"There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are Italian and those who wish they were."
Big Pete laughs at me because I will watch cooking shows on the Italian, Latino Channel even when they are in Italian. I watch Lidia Bastianich just so I can watch her eat at the end of each show and hear her say "Tutti a tavola a mangiare" (Everyone come to the table and eat!) My latest favourite show is Two Greedy Italians.
I know...I am extremely weird.
Last week, for no special reason my sweet husband went to the Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver. He bought me some beautiful olive oils, a 12 year old balsamic vinegar and some wonderful Fran's Grey Salted Caramels. I just had to make him one of his favourite dinners to tell him I loved him for being so thoughtful!
Antipasti means before the meal and is intended to be an appetizer to get your taste buds going before the main meal. We always make the killer spread and make it the entire meal. I can't even show you everything in a single picture. This is great idea for a casual get together or cocktail party. Everything is all prepared and spread out so your guests can choose what they like and graze for ages. I like to do some cold things, a few hot items like dips or grilled meats, some fruits and veggies and something sweet.
It's easy and fun for a change.
Step 2: I have a selection of deli meats and cheeses on my main platter. I have used some hot soppresata, some dry cured salami, some honey ham, chunks of Parmesano Reggiano (always get the good stuff) a jar of artichokes in oil and vinegar, some tiny bocconcini cheeses with cherry tomatoes (I have added some oil and herbs, salt and pepper to them. I also had some jalapeno Havarti and some Fontina cheese. Use the things you like. If you don't eat pork use a turkey or chicken selection or some lightly grilled tuna or salmon that has been cooked and is served in a vinaigrette.
Step 3: I have added some slices of fresh bread along with a variety of crackers to a basket lined with a napkin.
Step 4: this is my new bottle of 12 year old balsamic and some small bottles of good Olive oil. I put out bowls of each of the oils so people can dip their bread in them and drizzle some of the thick syrupy balsamic vinegar on top. I have a nice tin of Merula oil from Spain and a limited edition oil from Italy called Dominica Fiore. It's fun to taste the differences. A bottle of good balsamic will last you forever and although its expensive you use it in small amounts. I told you it was a present.(I guess he loves me too!) Enjoy some luxury in life from time to time. A good cheat is to buy a balsamic reduction for a much cheaper alternative, it will still give you a thick syrup consistency and also tastes wonderful on a piece of Parmesan. Try a piece of Parmesan with some honey and a few grains of ground coffee (Jamie Oliver told me that one!)
Step 5: I have a plate with some 4 year old prosciutto wrapped in a ripe melon and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I have also put some fruit likes grapes and strawberries on this plate. You could use also use some fresh figs when you can find them. Whatever looks good when you are at the store or market.
Step 6: I have some small plates, one with hot chili jam that tastes great on a chunk of cheese or under a slice of meat. I have a variety of stuffed olives (some with garlic in the middle, some with chilies, some with lemon etc.) A nice idea is to get a selection of olives from the olive cart in the grocery store. Dress them at home with some fresh herbs, add some lemon zest , more olive oil and all of a sudden you have made them fancy. I have a small dish of pickled hot peppers and I have a small dish of roasted peppers (they come in a jar or make your own) that I have topped with goat cheese and melted briefly under the broiler.
Step 7 : a plate of vegetables in slices or chunks or both.
Step 8: I have added a few things that are served warm like my peppers and goat cheese and my grilled chevap(sausages- that I had frozen from another meal) I have topped my sausages with lemon and olive oil for this meal.
Step 9: I toasted some toasted bread slices that have been rubbed with garlic a few times when they are hot. These little toasts (crostini) can be dipped in oil and sprinkled with some sea salt or used as an open faced sandwich. I like to serve a sparkling Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) as a nice cocktail and you can get good Prosecco everywhere now at affordable prices.
Step 10: you can prepare a make ahead dessert like a Tiramisu or I have prepared a simple apple strudel
(I know its not very Italian!) but its something sweet (Dolce) to end this smorgasbord!
So... if you want to prepare one plate and use it as a starter to a meal or create a table covered as the entire meal, try it! You can stand up or sit down and graze for hours. Add some nice Dean Martin music and it's an instant party even if it's just the two of you!!! wink wink.