The French call it charcuterie and the Italians call it anti-pasto, which means "before the meal". Aside from the cultural difference, the idea is the same: a selection of dry, cured meats, sometimes cheeses, and garnishes like (marinated) veggies to graze from before digging to the main meal. There is no rush when snacking on antipasti; it is the perfect way to slow things down and savor the moment and the food at a dinner, picnic or cocktail party.
Preparing anti-pasti is super simple, fun and a creative expression of the season. There is almost no prep involved, just a little planning! Your anti-pasto board does not have to be perfect, the whole point is that it is inviting to eat!
For a larger gathering, you can divvy up one large board into three smaller boards: a meat board, a cheese board and a veggie board. For smaller groups, you can combine the meat and cheese on one board, and have a separate veggie board, or even try to fit it all on one. Really, there are no rules, except blending flavors, aromas and colors for the most interesting antipasto plate. Be creative! Below are some suggestions and some of our favorite products to use:
MEAT AND CHEESE
Variety is key. Choose two or three varieties of thinly-sliced cured meats, such as prosciutto, salami and pepperoni. For the cheese, alternate a few soft cheeses, like a camembert , bye, prufrock, goat cheese and La Tur, with some sliced up hard cheeses like Chiriboga Blue, Pecorino Toscano, and
A colorful offerings of any veggie in season, either raw, grilled or marinated vegetables. Select depending on the occasion, the crowd and the season. Raw (or lightly blanched) veggies are more desireable in summer, while roasted or marinated veggies make a great addition for fall and winter plates. For the roasted veggies, think about eggplant, beets, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic. Marinated veggies are a delight for the tastebuds, and especially artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or roasted yellow peppers, or even some marinated hot peppers work well. Consider adding on some pickled green tomatoes, pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, or pickled onions!
Of course, you can't forget some salty olives.
Have a few, smaller bowls with various dips. Some of our favorites:
Roasted tomatoes: Open 2 cans of whole tomatoes. Drain. Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of a glass baking dish. Lay out the whole tomatoes on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano, a little bit of sugar. Drizzle with more olive oil. Roast in a slow oven – about 250 degrees F – until the tomatoes are caramelized and beginning to brown on the edges. This will take a few hours, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Chop the tomatoes and transfer to a bowl. Adjust seasonings and then put in serving bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and chopped fresh herbs.
Add some Pear Mostarda to your next cheese-and-meat plate — you won’t be sorry.
CRACKERS & BREAD
Variety is key. Select a mix of round, square and long crackers and offer some cut up fresh bread as well. Some of our best sellers are:
FRUITS & NUTS
Fresh fruit: Select whatever is in season. Grapes always look good on a cheeseboard, and so do figs, thinly sliced pears, apples or black or blue berries. Figs - when in season - are not only delicious, but also make your antipasto plate extra pretty looking! And how about some drunken pears for an unexpected twist?
Nuts: Marcona almonds are called the "Queen ofAlmonds,”. They are shorter, rounder, softer, and sweeter than regular almonds, and make a nice addition to any cheeseboard.
About an hour before the guests arrive, put it all out on your board. Mix it up, and have fun in the process! Remember, there are no rules. It can be messy, after all- it will look picked apart soon enough, which is a sign of your guests enjoying the antipasti! Buon appetito!
Photo: Michelle from Our Italian Table