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Entries in Antipasto (5)

Monday
Nov192012

An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 3

This is the third and final installment of Creating an Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto.

So far, we've covered bread and where to buy it, given you olive recommendations – including a recipe for marinated olives, and also made some cheese selections.

Now we move onto the fruit and crazy....I mean fruit and nuts. Because it's gonna get kinda...nuts, that is.

Are you following me? Most likely not. 

If you still are with me (bless your souls), we are going to focus on figs. At this time of year, fig season is starting to wind down. It closes in around December and then you won't see the little guys until June, so in order to give them a proper send off, I suggest you eat all the fresh ones you can. 

WHAAAT? Can't find fresh ones, you say? This is indeed sad, but not tragic, as the dried ones are quite juicy and will be a welcome addition to any antipasto.

If you can locate fresh figs, I suggest toasting them up a bit. You can do this easily in a frying pan with a little water and brown sugar. Here's how:

What You Need:

1 basket fresh, ripe figs. Ripe figs will be slightly soft to the touch. If they are too firm, they're not ready yet. You can use either Black Mission Figs, or White figs, which actually look green.

1-2 Tablepoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons water

What To Do:

Using a knife, cut the figs in half.

Heat a frying pan on your stove top over medium heat. Pour in the water and sprinkle in the brown sugar. Allow it to heat up a bit, but don't let it burn. Prevent burning by stirring with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula.

Add the figs and let them soak up the sugary juices for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a small bowl.

Serve along side the above-mentioned bread, olive and cheese. Add in some roasted chestnuts (you can purchase them pre-roasted, or use our recipe here), freshly made cranberry sauce. I make a wonderful (if I do say so myself) Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce. If you'd like to make it too, here's how to do it:

What You Need:

12 ounce bag of cranberries

1/2 cup of honey

2-3 T firmly packed brown sugar

2 three inch cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

3/4 cup water

Half an orange or tangerine

What To Do:

Cut the orange into wedges and pierce the outer skin with 3 whole cloves a piece.

In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves stuck in orange wedges, nutmeg and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool. Can be made 2 days in advance, covered and chilled.

Tuesday
Nov132012

An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 2

Did you know Calamata olives are Greek? They are.

In order to properly continue our platter in Italian fashion (started with bread), we need to have Italian olives. I chose two different types as they are polar opposites in the olive department, taste-wise.

The first are large, Cerignola olives. Green, meaty and mild, these are almost like eating a small almost-ripe nectarine in texture. They are slightly salty, but hover at a 2 on the 1-10 ranking of saltiness (10 being the most salty).

My second choice were small Sicilian olives. These little devils are pitted and punchy on the saltiness scale, ranking at an 8 in my book.

Side note: I don't know if there are any other "books" on ranking relative olive saltiness. I'm just telling you how I feel about it.

I chose them because I wanted one salty olive and one mild to pair with some other items I've got coming your way, notably cheeses, fruit and nuts.

Now, you could stop here. Throw these olives in a bowl and have on it with. Or you could take it one step further...and marinate.

I chose to marinate (of course I did). Here's how you do it:

What You Need (also listed in the above artwork):

2 cups mixed olives (your choice, but you should really take my recommendation...)

Half an orange, quartered and thinly sliced into wedges

Half a cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon chili oil (optional)

2 bay leaves

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes

What You Do:
Place the mixed oil-packed olives in a bowl with the orange. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, chili oil (if using), bay leaves, and the red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant and garlic begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Pour oil mixture over olives and stir to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours, or cover and chill up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit.

Now don't run away so fast! I'd like to give you two cheese options to pair with these fabulous olives. I suggest you obtain a Robiola Bosina, which is a soft, almost Brie-ish in consistency cheese. It's a mix of goat and cow milk, so the goat-cheesy flavor on this variety is mild.

I also recommend a Pecorino Foglie di Noce, slightly soft but very salty, this cheese is such a treat, I can hardly compliment it enough! It's fabulous with a little honey, or orange marmalade on top.

Both of these cheeses pair well with the olives, marinated or no.

So, let's recap:

First, toast some BREAD.

Then get some olives and MARINATE.

Have some honey and/or orange marmalade (the orage flavor will be fabulous with the citrus in the olive marinade)

And stand by for Part the THIRD...coming soon.

Tuesday
Nov132012

An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 1

Our family antipasto platter typically does not include bread. It is usually a collection of meats, cheeses and marinated or roasted vegetables.

But I'd like to update our traditional Iaciofano antipasto platter to incorporate Italian-focused selections that speak to the season and the Thanksgiving holiday.

A platter like this needs a strong foundation – a foundation on which the other elements must rely...and lay...on top of...

And so, we begin with bread. Bread is what's needed. The foundation of food, this is where we begin.

Baguettes, ciabatta, large rounds...even a focaccia – these are all suitable choices for such a platter. Slice them thinly on a bias (except for focaccia which warrants small poofy squares) and lightly toast them for a little crunch. They will be the perfect foundation on which to place...well, I'll get to that later.

