Since I was little, our family has had a tradition of eating only hors d’oeuvre on Christmas Eve. There are always the usual suspects — cheese and crackers, a veggie tray, shrimp, etc., but over the years things have gotten more and more interesting. I think it has at least a little bit to do with satellite television and the Food Network, but my mom’s always been pretty adventurous in the kitchen. She rarely follows a recipe exactly, and it always seems to work out in her (and our) favor. (Really, the only notable exception to this was circa 1987, when she made alphabet soup for us and it didn’t work out very well. She’s a master of improvisation, and it’s totally not genetic).
Last night’s food was almost completely gluten-free, too! I’m in love with polenta, I’ve decided. My mom took this basic polenta recipe, cut out the cheese and added in some herbs, and ended up with these baked polenta squares:
We topped them with a variety of things — some sun-dried tomatoes, olive tapenade, and a couple of artichoke dips, including one inspired by this recipe. “I really only used the artichoke from that recipe,” my mom said — she added in garlic, spinach, and shallots for a flavorful dip. Another highlight was a tasty crab salad with mango — basically this recipe, less the wonton cups. Look at how beautiful they turned out:
And of course there was rumaki — pretty much proof that anything wrapped in bacon is tasty. The pineapple ones even satisfied a craving I’ve had lately for Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza… We had those for breakfast, too. With cookies. And coffee. And a beer may have appeared — apparently they’ve decided we’re not impressionable anymore.
Christmas day is about more food, hanging out, figuring out how to tune guitars and use cameras, getting a little territorial over the “big couch” — the prime place for getting a start on new books. It’s cozy, which is good, because it’s not going to get above freezing while I’m here. I find the cold comforting, if only in its familiarity. It’s a weird place, this valley — consistently cold and dry, just shy of 7,900 feet in my hometown. The sun is almost always shining, but it’s like the air is too thin to hold the warmth. The skies are clear, though, and the mountains, fifty miles away, are clearly viewable across the flat valley. Click on this link for an aerial view:
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I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas.