This year for Christmas Eve I will have adults only at my table celebrating the passage into the new light, it will be one of the few times in my life I will not make a sit down dinner. I will prepare an array of fanciful small dainties to be served in various area of my great room.
Putting dainties together will be just like choosing colors and textures for dressing up. It is important to find the right balance of colors and flavors. Need not to have too much salty food, nor too much food of the same kind of textures, protein, vegetable, starches and sweets must be equally distributed and in between palate cleansers are a real treat to put all the taste buds back in place.
Caviar with a variety of crackers and breads will be the opening, accompanied by smoked salmon with capers and sparkling wines.
A large size tray of endive, raw celery and fennel will be a good match with cheeses and will be good to help digesting dairy products.
The highlight of my cheese tray will be the Tête de Moine and the Dubliner, which I recently discovered from one of my dearest friend.
Last summer I made sun-dried tomatoes in my garden, preserved in olive oil, capers, garlic and fennel seed. I will put them next to the cheeses, olives and Italian prosciutto, they are so good on crostini with one of my spreadable cheeses.
My Italian tradition calls for fried salted cod for Christmas Eve. It is one type of food that never makes it to the table, fried cod is absolutely good piping hot right out of the fryer.
As we say in Italian “cotto e mangiato” cooked and eaten at once; scorching of the palate and fingers are allowed. I own an Italian made fryer equipped with a charcoal filter and a turning tumble canister that makes fried food so light, clean and no fried food smell in the kitchen. I don’t eat fry food during the year, but when I have people over is so fun to eat something different and allow myself to go out of my own strict rules. Besides, my friend will polish everything, I am lucky to taste one or two pieces of fried cod.
I will cook the rice with wild mushrooms in small individual Savarin molds, perfect to create the effect of a large ring when they are turned over in the plate. I will decorate the center hole with some arugula leaves.
Mussels cooked in garlic, fennel and wine will be in a large bowl for a grand effect. Some of my friends have never eaten mussels this way, they will have a good opportunity to try some brassiere food.
I fancy stuffed grilled eggplants rolled in small packages hiding a surprise mixture of meat, spinach, beaten egg and a small spoon of Parmigiano as a binder. I am thinking, since I have the grill going, I will put on some asparagus and colored peppers too, my friends will not mind.
I will make the zabaione cream myself and my friend will watch. It seems as if many of them tonight will be in a cooking class involuntarily, but it will be much fun to cook together than preparing it all by myself.
I will conclude my food spread with dried nuts, fresh fruit, panettone an Italian Christmas cake and more sparkling wines.
It will be simple home cooking and it will take the whole night.
Many of these recipes are in my books, some of my friends will have a taste for the first time, but many of them are so happy to share my Puglia food with me again.
I am going to start the preparation and welcome everyone with a glass of prosecco.
The night is young and we need to reach midnight doing something fun, laughing, making jokes, telling stories and playing with food. Some of my friends are not into cooking, they will have easy tasks, as I don’t want to risk a food mistake just tonight on Christmas Eve and some will pour all night.
I hope you are having fun too.
We will welcome the new light in the world and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Merry Christmas, peace in the world. Ciao,
Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She especially loves to design all those rooms with a “make me feel good” tag attached, such as kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. She is a public speaker and a mentor. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books, available here in this site on the Books page and in various locations.