What to eat before Midnight mass? On Christmas Eve that is always the question in our house. We’ve eaten a big feast just hours before, but by the time 10:00 rolls around, as the rest of the relatives arrive for a visit and the drive to our family parish, everyone is ready for “a little something” to tide us over. Why not have a Prosecco cocktail with Cappelletti or a Spritz, and a few light nibbles?
Cappelletti, also known as “Lo Specialino” hails from Alto-Adige. Citrusy and full-flavored, aromatic and bittersweet, think of this vibrant red vino aperitivo as the kinder, gentler cousin of Campari. It is wonderful with soda or tonic water, Prosecco, or in a Negroni, in place of the usual Campari.
Pair your Cappelletti cocktail with Mezzelune ai funghi, flaky puff pastry filled with cooked mushrooms, and a duet of Gorgonzola crostini, one topped with fragrant toasted hazelnuts and a touch of voluptuous hazelnut oil, the other topped with luscious Mostarda di Fichi. This light meal will get you to the church on time.
Prosecco & Cappelletti
Fill a flute ¾ full with well-chilled Prosecco. Add a splash of Cappelletti, and a dash of orange bitters, if desired. Garnish with an orange twist. Serve.
Cappelletti & Soda
Fill a rocks glass ¾ full with ice. Add 2 ounces Cappelletti, or to taste, and top with soda or tonic water. Garnish with an orange wheel. Serve.
Mezzelune ai Fungi
makes about 50
These antipasti can be prepared weeks ahead and frozen unbaked. They are perfect to have on hand for surprise guests. Use any mushroom you like, white button, cremini or Italy’s famous funghi porcini.
• 1 ½ pounds of prepared puff pastry
• 1 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp towel
• ½ cup minced Italian parsley
• 2 shallots
• ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• ¾ cup dry bread crumbs
• 2 ounces unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• 1 large egg
Place the shallots in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mince. Add the mushrooms and parsley. Pulse to mince. Over a medium flame heat the butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet. Add the mushroom mixture, and ½ teaspoon fine sea salt. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10-11 minutes. Combine the mushroom mixture, cheese, bread crumbs, and pepper in a medium bowl. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside to cool.
Roll the puff pastry to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch rounds. Place rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Place 1 teaspoon of filling just off-center on each round. Moisten the edge with water, and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Press the edges together with a fork. Place the mezzelune in 1 layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour prior to baking. For longer storage, place the mezzelune in the freezer in one layer, and freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Transfer them to an airtight container, and keep frozen until ready to bake. They may be baked straight from the freezer.
To bake, adjust the oven rack to the center level, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly beat together the egg and 1 teaspoon water. Place the mezzelune on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the egg wash. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Serve warm.
Crostini with Gorgonzola Dolce and Hazelnuts
• ¼ -½ inch thick slices of baguette
• 8 oz. Gorgonzola dolce
• 4 oz. whole milk ricotta
• ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed
• basil leaves
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
Pariani hazelnut oil
Heat a grill pan for five minutes over medium heat. Slice the bread on the bias into pieces about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Grill on both sides until slightly warm and lightly marked. Rub one side of the warm bread with the cut surface of the garlic. (If you prefer no garlic, omit this step.)
Break the gorgonzola into small pieces and combine it with the ricotta. If you prefer a smooth mixture, blend further, using a fork to mash the cheeses together. For a completely smooth mixture, place the cheese in the food processor fitted with the metal knife and pulse until smooth. Spread a bit of the mixture on the garlic rubbed side of each slice of bread. Place basil (either tiny leaves or larger leaves cut in chiffonade) atop the cheese mixture. Dot the crostini with the chopped toasted hazelnuts. Arrange the crostini on serving plates and dribble a bit of hazelnut oil over them, allowing it to pool in the nooks and crannies of the cheese topping. Serve.
Crostini with Gorgonzola Dolce and Mostarda di Fichi
Prepare the crostini as above, omitting the garlic. Spread soft Gorgonzola dolce atop the crostini and spoon Mostarda di Fichi over. Serve.
Pariani Hazelnut Oil and Mostarda di Fichi are available from Market Hall Foods (MarketHallFoods.com)
Cappelletti Vino Aperitivo is available from K&L Wines (KLWines.com)and other purveyors of fine wines and spirits