Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Italian antipasto - Antipasto all'italiana -


This last weekend I hosted my first 5 course "formal" meal.  I was able to serve up two Primo (First Course), A pasta and an Orange Salad.  I had a fantastic Secondo (Main or Meat Course) of milk braised pork loin served with two Contorni (vegetable side dishes) of Potatoes and a Swiss chard in Tomato dish.  All of this was followed by an egg custard layer cake.

Phew, 6 dishes in those 4 courses... But I started it all with an -

Italian Antipasto...

With all the cooking I was planning to do, I wanted to start with a traditional Antipasto, meaning a tray of dried meats, cheeses and a very simple Bruschetta with Tomatoes.

Aside from the Bruschetta, which needed to be toasted in the oven and the tomato topping mixed together, this is very easy as it can all be done hours before guests arrive.

It also sets a tone for the evening.  Lots of relaxed finger "grab and munch" food.  It gave guests a chance to mingle, meet, greet and a chance for me (the host) to make sure drinks were started and everyone knew where to find them.

I had the trays set up before the guests arrived.  I had my kitchen set up and ready to cook (with a few dishes started already).  So I was able to relax, greet and explain how the evening was going to work (courses, served about 30 minutes apart so fresh Italian dishes could be served at the peak of their flavor).  We spent about 30 minutes mingling, eating, drinking a bit and setting the tone for the night.

All in All, a Great way to start the evening.

Over the next few days I will be posting the dishes and recipes and my cooking and serving techniques to give you an idea of my thoughts and how the evening worked.  But for today's "dish", only advice...  


Get a mix of half a dozen OK, I did 5) different dried salami, trying to get a variety of tastes.  Mine ranged from sweet to very spiced, a hard salami, a pepper salami and a classically Italian soppressata. The soppressata is one of those meats many may have heard of but few have tried... It is a Tuscan salami made from the leftover pig parts, mainly the head. All of the meat and skin, including the tongue, are chopped, seasoned, and then stuffed into a large casing. The cooking liquid is poured in to cover the mixture and it is then hung and the cooking liquid (high in gelatin) thickens to bind everything together.  Hey, it's always fun to challenge your guests occasionally.


Similar thought process went into picking cheese, soft to hard, flavored (blue cheese for one and cranberries in a goat cheese (that was REALLY good)for example).  For the unusual factor, I bought a young soft Parmesan cheese and served it along side a crumbly aged Parmesan to show the contrast of types.


The Bruschetta with Tomatoes is a personal favorite of mine.  Much more complex flavors than just tomato on toast.  It was a simple enough matter to time the toast to come out of the oven as the guests are scheduled to arrive.  I mixed the tomato topping a couple of hours prior to the party so a simple spoon and they are ready to serve in minutes.

Again, a party for 8, everyone was greeted with a small plate, a glass of wine or tea and the party was on!

Come back tomorrow for more details on the rest of the meal!

And if you need it, here is a more formal definition of Italian antipasto - Antipasto all'italiana -

Antipasto (plural antipasti) , often spelled and/or pronounced as antipasta (antipasta salad), means "before the meal" and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. Traditional antipasto includes cured meats, olives, peperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, various cheeses (such as provolone or mozzarella), pickled meats and vegetables (both in oil or in vinegar).

The contents of an antipasto vary greatly according to regional cuisine. It is quite possible to find in the south of Italy different preparations of saltwater fish and traditional southern cured meats (like soppressata or 'nduja), while in the north it will contain more different kinds of cured meats and mushrooms and probably, especially near lakes, preparations of freshwater fish. The cheeses included also vary significantly between regions.

Many compare antipasto to hors d'oeuvre, but antipasto is served at the table and signifies the official beginning of the Italian meal. It may also be referred to as a starter, or an entrée.

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So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!

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So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Appetizers Recipes"!!!

From Dips and Salsas to everyone's favorite, Deviled Eggs; Appetizers will set the mood for something special. And make enough different ones and you have a Tapas Meal!

Links include Dips (Take a Look at the WORLD's BEST Guacamole recipe (and world's easiest to make), Salsas, Grilled Bites, Watermelon Art, and of course something with a spectacular presentation and taste... Take a look, something to match any occasion...

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