavor.) Process in a food processor until smooth. Serve with the baccala, but reserve enough to toss with the shrimp pasta.

Shrimp Pasta

¼ cup onion
¼ cup crosswise-sliced garlic
3 small Lebanese zucchini, chopped
2 pounds head-on shrimp (set aside 12 shrimp for the soup)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprig rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 box linguine
Remaining tomato sauce (see recipe above)
Olive oil as needed

Remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and reserve for stock. In a pan set over medium heat, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and zucchini, then the tomato sauce, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. In a separate pan set over medium heat, sauté the shrimp with a bit of olive oil until pink, about 6 minutes. Boil pasta according to package instructions. Serve with shrimp and sauce.

Fish Stock

Vegetable trimmings from previous recipes
Shrimp heads and shells
Water as needed

Place the ingredients in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring all the ingredients to a boil. Skim any skin that develops for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and let the stock simmer for 15 minutes. Strain into a pot.

Fish Soup

Reserved stock
1 celery stalk (with the leaves) sliced crosswise as thinly as possible
1 teaspoon thyme
10 ounces garbanzo beans
1 small haddock fillet, cut into 1-inch bites
1 small swordfish fillet, cut into 1-inch bites
2 cups calamari rings
12 shrimp
1 cod filet (reserved from the baccala recipe)
18 slices crostini

Add the celery, thyme, and garbanzo beans to the strained stock. Add 2 cups tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer and check the seasoning. Add the calamari and cook for 1 minute. Add the swordfish and cook for 1 minute. Add the haddock and cod and cook 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink and curl. Make sure each bowl gets some of each fish, and serve with 3 crostini on the side. Before eating, drop the crostini in the hot soup. One should be eaten while it’s still crunchy, and the others thicken the soup.    


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