Antipasto is like the overture to the opera, it announces that something special is about to begin. The colors, the smell, the artful compositions remind us that it is time for pleasure now; time for relaxation and indulgence, time for the Italian meal.
There is a lot of misconception about antipasto, and it starts with the word itself. People often believe antipasto means a dish served before a pasta course. Even though it’s often true, antipasto only refers to a dish that precedes all the others to come. “anti” meaning before and “pastus” meaning meal.
An Italian household is very similar to an American household -and I assume this goes for the rest of the world as well. People work and come home hungry; kids come home from school and while waiting for lunch or dinner to be ready, they open the fridge and gobble down whatever they can find. Often a few slices of salami or a slice of cheese.
Sadly, it is not common practice to have Antipasto at home, this is served only at special occasions, like family gatherings, Holidays and of course romantic dinners.
I serve it when we have guest over during the summer time or football season. My husband, who is although known as Mr.BBQ, cannot be hurried when he grills-believe me, I tried. He takes his time and is merciless by doing so. Mouthwatering smells come from the grill or smoker and it is my job to make sure, that our guests don’t starve to death. I serve antipasti and try to provide an appealing mixture and contrasts in taste and color.
Here are some typical antipasto ideas:
- Marinated artichoke hearts served with crackers and Camembert cheese.
- Sliced tomatoes marinated in Italian dressing, served with red or green onions (on the side) and garlic-stuffed green olives.
- Cold meat platters with Genoa salami or prosciutto.
- Grapes and cheese.
- Jarred roasted red and yellow peppers, garlic hummus and pita bread.
- Toasted focaccia bread with sardines and sweet onions.
- Olives, capers, sweet pickles and natural pepperoni.
- Roasted almonds, walnuts, and pine nuts served with dried or fresh figs -when in season.
- Homemade garlic bread served with tomato relish and cold shrimp.
- Grilled vegetables.
Antipasto Grilled Vegetables
- 1 cup Olive Oil
- 4 Garlic cloves pressed or finely minced
- 4 TBSP dried Italian herbs (recipe below)
- 1 TBSP Porcini powder (it’s fine when you don’t have it, but a MUST in the Italian kitchen)
- Salt, Pepper
- 6 Peppers red and yellow
- 2 Eggplants
- 4 Zucchini
- 500 g Mushrooms, cleaned and cut into halves or quarters
- 500 g Onions red, sliced in rings
- 1 TBSP Balsamic reduction (recipe below)
Preheat the grill/broiler to high heat.
Mix the olive oil with garlic, herbs, porcini powder, salt, and pepper, set aside.
Clean and cut the peppers in stripes or halves. Cut the eggplant, zucchini and cleaned mushrooms in 1/2 inch slices. Place the vegetables in the oil mixture and mix vigorously until they are covered with oil.
Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes in the oven until the vegetables are soft and nicely browned. This can take longer or shorter, depending on the oven and humidity of the vegetables. (I stick a wooden spoon in the oven door to make sure the moisture has a way out.)
Arrange the cooked vegetables on a platter and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Sprinkle a little bit with olive oil (to taste); add salt and pepper.
* Italian herbs
- 2 TBSP Oregano
- 2 TBSP Basil
- 1 TBSP Thyme
- 1 TBSP Rosemary
- 1 TSP Sage
Mix the Herbs and cut with a herb knife. Store in an airtight container or freeze them. You can use the same herbs dried and make your own authentic Italian seasoning.
** Balsamic Reduction
It’s actually very simple, you just reduce the Balsamic Vinegar to a thicker and more flavorful version. This way it can be used for marinades and glazes. It’s is offered in special stores and cost much more than it should.
- 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
Turn on your kitchen fan or open the window. Use a medium sized saucepan and simmer the Balsamic vinegar over medium heat until it thickens (reduce). It will take about 10-15 minutes, watch out toward the end that it doesn’t stick. Use a spoon and when it sticks to it, then it’s thick enough.) Don’t overdue it or it turns into molasses.) You can always add some water if you think it turned out too thick.
Posted on my kitchen blog February, 2015