This is the appetizer #2 daughter made for us for Thanksgiving dinner.  You fill a little baking dish with cherry tomatoes (I bet grape or plum would work, too), drizzle on a little olive oil, season with bay leafand garlic, and roast them at 250 degrees for a couple of hours. Then you spread the resulting tomatoey goodness on crostini. We had these with Mai Tais. They’re booked for a return engagement on Christmas Eve.

Between now and then, we have Advent. Advent is a time to prepare spiritually for Christmas. It is marked not by the penitence of Lent but by awareness of the things that might interfere with full rejoicing at Christmas. To that end, it is a time of austerity. We are to eat simple foods and use the money we save for charitable undertakings, to spend time alone in contemplation rather than partying every night, and to enjoy simple pleasures like reading by the fireside or spending quiet time with good friends and family.

We began Advent in church today with several of the lovely austere hymns of Advent, so that I’m having trouble choosing just one for the Christmastide song today. These tunes are so lovely that I really look forward to them every year.

Let’s start with “Savior of the Nations, Come.” This was written by Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century,  translated by Martin Luther into German, and then translated into English by William Reynolds in 1851. I think we only notice Martin Luther’s part in this because he’s a famous guy. The big deal about this song is the tune, by Johann Walther in the mid 1500s, with harmony by Bach.

A contemporary version  may appeal more to some. Here’s a lead sheet — or another in G minor.

I have found no recordings of this haunting tune at all. What’s up with that? Why hasn’t Sting done this? I don’t know. But you will simply have to sing this yourself. You can do so while preparing an austere meal, suited to contemplation of those things in your life you might want to work on a bit before the Christmas revels. An appetizer of roast tomatoes will be a perfect choice, but maybe skip the mai tais.

If austerity isn’t a primary goal for you, add these things:

Savory Crostini
2 baguettes, 2 T olive oil, 4 oz cream cheese, softened, 1 package goat cheese, ¾ t  Italian Seasoning Mix, 1 garlic clove, pressed
Slice baguettes into ¾” slices. Lightly brush with oil and bake 10-12 minutes till golden brown. Combine remaining ingredients and spread over bread.

Olive Tapenade
½ c sliced green olives, 16 chopped kalamata olives, ½ c diced roasted red peppers, 2 T snipped parsley, and 1 pressed garlic clove. Combine all ingredients and spread on crostinis.

Pesto-Almond Topping
¼ c chopped toasted almonds and 1 c pesto (2 c fresh basil leaves, ¼ c olive oil, ¼ c grated parmesan, ½ c walnuts, all combined in blender till fairly smooth). Stir almonds into pesto and spread on crostinis.