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Food – Christmas Holidays

Cookies & Truffles:

As is my MO, as long as I was making Peanut Butter Cookies, I made a lot.  I had to make the plain ones where you press the fork onto the top because I could not find Hershey’s Kisses to make Peanut Butter Kisses.  What I did not take to Sergio & Laura’s dinner or Cinzia V.’s pizza party, I plated and wrapped up as small gifts for Larry’s barber, my hairdresser, the guys in the grocery store, the ladies in the pharmacy, etc.  This was much easier than the multi-stage mega cookie and tea-bread marathon I did in the US, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Of course, I have a lot fewer people to gift here.  For the angels and neighbors I made Ina’s chocolate truffles with a hint of Cointreau.  All sweets were greatly appreciated and totally unexpected which, as a wise relative recently said, makes it even better.


Olive di Magro (without meat):

Whether making them with meat or fish,the trick is to cut the olive away from the pit so you can recompose it.  With a small paring knife, start at the stem and peel at an angle, like peeling an apple without breaking the strip of apple skin.  Per every 50 olives:  mix together 100 grams canned tuna in oil; 80 grams grated Parmesan cheese; 1 egg and fine bread crumbs, a spoon at a time, until you get the right texture (something that will hold together).  Then you make little balls out of the tuna mix (about the size of the pit you removed) and wrap an olive around each ball and squeeze slightly together.  If done correctly, they should hold together just fine.  Then you take 3 bowls and in one put fine flour, a couple eggs stirred in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.  Put the olives into each bowl in that order, and then put aside.  When finished with the olives, they are ready to freeze or fry and serve.  Click here for a video of how to make Olive all’Ascolana, also showing how to remove the olive pit.


Our New Year’s Eve Party:

I didn’t want to worry about where people would balance their plates to eat so my menu consisted of all finger foods.  I totally dismissed Ina’s rule of only making three things and buying the rest, because no one has a better time at your party because you spent days in the kitchen.  This is good advice but I had too many recipes that I wanted to make.  The list did get whittled down to a reasonable menu, not due to my coming to my senses, but only due to lack of time or needed ingredients.  Grace and her cousin Valentina kindly took us out to the paper/party store and Oasi to get supplies and to look for those illusive ingredients.

Italians like liver, as do I, but instead of Frances Mayes’ Tuscan liver spread (Crostini Nero) I had been making I decided to look on-line for a recipe for that party food from the past – Rumaki.  I could find all the ingredients except the water chestnuts (for crunch) but used a thinly sliced almond instead with moderate success.  For seafood I had chosen Ina’s Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, but blew it when I decided to save money and purchased fresh shrimps that I had to clean myself.  Here they sell them with the head on, but after I removed it they were pretty small, not to mention it was taking way too long to clean them. It was not enough juice for the squeeze – as we say in America.  Lesson learned.  So I put out a small amount of shrimp at the beginning of the party and ditched the rest.  I needed horseradish for both the shrimp sauce and the sauce for the beef, but it was not to be found at Oasi.  Dear Grace continued the search and later found it and purchased it for me.  I had already adjusted my recipes and prepared the sauces – but now I’m good for next time.  Grace explained to me the Italian tradition of eating lentils on New Year’s Eve for good luck in the coming year.  (I related immediately because it is just like my southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.)  Grapes must also be included, I think for luck too.  She eased the burden of this news by offering to bring them both and I agreed to purchase the bowls and spoons.

I had planned to make my Port Balls and two types of cookies for sweets, but I ran out of time and figured no one would know the difference.  I haven’t found pecans here, so no spiced pecans this holiday season.  I had, however, put aside some of my homemade truffles to serve with Champagne at midnight.  So on party day Larry expertly executed his assigned tasks of getting balloons & banners, and making a trip to the bakery for a selection of cookies.

Party menu:

Ciu Ciu Marche Passerina

LaCrima Di Morro d’Alba

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry

Frances Mayes’ Crostini with Melted Peppers w/balsamic vineger & Canellini Bean w/sage Spreads

Rumaki Skewers

Ina’s Garten’s Rosemary Roasted Cashews

”   Pan-fried Onion Dip w/Potato Chips and Veggies

”   Savory Palmiers

”   Blue Cheese & Walnut Crackers

”   Grilled Lemon Chicken Skewers w/Satay Dip

”   Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

”   Sandwiches of Tenderloin of Beef w/mustard sauce & arugula

Grace’s Lentils & Grapes

Assorted Cookies

Chocolate Truffles w/Cointreau at midnight

The guests brought delicious sandwich towers and finger sandwiches of all types, a savory warm torte, a tray of stuffed appetizers, plus an interesting combination of Tuscan panforte topped with pecorino cheese, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.  We had enough food for a party twice our size – which is somehow comforting to me.  In true Italian tradition, I froze some of the leftovers and spent the next couple weeks incorporating them into our daily meals.  Our guests brought so many wonderful bottles of wine and bubbly that we had much of our stash remaining when they left – looks like we’re ready for the next party!


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