I’m reading a great book at the moment called The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual.
Written by the two Franks who own and operate the Frankies Spuntino restaurants in New York, it’s an enjoyable and passionate read about Italian-American cuisine. Chapter 2 is devoted entirely to antipasto, and it was intriguing to read how they put a platter together.
I thought it might be fun to write a post about how we prepare antipasto in our kitchen. The plate below is typical of what we might serve as a light lunch for two or three. It’s usually accompanied by a sliced loaf of ciabatta (either baked fresh or defrosted), and a good dipping oil.
If I’m doing a large mixed platter, I’ll often use slices or chunks of cheese instead of wedges, so that I don’t have to balance a knife on the already crowded plate.
I always like to have at least one soft cheese (like a brie or a blue vein), and a variety of hard cheeses. They don’t have to be Italian either – in fact, our current favourite is a West Country cheddar from Dorset, and we’ll often include Spanish Manchego or Bulgarian fetta as well.
On the plate above, I’ve laid out slices of (1) Blue Viking, (2) Provolone Dolci, (3) Buffalo Parmesan and (4) Ford Farm Coastal Cheddar.
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The Franks have a rule with antipasto meats – they always serve a minimum of two types, one whole muscle meat (like a prosciutto), and one chopped meat (such as salami). I think that’s a very good approach, and I think the 2oz/60g per person that they suggest is pretty spot on.
High quality cured meats such as San Daniele prosciutto and Jamon are often very expensive, but they’re usually sliced paper thin and a little goes a long way. On our plate, we had (5) Parma ham and (6) Sopressa della Nonna (mild).
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For today’s meal, I stopped in at our local Italian deli and picked up (7) amazing marinated mushrooms (I think I ate most of these on my own), (8) pesto-stuffed bell peppers, (9) black olives in oil (Small Man’s favourite), and (10) semi-dried tomatoes. I always try to limit myself to just three or four items, or I can end up bringing home the entire deli display!
Other items which we regularly use include marinated baby octopus, anchovy stuffed green olives and artichoke hearts.
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The Franks serve an assortment of cooked cold veg with their antipasto, which I think is a brilliant idea. Today I simply chopped up a (11) deseeded bishops’ crown chilli, but we’ll often include sliced cucumbers and homegrown cherry tomatoes when we have them.
I’m not sure if it’s traditional, but I like to add nuts to the plate – in this case, I used roasted blanched hazelnuts (12). I think they provide a lovely textural contrast to the other ingredients.
When fresh figs are in season, we’ll give them prime position, but I rarely add dried fruit to our platters any more.
Finally, we always include a little of (13) Pete’s quince jelly – the perfect accompaniment to just about any cheese. We’ll often have a small bowl of fresh (and occasionally still warm!) ricotta on the side as well .
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Antipasto platters are such an easy way for us to prepare a light meal – we simply defrost a loaf of homemade sourdough, then race over to our favourite deli to pick up bits and pieces. Given the abundance of excellent Italian foodstuffs available in our area, it’s become a regular method of entertaining for us. It’s a very relaxed, easy way to eat.
Do you serve antipasti at home? If so, what ingredients do you include on your platters? I’m always looking for something new to add!