Lynne Rossetto Kasper invites you into her kitchen with the third installment of her e-book series, Eating In with Lynne Rossetto Kasper. (See Issue 1 and Issue 2.) This latest issue, Italian Holidays, is a full-fledged Italian-inspired menu that can get you from Thanksgiving to the New Year.
In Italian Holidays, Lynne explains the Italian way of eating (slowly and happily). It includes a collection of antipasti, pasta, three main course choices (including a delicious take on the holiday bird), side dishes and show-stopping desserts. The menu is easily tailored to feeding whoever joins your table, no matter their dining preferences, be they vegan, vegetarian or omnivore. Recipes include Roasted Peppers with Toasted Almond Crumbs, Mozzarella Bites in Fresh Cream, Broken Bridegroom Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Fresh Parsley and Lemon, Sicilian Fish Soup, Roast Turkey en Porchetto, Risotto of Cinnamon-Pepper Roasted Squash, Garlic-Glazed Tuscan Kale, Frozen Italian Trifle and many more for creating a memorable holiday feast.
You will also learn about unique Italian cheeses, mussels, olives, and anchovies, and why apple cider vinegar may be the very best buy in vinegars. You'll get a lesson in how to cook risotto ahead of time and an invaluable guide to buying your holiday turkey -- they are not all created equal.
Someone once said, "Family is the people who share your table."
Everyone has nostalgia rights this time of year, permission to cash in on memories, to bring back what was dear to us.
When I was a kid, holidays were about making my grandparents happy, and it wasn't an easy job. My Italian grandparents (I had two sets of them) lived on either end of the same block. Read that as two overwhelming holiday meals at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, and both had to be eaten as though we had just crossed the Sahara without food and drink for a month. If not, each set of grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles were not happy.
Pacing one's eating was the key, but as a little kid I didn't want to hear about it. Only one serving of my Tuscan Nona's pasta or her turkey? It was an impossible insult. Only a few tastes of my Venetian grandmother's risotto or her fabulous vegetables? Never.
The food was everything. It said, "We're OK," no matter if times were rough or good. Like all of us who descend from immigrants (and who doesn't here), holiday meals could be remakes of feasts our families grew up with across an ocean, with the gloss of American plenty.
Even if you're not Italian, this menu is much like the parade of dishes I grew up with. It's a great way to mark the season. Choose what works for you from this menu, whether it's a quick supper of Broken Bridegrooms Pasta and Curled Endive Salad, or a work night encore of Pan-Fried Risotto Patties.
No matter the eating proclivities of each person at your table, they'll be satisfied with this menu. Omnivores have three options for a main dish, including a lusty roast turkey from Italy's country festivals. Vegans can turn to a delicious pasta or risotto for their main course, and vegetarians are awash in opportunities — from the gorgeous Sicilian Cauliflower to the Roasted Peppers with Toasted Almond Crumbs, to our Chocolate Spice Christmas Cake that comes with a regal provenance. Perhaps most celebratory of all, however, is to plan and eat this meal as you would in Italy. Slow down, eat in courses, and spend some real time at the table with family and friends.
Yes, most of this menu could become a buffet, but the Italian penchant is to experience each dish more or less on its own. The trick for the cook is to take your time. You want everyone talking and eating leisurely. No stopwatch is ticking.
There is a rule for holiday celebrations. Do not cook solo. Few things get a party to take off like involving everyone. If your kitchen is miniscule, or you like to work alone, appoint one person to stand in the doorway and be your expediter. Get people to pour drinks, pass food, set the table, snip the ends of the bouquet and get the cook a glass of wine.
Here's how an Italian holiday meal works:
Drinks and Appetizers (Aperitivi and Antipasti): Drink something light and fresh — Hot Apple Cider with Grappa, sparkling wines and waters with small tastes of things that peak appetites. Olives are a gift — no work, great taste. Our antipasti recipes can all be made well ahead.
First course (Primo): Pasta, soups, vegetables and risottos are all first courses. Served in small quantities, they are meant to stand on their own. Pasta is never a side dish; you always eat it on its own to focus on enjoying it. Broken Bridegrooms prove the concept.
Second course (Secondi): Poultry, meat, fish and hearty vegetable dishes are all second courses. But they're not called "main" courses because in the Italian mindset, they're solely part of the arc of the meal, a step taking you from the focus of the first course to the broader tastes of vegetables and meats. Portions, ideally, are modest.
Salad (Insalata): Just when you think you can't eat another thing, the salad shows up. But there is logic here. A few leaves of a cool tart salad in a light dressing refresh and wake up appetites.
The Walk: This is usually when everyone takes a break. On holidays, desserts are going to be a "moment." Exercise makes appreciation possible. Besides, whoever is in the kitchen enjoys the break.
Cheeses (Formaggi): A little nourishment to tide you over until dessert. Really a great way to show off cheeses people may not know. Again small quantities — just tastes.
Dessert (Dolci): For the holidays, rarely is there one dessert. Always on the table are platters of cookies, special sweets, and Italy's Christmas cakes (each area has its own), like panettone from Lombardia, the pan forte of Sienna, and at our table every year, the Chocolate Spiced Christmas Cake of Ferrara. I like to serve small cups of Puglia's Swallow's Milk, hot almond milk flavored with toasted cinnamon sticks. You need one showstopper dessert. For us, in this menu, it is the stunning Frozen Italian Trifle, which blessedly can be made months ahead of time.
However you choose to eat this holiday season, please know we wish you and yours the very best.