It is hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us. It has really snuck up on me this year. Almost ready with ready with the presents, I am worried that the one thing I ordered weeks ago, a Westbrook jersey for my baby, might not arrive in time. If it doesn’t arrive, it will not be the end of the world, but I might be a little disappointed.
We will definitely be having a white Christmas, as there has been snow on the ground for weeks; the temperature barely climbs above freezing during the day. The laundry freezes on the clothesline outside, and we know it is dry when it is finally soft.
Getting ready for the holidays, I have been baking up a storm. Every year, I make platters of American goodies, for my favorite neighbors. Fudge, sugar cookies, gingerbread, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate truffles are always a hit. This year I also made some homemade Baileys and vegan pecan bars. Our neighbors appreciate them and I like baking, tasting and giving most everything away to save me from myself!
Holiday recitals are also par for the course here as they are in the States. Our two fifth grade classes impressed us with songs sung in four different languages: Italian, French, English and Piemontese.
We always spend Christmas day with Mauro’s family. Last year’s Christmas was the first spent with my family in 16 years. We rotate who hosts Christmas lunch or dinner with Mauro’s cousins every three years and everyone brings something so it is never too much work. There will be 21 of us sitting down at Christmas dinner this year and it is always a lot of fun. We will not be doing a traditional dinner. One of Mauro’s cousins is having all sorts of dietary issues, so we will be trying some new recipes that do not include cheese or flour. Because of this, I decided to make one of our traditional Christmas appetizers at home before the holidays. Something that Mauro’s mom always made at Christmas, Involtini di asparagi e formaggio, baked asparagus and cheese wrapped in ham, I cheated this year…Served after a bowl of veggie soup, during a busy week, this was our entree rather than an antipasto. It is super easy to make, and my kids love it.
So all you need for this recipe is three ingredients, asparagus, thinly sliced deli ham, and cheese. Many people actually make this with formaggio fuso, like Kraft singles. They are white here, rather than yellow, but I am not a big fan of pasteurized processed cheese food, so I have changed the recipe. My cheese preference is for Emmental or Gruyere.
The ham used here is really ham, or what Italians call “prosciutto cotto.” Do not use prosciutto crudo! As an antipasto, I make two or three involtini, (pieces) per person. For each piece, use three asparagus spears (unless they are super fat) a long, thin slice of cheese and one slice of ham.
Steam your asparagus for a few minutes, and let it cool. Once cooled, lay the asparagus spears on the ham, put the cheese on top, and roll it up. Place them in a lightly oiled baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes at 350°. That is all there is to it. Serve them warm, I like it when they start getting just a little crispy around the edges.
Wherever you are for the holidays, I hope you are with people you love, whether family or friends and have something good to eat. Raise a glass and say, “Salute!” “To your health!” We don’t really need any more than this, do we?