the appetizer:

Kate's March 2008 column discovers aperitifs and digestifs, introduces "cookprints," celebrates St. Patrick's Day and Easter; plus Kate also picks her favorite Spring recipes in What to Eat This Month.

Kate Heyhoe
Kate's Global Kitchen

The Ritual of L'Apéritif

by Kate Heyhoe


Campari glass

Take a moment to stop time. Break the day between work and the dinner hour. Pour a small glass of something slightly bitter, slightly sweet, and not too strong. Sit back, relax, and unwind in the civilized ritual of the apéritif.

The apéritif is to the cocktail what a gymnast is to a prize-fighter: It's light and spry, not pounding or rough. It's meant to be sipped slowly and deliberately, contains only a moderate or small amount of alcohol, and coaxes the appetite, rather than dulling it. Apéritifs can be wine-based or alcohol-based, and for the French they serve a purpose: to gently segue the psyche from harshness to softness, to enter into the meal in the proper state of mind.

The word hails from the Latin aperire, to open, and that's just what a proper apéritif does to the appetite and to the mood. Apéritifs evolved from the 16th century medicinals, potent herb and spice concoctions that were so strong in flavor, their makers started diluting them in wines to make them more palatable. Italians call them aperitivos, and craft them just as seriously as do their French competitors.

Some of the commonly served apéritifs are ruby or white Port, sherry, vermouth, Lillet, Pernod and other pastis or anise-flavored liqueurs, and bitters, such as Campari and Angostura.

Apéritifs are easy for the host. Most of the time they're drunk straight, no mixing required, sipped in small glasses. But they can also be mixed with additions, as in Campari and soda. Perhaps the most refreshing mixed apéritif is kir, traditionally made with white wine and crème de cassis, or black currant liqueur. Today, kir is being swirled with other liqueurs in the glass, including peach, cherry, and blueberry, and bartenders on both sides of the pond make Kir Royaux, mixing in Champagne instead of white wine.

What to serve with the apero, as they're called in France—besides camaraderie and stimulating conversation? Finger foods and light bites, like olives, salty nuts, tapenade, and Gougère (see Great Bar Food at Home). Nothing too large or too fancy, nor too boring or bland.

By the way, if the apéritif does its job really well, stimulating your appetite beyond its prudent bounds, the French have a remedy for that as well: A digestif is an alcoholic beverage served after the meal, intended to aid digestion. Brandy and cognac are among the most common digestifs. So sandwiched between the apéritif and the digestif is the meal itself, which would of course be served with at least one type of wine, and a rousing "bon appetit!"


Cookprint: A New Green Buzzword

What do you call the impact you make on the planet when you cook?

It's your "cookprint"—the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process.

The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen and continues in your fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded waste, whether it's organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further colors the cookprint. As do the implements you cook with, the way you store leftovers, and how you dispose of food waste.

Read the full article:

Easter Bunny

Hop to It! Get Ready for Easter and Passover

Easter (March 23) and Passover (April 20) are just around the corner. From homemade chocolate and dyed eggs, to ham, lamb, Seder and Easter meals, and from bunny cakes to European breads, you'll find fresh inspiration at The Easter and Passover Handbook.

Find additional Easter and Spring recipes here:


Shamrocks for St. Paddy

Speaking of green....with recipes for green potato pancakes, lamb, Mussels in Garlic and Guinness, and an old-fashioned Irish Stew, our St. Patrick's Day Handbook goes way beyond Corned Beef and Cabbage. Feeling festive? Throw an Irish Ale and Stout Party, and raise a glass to our collection of Irish Toasts.

Gravlax with Mustard Sauce
Gravlax with Mustard Sauce

Spring Flings:
What to Eat This Month

Chicken of the Month:

Copyright © 2008, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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