One of my all time favourite activities is to visit a fabulous delicatessen or providore and chat to the counter staff about their offerings. Usually the conversation runs along the lines of this. I’m looking for [insert ingredient of the moment], what do you recommend? Best available? New to market? Nine times out of ten the response is more than enthusiastic and a graze fest commences as I am handed samples of small goods, cheeses and dips to sample. Invariably I come away with beautifully wrapped packages of sliced cured meats, wedges of cheese, marinated olives and other tasty bits and pieces.
Needless to say this is exactly what happened when I paid an unscheduled visit to one of my favourite delis on Saturday. Teamed with loaves of wood-fired bread I had the makings of a gorgeous antipasto platter. One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to throw together a meal. To feed as few or as many people as required. Effortless entertaining at its best.
Antipasto literally means “before the meal”. The traditional first course of an Italian formal meal. Small bites of tasty food served with wine to stimulate the appetite before the main meal. In our house a substantial antipasto platter becomes the main meal. This way of eating is ideally suited to our casual lifestyle.
With antipasto I find it’s always best to narrow your choices and keep things simple. We eat with our senses so when assembling a platter I like to think about how different flavours, aromas and colours complement each other. Needless to say every platter is different depending on my conversations at the deli, the seasons and any particular whims on the day. The ultimate antipasto platter? Whatever you or your guests fancy most. There are no hard and fast rules and I always try to include something special to accommodate my guest’s preferences. All beautifully presented. Of course.
On my rather rustic inspired platter this weekend:
Prosciutto di Parma and Sopressa della Nona
A soft creamy Asiago, a sharp sheep’s milk Pecorino studded with peppercorns, chilli marinated Feta, and Mozzarella di Bufala
Marinated artichokes, kalamata olives with balsamic, grilled zucchini and oven roasted baby tomatoes
Wood Fired Italian Ciabatta
There was only minimal cooking involved. Little dishes of cherry tomatoes roasted in the oven in a little passata. Fresh zucchini sliced thinly lengthwise on a mandoline, brushed with a little olive oil and griddled. Garnished with crumbled chilli feta and a grating of lemon zest. Chunks of fresh mozzarella wrapped in wafer thin slices of prosciutto. I sliced the ciabatta and briefly considered toasting it on the griddle pan and rubbing it with garlic cloves bruschetta style. But not today. Perhaps next time. This platter looked far too appetising.