Monday, January 28, 2008

Prelude to a feast....Antipasti

With mostly continental finger food (coin pizzas, tarts, puffs, sandwiches, baby burgers) on the Kiddie menu for my son's 6th birthday party I planned an Italian spread for the adults to substaniate the leftovers from the kids party. While shopping for the party I came accoss some beautiful fleshy sweet peppers (or coloured capsicums as we call them in our part of the world). I quickly did a rethink of my menu and instead of the stir fry I had planned I decided to do an Antipasti platter.


In Italian cuisine Antipasti are dishes that literally mean “before the meal”. Though generally not part of a typical family meal, these dishes play a very important part in a formal dinner, or a celebration.

Antipasto need not be complicated; in fact it can be as simple as a bowl of olives, some bread, and good olive oil like Soler Romero for dipping or as elaborate as a platter of gourmet cold cuts, cheeses and the like. Antipasto platters look and taste spectacular and are simple to put together. Though they're traditionally served as a prelude to a meal, I've often turned them into the main event itself, either as a casual supper or a party tray with wine and beer. In fact they have become a regular on the menu as a casual meal option as well since the lack of cooking required (most of the stuff can be outsourced) makes them ideal for relaxed weekend fare. Just add good bread and a green salad.




I did an antipasti platter of mushrooms and peppers with garlic and sun dried bruchettas on the side. For this batch I cooked about 5 packets of mushrooms, and a dozen peppers. I would advise doing this in larger quantities because the slow cooking process yields much better results with larger quantities. (You'll know exactly what I mean when you soak up the juices left on the platter with a bit of bread once the antipasti is over.) And although the mushrooms require little time, if you are going to sit and peel peppers you might as well enjoy them for a while!

I did an antipasti platter of mushrooms and peppers with garlic and sun dried bruchettas on the side. For this batch I cooked about 5 packets of mushrooms, and a dozen peppers. I would advise doing this in larger quantities because the slow cooking process yields much better results with larger quantities. (You'll know exactly what I mean when you soak up the juices left on the platter with a bit of bread once the antipasti is over.) And although the mushrooms require little time, if you are going to sit and peel peppers you might as well enjoy them for a while!


Antipasti

For the Mushroom antipasti
1 kg (5 standard 200g pkts)
1/2 cup garlic peeled and chopped fine
1 tbsp freshly crushed black peppercorns
1 cup of the best Extra Virgin Olive oil you can afford (I use Soler Romero organic EVOO)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (when you squeeze lemon juice add a little salt to it so it does not get bitter on standing) OR Balsamic vinegar (I use some a friend got me from Modena where it is made)
1 tbsp salt or to taste

Rinse mushrooms quickly under running water. Trim stems and cut off any discoloured bits. layer in a baking dish as you go. In a bowl combine all the other ingredients, mix well and pour over mushrooms. Allow to stand for 1/2 an hour. At the end of that time place dish in oven and grill until mushrooms are cooked. I usually let them cook until the parts sticking out are dried out and slightly charred - don't worry about the charred bits, they are what will add flavour to the whole later. Once cooked allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container juices and all. Leave for a while so the dried bits have had a chance to soak up the juices again and they are ready to eat. Serve at room temperature, warm or cold depending on the weather. These mushrooms will last up to 10 days in the refrigerator (if you let them)



For the pepper antipasti
1 dozen large red yellow and orange peppers.
1/2 cup olive (again the best Extra Virgin Olive oil you can afford)

For the marinade
1/2 cup chopped garlic
1 tbsp freshly crushed black peppercorns
1 cup of the best Extra Virgin Olive oil you can afford (I use Soler Romero organic EVOO)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (when you squeeze lemon juice add a little salt to it so it does not get bitter on standing) OR Balsamic vinegar (I use some a friend got me from Modena where it is made)
1 tbsp salt or to taste

Wash peppers, cut vertically into four wedges and arrange on a cookie tray. Brush with olive oil, and place in the oven. Roast until the skin has blistered and blackened all over. When it does, remove, place in a plastic bag or air tight box and seal. (This allows the peppers to steam, so the skins are easily removed). When cool, remove from bag, peel away skins and put in a bowl as you go, split open, remove seeds and stem, cut into wedges. Season with olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper and set aside till serving time. , split open, remove seeds and stem, cut into wedges.

For the garlic bruchettas
2 french loaves
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
10 cloves of garlic
1 cup of grated cheese

Pound the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle, add butter or oil and mix well. Set aside. Slice the french loaves to your preference of thickness (thin slices will give you crisp bruchettas, thicker ones will be crisp on the outside and softer on the inside). Spread the garlic butter/oil mixture over each slice and arrange in a baking tray. Scatter with grated cheese. Grill in the oven till the edges of the bread and the top of the cheese has started to brown. Remove and serve.

If you are inclined to spicier fare add minced chillies to the garlic oil mix or top with chopped jalapenos before the cheese.


For the sun dried tomato bruchettas
2 french loaves
2 cups sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
10 cloves of garlic

Place garlic and tomatoes in a blender and blend to a paste adding oil in a thin stream as you go. Set aside. Slice the french loaves to your preference of thickness ( again, thin slices will give you crisp bruchettas, thicker ones will be crisp on the outside and softer on the inside). Spread the sun dried tomato mixture over each slice and arrange in a baking tray. Grill in the oven till the edges of the bread have browned well. Remove and serve.

It has been established in my family that I will go to great lengths to achieve a good meal but if you are not inclined to cooking you will find antipasti a great option as well. You will find basic things like olive and sun dried tomato tepanade, marinated olives, mushrooms and artichokes in the exotic food isles of your local supermarket and cold cuts and the like in the meats section.

With the cold cuts I used to be partial the offerings from Alf Farms and Prabhat untill I discovered the meats section at Hypercity this weekend. I was like a kid at a candy store!

Of course for more artisnal gourmet stuff you could also pop in to the Bombay Baking Company (BBC) at the JW Marriott at Juhu, the Deli & Pastry shop at the Renaissance in Powai, Grand Delicatessen at the Intercontinental the Grand, Moshe’s, Cuffe Parade, the Gourmet Shop, Grand Hyatt, Santacruz, Olive Market Cafe, Bandra but the best possible place to shop for an Antipasto platter is The Indigo Delicatessen, Colaba.







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1 comment:

MONICA MARIN, SPAIN said...

Hello!

I am writting you from Spain. I love your blog. I discovered it since we are the producer of SOLER ROMERO Organic EV Olive Oil you used in one of your recipes. I was searching for news and links where our product appeared and found your blog.

I am really happy to see you use our olive oil! We are a family business with the only aim of producing a good and organic olive oil and it is very satisfying for us to see that there are people like you that have it in far places as India. We started to sell it there one year ago.

I hope you like it and keep cooking with it.

Warm regards from Spain

Monica Marin