Christmas Cooking For Dummies
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In Italy, antipasti can include rice dishes, egg dishes, fish and shellfish, and more, but for your pre-Christmas dinner purposes, a lighter selection is just fine and will fit into even a tight budget. Many dishes that Italians consider as appetizers can easily be found readymade. Just gather together purchased and homemade foods and arrange them on a large platter or on a series of smaller dishes.

  • Go to a bakery and buy some focaccia, which is a flat bread. It comes with a variety of toppings, from sun-dried tomatoes to pesto to rosemary. All of the varieties are delicious and perfect for this purpose. Just cut the bread into small squares or rectangles and set out in a basket. Or buy a pizza shell from the bread aisle of the supermarket, spread it with pesto, sprinkle with a light layer of shredded mozzarella, and bake until golden. Cool slightly, cut into pieces, and serve.

  • Consider buying some thinly sliced prosciutto, which is a delicious cured ham, and an assortment of hard and soft salamis. Roll the prosciutto around spears of cantaloupe or steamed asparagus. Serve the salamis on thinly sliced bread rounds or squares.

  • Some deli cases have a platter of roasted vegetables that you can buy by the pound. Alternatively, you can roast your own veggies at home. Just toss some vegetables with olive oil and roast in a 375-degree oven until browned and tender. Try sliced bell peppers of all colors, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, onion wedges, and fennel. Season with a little salt and pepper, if you like, and arrange on a platter.

    Preparing a pepper for a vegetable platter.
    Preparing a pepper for a vegetable platter.
  • Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, pepperocini (pickled hot peppers), mushrooms, and a few other vegetables can be found in jars on the grocery shelves. Some even come marinated in a vinaigrette. These are great timesavers. Giardiniere is a pickled vegetable mixture principally made from cauliflower and carrots that can often be found jarred or at Italian delis and will also save you time.

  • Marinated vegetables are usually easy to find, but they’re easy to make, too. Steam broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, beets, or whatever else you like. Steam very lightly so that they retain some crispness and their vibrant colors. Then just toss with a flavorful vinaigrette.

  • Don’t forget about a selection of Italian cheeses ¯ a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, some fresh mozzarella, a semi-soft fontina, and a sheep’s milk pecorino.

    [Credit: Corbis-Digital Stock]
    Credit: Corbis-Digital Stock

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Dede Wilson, CCP, contributes to Bon Appétit and Pastry and Design magazine and to NBC's Todayshow. She is also the Food and Entertaining expert for

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