Italian finger food plays only a small part in an Italian meal. Whether formal or informal, unlike an American meal with a main course, the Italian meal consists of many small courses unlike an Italian breakfast. Each of these courses is of equal proportions or weight. This first course meal might be finger foods or they could be small servings of food eaten on plates with utensils; finger foods are almost always used at cocktail parties.
Italian finger food is small sturdy snacks eaten from the hand; they must be firm enough to eat without the aid of a plate or utensils. These can be anything from nuts, raw vegetables, eggs, cheese or miniature pastries such as mini cheesecakes or cannoli. Italian finger food might also be referred to as antipasto in Italy which means coming before the meal or here in the United States we call them appetizers. Although these can be served before a meal they are also commonly served alone at cocktail parties or as simple snacks. It is not unusual for breakfast and lunch to see people in Italy pick up finger food and eat while standing or walking. It is generally in the evening when people will sit down for a nice dinner and enjoy eating at a leisurely pace.
Vegetables are the most simple and easiest Italian finger food to prepare. These are offered cleaned but raw and often are accompanied with a bowl of dip. Small vegetables are eaten raw and the larger ones are cut into smaller pieces. Because of the wide variety of colors which vegetables come in, if they are fresh and show no wilt, they make a very pretty presentation to the table. They can be prepared in advanced and kept crispy in the refrigerator. For a special vegetable Italian finger food hollow out mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and other small vegetables to fill with cheese or other fillings.
A very common Italian finger food comes from a treasury of wonderful Italian cheeses. It is impossible to count the many cheeses made at the countries many cooperatives and small farms which are only sold at local markets. Italian cheeses form a varied group reflecting the soil, climate and geography of the country’s vastly different regions. Many of these cheeses are now available in the larger cities here in the United States but you can only experience the taste of many by taking a trip to Italy.
Eggs are popular all over the world in many different types of recipes; this is also true for serving Italian finger food. The white part of a hollowed out egg half makes a natural holder for filling and elegant appetizers. You can simply mix mayonnaise with the yolks and herbs or you can mix other fillings like tuna, shrimp, anchovies or minced ham with mayonnaise and capers. Whatever you decide to add to the fillings, Italian egg recipes will always be a popular finger food.
Long before the pizza (a great finger food) became so popular, Italians were creating a tantalizing flatbread which we know as facaccia. This is one of my many favorite Italian finger food recipes. Actually I got my first taste of this from the bakery at Costco; it was so fresh and delicious that I have no idea why they stopped selling it. It is similar in texture to a thick pizza crust but lightly seasoned; Costco’s version had sliced tomatoes in it and great flavor. It makes great hot bread with meals but honestly when I purchased it at Costco I did not want anything with it; it is a delicious finger food even cold.
TWO CHEESE BRUSCHETTA
Mix together the feta, cream cheese, olive oil and garlic. Spread on toasted baguette slices. Top with olives and tomatoes.
Preheat oven to 400F degrees
Crumble cheese into a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the basil, eggs and pepper.
Cut phyllo sheets into 2 inch strips. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp towel to keep from drying out. Place 1 teaspoon of cheese filling on the end of the strip of dough. Fold strip over the mixture shaping like a triangle. Turn over and over until you reach the opposite end. Place on cookie sheet and repeat until all is used. Brush triangles with melted butter. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
FOCACCIA BREAD RECIPE (a flat bread recipe)
This focaccia bread recipe makes addition to a meal or just a salad; a great finger food recipe to be eaten all by itself.
Sprinkle yeast over warm water to soften in a large bowl; stir in sugar, salt and oil.
Add 2 cups flour and blend in; with heavy spoon beat about 5 minutes.
Stir in enough flour (about 2/3 cup) to make soft dough.
Turn dough out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic.
Place dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease top; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Punch down and knead lightly on floured board just to release air.
Roll and stretch dough to fit bottom of greased 10 X 15 inch shallow baking pan.
With your fingers press holes in the dough at ½ inch intervals.
Add desired toppings and seasonings (samples below); let dough rise about 15 to 20 minutes (almost to double).
Bake at 450F degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until well browned.
Cut in small slices to serve.
Toppings: Here are some examples which make great finger food but use your imagination to create others; like I said Costco use to put thinly sliced plum tomatoes which was delicious.
Pizza bread: Spread ½ cup pizza sauce over dough in pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and thinly sliced green onions and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Onion bread: Brush dough in pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and ½ cup thinly sliced green onions.
Raisin bread: Before placing dough in pan, knead in 1/3 cup of raisins until blended. Place dough in pan; brush with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
STUFFED FIG RECIPE
This stuffed fig recipe with an almond filling recipe makes a great light dessert served at any party or get together. Although a little sticky for a finger food, you might still want to offer them because they are so good.
Heat honey slowly until very liquid and stir in cinnamon.
Blanch grape leaves in boiling water for 1 minute and spread on paper towels to dry.
Split figs down center leaving one side attached.
Fill centers with almond and cloves; press closed and dip in honey.
Place a fig on each leaf and wrap the leaf around it tying it up with a string.
Arrange bundles on a baking sheet and place in preheated oven at 350F degrees.
Bake until leaves dry out about 30 minutes; cool completely before unwrapping.
BOILED EGG RECIPE
Boiled egg recipes are good finger food at gatherings no matter what country you are in; Italian egg recipes are no exception.
Shell eggs and cut in half lengthwise; carefully scoop out yolks.
Combine yolks in blender with tuna, parsley, salt and pepper.
Use this mixture to fill egg white shells with a pastry bag.
Wrap olives each with an anchovy fillet; place on top of each egg half.