The term aperitivo originates from the Latin word apertitiuvum indicating ‘opener.’ In France, it is pronounced aperitif (a-pear-i-TEEF), and in Italy, aperitivo (a-pear-a-TEE-vo). Aperitivo is an alcoholic drink taken as an appetizer before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
The habit of taking an aperitivo in the evening before a meal became an enormously popular one in a short amount of time, and soon the classic bars and cafes of the big Italian cities were serving up aperitivo to their fashionable nineteenth century clients. Today aperitivo still plays an important role in Italian social life and is as much about the food and drink as it is about socializing.
While traditionally a small, complimentary offering of nuts, olives, perhaps some grissini, cheese or salumi, to accompany your drink, you can find more and more elaborate meals being offered. If you’re replicating your own aperitivo at home (something I love doing), a simple antipasto is what you’ll need to accompany your aperitivo. My husband and I like to accompany the wine or prosecco with a variety of cheese, some chips and crackers, veggies and olives. Bread is also part of the equation, though not necessarily for me.
I admit, I miss the choice of cheese that I have in Milan, when I go to the local market to Stefano’s cheese shop and choose from a great selection of European cheeses. Though, I have learned to appreciate cheddar cheese, and the sharper it is, the more I like it.
When I have time, instead of taking gluten-free crackers out of a box, I bake them. The last time we had friends over in the late afternoon, I decided that a plate of cheddar cheese crackers with a hint of mustard would do the trick. I found an interesting recipe at Epicurious, and adapted it to a gluten-free version.
Gluten-free Cheddar Cheese Crackers
Sharp Cheddar Cheese 1 lb
Unsalted butter, softened 1 cup (8 oz)
Egg 1 large egg yolk
Dijon mustard 1/4 cup (2 oz)
Dry mustard 2 Tablespoons
Salt 2 teaspoons
Simona’s Flour Mix 2 and 1/4 cups (12.4 oz)
Coarsely grate Cheddar. In a food processor fitted with steel blade blend butter and cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, pulsing until just combined.
Halve dough, and on a sheet of plastic wrap, roll into two 12-inch logs. Chill logs, wrapped in the plastic wrap until firm, at least 1 hour, and up to 1 week; or freeze logs up to 2 months.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
With a sharp thin knife cut dough into 1/8-inch slices and arrange about 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets. Bake slices in batches in middle of oven until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer crackers to racks to cool. Crackers keep in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.