An antipasto platter is the first course of a traditional Italian meal, meant to stimulate taste buds and tease the palate into craving the main dishes to follow. Antipasto translates from Italian to English as "before the meal" and is comparable to Spanish tapas or French hors d'oeuvres courses. It normally includes an assortment of bite-size foods that whet appetites rather than satisfying them.
Conventional Antipasto Meats
Prosciutto and cured Italian salamis are a big part of antipasto platters. Skewer the shaved prosciutto with cubes of fresh honeydew melon or cantaloupe and arrange thinly sliced mild coppa, Genoa and Columbus salami near a basket of crusty Italian bread rounds. If you can find imported mortadella made with pistachio nuts, add it to the antipasto meat selection.
Marinated and Preserved Vegetables
Sliced or chunked Roma tomatoes marinated in Italian dressing complement the other antipasto offerings. Include a selection of jarred roasted yellow and red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and mushrooms and spicy pepperoncini or giardiniera. Capers and sweet pickles add color and texture to the plate.
No antipasto platter would be complete without a mixture of olives on it. Choose a selection of gourmet Colossole, Nicoise and Kalamata olives from the olive bar of an Italian market or deli and add an assortment of jarred green olives stuffed with garlic, blue cheese and cocktail onions.
Mix hard and soft cheeses on the platter. Pair aged Parmesano Reggiano with thinly sliced strips of fresh Asiago, Italian Fontina, Havarti, Provolone and Mozzarella. Add a creamy Camembert or young Brie to spread on water crackers as a creative extra.
Breads, Breadsticks and Crackers
The richness of the antipasto foods complements the tastes and textures of bread and breadsticks. Offer an array of traditional Italian breads like ciabatta or focaccia cut into bite-size pieces and fill an oversized wine goblet with a variety of plain and flavored breadsticks. Keep the cracker selection simple so it does not compete with the complex flavors of the other foods.
Add some flair to the traditional antipasto platter by dressing it up with few modern touches. Pick up some grilled deli vegetables like eggplant and zucchini to add interest to the plate and, if they're in season, edge the dish with fresh figs. Deviled eggs go well with antipasto food and add color to the table. Fill a few bowls with roasted pine nuts, almonds and walnuts and arrange them on the tabletop.
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