A Culinary Call to Order: The Perfect Antipasto

The view from a vineyard terrace
Castellina in Chianti, a small town nestled in the Tuscan hills between Florence and Sienna, is home to about 2,800 people. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen with blues and greens so vibrant it was hard to believe that what I was seeing was real. I was fortunate enough to arrive on a day when the locals were holding a festival. Folks strolled down the streets, wine glasses in hand, buying a bit to eat from place to place in the square.  It was the most perfect introduction to Italian culture and after a day of traveling the notion of gathering a bit from here and there and taking it back to my room was just what I needed. I found a vendor selling various salamis and cheeses and assembled a plate to take away.

Antipasto. I love a meat and cheese tray however I may as well be serving Kraft singles and store brand bologna up against the foods I had in Italy. I even splurge and buy fancy Italian cheeses but clearly plastic-wrapped Comte shipped overseas loses a lot of its luster.

As is the case with most things done by the Italians, even meat and cheese have been elevated to high art.  At each dinner I sat down to in Tuscany I was offered at the start the traditional first course of antipasto, a delicious plate of cured meats, salty delicious anchovies, cheeses, olives and grissini (Italian breadsticks) along with a bottle of Chianti. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of being given a bottle of wine but it was explained to me that I could drink as much as I liked and then would pay at the end. Antipasto was something so simple yet so satisfying. With a few prime ingredients I have been able to enjoy antipasto as a light dinner here at home. Whether calling people to the table with this first course or making it the main event, antipasto signals it’s time to relax and enjoy the evening.

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Antipasto makes a wonderful quick meal for one or two. I take the time to plate the items because that extra bit of care transforms that simple plate into something that feels decadent. I’m Southern so I do love the look of a groaning board so I make the board you see above just for myself with the intention of saving half to make this fabulous Italian Sub for lunch the next day.  Mangia!

**** This recipe serves 2 or 1 with leftovers for the sandwich.

1 loaf ciabatta (preferably LaFarm)
4 1/2 inch thick slices of a large tomato
8 large basil leaves
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped (I love garlic but you may prefer less)
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar (substitution: apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar)
1 Tbs. olive oil
3-4 oz total of assorted thinly sliced deli meats (I used 2 slices of prosciutto, 2 slices each of the 3 salamis offered at the Whole Foods deli counter – yes, I was that girl who made them slice 2 pieces off each. 8 thin slices of deli meat total. If you’d like a bit less salt, swap out 2 slices of salami for unsmoked ham instead.
about 10 assorted olives & 1 marinated artichoke, cut into quarters, from grocery store olive bar
4 1-oz slices of mozzarella cheese (for better flavor buy the ball in water)

Tomatoes: Place the tomato slices on a plate. Chop the basil and toss it on top of the tomato slices. Mix together the garlic through olive oil. Once combined slather on top of the tomatoes and let them sit for 10 minutes.

Arrange all the ingredients on a serving platter, pour any residual juice from the tomatoes over them and the cheese. Add 6 thin slices of the ciabatta and you’re done.

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