The Italian word antipasti translates in to English as, "Before the meal," and therefore represents the concept of appetizers in Italy. The items eaten vary considerably and particularly by region but seafood is popular, as are various cold cuts of meat, tomatoes, olive oil and endless other dishes prepared from the region's wonderfully fresh and tasty Mediterranean ingredients. This attractive platter designed to serve two people is showcased around three different Italian cold cuts but includes a number of other traditional offerings to tantalize the taste buds at the start of a satisfying meal.
When I received a subscription e-mail from a local supermarket telling me that they were about to host an Italian food themed week I headed along the very next night to see what they had on offer. Mediterranean food - particularly Italian - is my absolute favorite and I was keen to see what specialties were to be found on the shelves. The range was wider than I had expected and I was spoiled for choice before deciding on the following varied selection.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- Pack of 3 mixed Italian cold cuts, approximately six slices of each
- 2 red cherry tomatoes
- 2 yellow cherry tomatoes
- 2 black cherry tomatoes
- Little bit of white truffle oil
- 12 pitted black olives
- 12 pitted green olives
- 1 tablespoon Italian ricotta cheese
- 1 ciabatta bread roll
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red pesto sauce
- 6 large basil leaves
- Salt and black pepper
The only cooking involved in the preparation of this dish is the toasting of the bread roll to prepare the bruschetta. As this should ideally be served hot, it is essential to have all the other elements of the dish prepared and plated before you turn your attention in that direction.
The serving dish used here was a colorful platter with five outer serving compartments, a central dish and five little egg shaped condiment compartments. You can of course use any suitable dish of your choosing. I began by opening the pack of cold cuts which in this instance were pork/bacon sourced coppa piacentina, salame piacentino and pancetta piacentina. The slices were very thin so care was required when rolling each of them up and placing them in three outer dish sections.
Put the cherry tomatoes in a colander and wash them thoroughly under running cold water. Dry them carefully with some sheets of kitchen paper. Cut them in to quarters, down through the middle, and place the quarters in a bowl.
White truffle oil is available in a number of different forms and price ranges. This budget priced option came in a small plastic container with a spray nozzle, making it much easier to control the quantity added in any instance. If your oil is in a pouring bottle, add around half a teaspoon.
Add two full sprays or the quarter teaspoon of truffle oil to the tomatoes, along with a little salt. Roll and shred two of the basil leaves and add them also to the bowl. Stir gently but well with a wooden spoon to combine.
A teaspoon or dessert spoon is best used to carefully spoon the tomatoes in to the central dish of the serving platter.
These olives came already pitted in a glass jar and can technically be used without being washed. I do however like to wash off the brine and other preservatives under running cold water before they are included in a recipe. As with the tomatoes, pat dry with kitchen paper.
Cut each olive in half down through the middle and put them in a clean bowl. Spoon in the ricotta cheese. Note that while ricotta is perhaps most often associated with desserts, it does work very well in many savory recipes. Roll and shred two more basil leaves and add to the bowl with some black pepper. Stir well with a teaspoon.
The easiest way to plate the olive and ricotta combination in the egg shaped sections of a platter of this type is to use two teaspoons. Take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture for each section and use the second teaspoon to carefully slide it in place and shape it in to the cavity.
You could buy a ciabatta bread loaf and take a couple of slices from it to make the bruschetta but I instead bought a small, individual ciabatta bread roll. I began by cutting it in half and toasting both sides under a hot broiler (overhead kitchen grill).
While the bread is toasting, peel a garlic clove and lightly crush it under the blade of a large knife. This will release the juices. When the toast is ready, rub both of the cut sides with the garlic clove. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.
Spoon half of the red pesto sauce on to each slice of bruschetta and spread out evenly to cover. Cut each slice in to four or five wedges for serving.
Divide the bruschetta wedges between the two remaining outer sections of the serving platter. Roll and shred the last two basil leaves and scatter over the bruschetta and tomatoes as a final garnish.
Take the assembled dish to the table along with two serving plates and forks, allowing each diner to help themselves to what they require. Glasses of chilled Italian white wine or beer make for excellent accompaniments.