First, let's carb up. Here are some of my NY/NJ metro bakeries where I purchase my bread:

Macedonia Brothers Bakery in the Bronx. Come for a semolina, stay for their prosciutto round.

Callandra's locations in in Fairfield, Newark and Caldwell, New Jersey. I like the thinly sliced round loaves.

Hot Bread Kitchen - Seasonal Focaccia is always a treat, and their semolina has a nice, thick crust.

Eli's Bread at Zabar's (and other locations) - sometimes when you walk in they give away fresh out of the oven samples. Worth it even if you don't come home with a loaf.

Agata and Valentina - new(ish) downtown location!

Amy's Bread - another excuse for me to visit Chelsea Market, or the equally dangerous Bleecker Street...

Citarella has a nice bakery section, and various New York locations.

And let's not forget Balthazar....perhaps you should make a pilgrimage to their Englewood Bakery Extravaganza?

Out in the 'burbs? Our very own Morristown King's has a pretty decent bakery with a wide selection of fresh bread and artisinal crackers.

Sullivan Street Bakery - For a healthier option, I like the whole wheat loaf. Softest inner bread and a tangy crust. 

Perhaps you would like to make your own? Our recipe for focaccia is here.

Tuesday
May172011

Something Simple – Roasted Peppers

Can we talk about my hair? We spend a lot of time talking about John's hair, and I would like to discuss mine for a moment.

It's Tuesday. And it's raining in New York. And it's fixing to keep this up all week. Rainy, humid weather means one thing for me – curly hair. And I don't mean wavy. Think Shirley Temple – the girl not the drink.

This New York rain is coming down two ways: torrents/sheets and that spittle/mist that is all around you, rendering your umbrella useless. Not to mention your hairspray.

So this week I need something easy to eat. Something I can bring to work, throw in a salad and eat indoors. Avoiding the outdoors altogether, and decreasing my chances of being mistaken for a poodle walking on its hind legs.

Last week, The Box waxed poetic about the Perfect Antipasto, which included roasted peppers. He suggested that you make your own roasted peppers, and I am going to echo that. Because really, it's so simple even The Box could do it.

What You Need:
A red pepper (or two or three....)
Some olive oil
A plastic Ziploc bag
That's it, people!

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 500 degrees.

Rinse your pepper under water, and dry it off. Rub it with a thin coating of oilve oil and place it on a cookie sheet on the top most rack of your oven.

Bake. Until black char marks start to appear on the outside and skin gets all wrinkly. This could take about 10 minutes. Or so. You be the judge. It should look like this:

Put this wrinkly, charred veggie in a Ziploc bag. The steam from the pepper will cause it to wilt. After about 10-15 minutes in the bag, you can get brave and open it up. It should be cool enough to pluck off the green stem and peel off the skin.

Then slice it up into thin strips and discard the seeds, skin and stem.

DONE!

Throw them in a salad, garnish a goat cheese adorned baguette, top a pizza, string them together and make a roasted pepper necklace!

Make lots of 'em!

Don't go out in the rain! Seriously, it's scary out there. Or at least I am.

Wednesday
May112011

The Box Makes Antipasto!

 Today's post is written by our Dad, a.k.a "The Box"... 

As devoted readers of this blog have, no doubt, noticed, Elana has followed in the illustrious footsteps of Marmo and become an accomplished cook and baker…..although Elana’s approach to cooking is occasionally reminiscent of Scipio’s approach to Carthage

Indeed, even John has mastered a reasonably comprehensive cooking skill set which he is not above using to impress the fluttering moths that frequent the light of his flame.

It will probably come as no surprise that, surrounded as I am by these accomplished foodies, I have had little motivation to develop any cooking skills of note with the exception of scrambled eggs and the world’s best fraudulently homemade New England clam chowder. Rather, I have devoted my talents to consumption.

There is, however, one area in which The Box reigns supreme….the preparation of what is easily the WORLD’S BEST ANTIPASTO.

Okay, I admit that making antipasto is not “cooking”. In rebuttal, I would argue that putting together a good antipasto requires the presentational skills of a food stylist and the abilities of a chef to assemble a collection of diverse food items into a complementary tasting presentation that, in most cases, serves to get the juices flowing for a great meal to follow. That is why, in Italian, “antipasto” means “before the meal.”

A brief confession is in order: The Box has been known to create very large antipasti (note the plural), and to heavily indulge in same, leaving little or no room to partake of the “main course.”  This nefarious practice is of particular use when the “main course” consists of an item that I deem unfit for human consumption regardless of how well prepared; i.e., Turkey.

 But enough blather. It’s time to get to it.

What You Need:

The beauty of antipasto is that the choices of ingredients can include almost anything.  Over the years there have been some ingredients that have come and gone in The Box’s antipasto, but over the last few years a reasonably fixed set of ingredients has evolved.

CeCi Beans….marinated in red wine vinegar and olive oil (fuhgedabout your shi-shi balsamic vinegar).

Artichoke Hearts….not too oily.

Roasted red peppers….make them yourself, forget you ever saw a jar. (Elana's note: Since this is No-Cook Week, we can't endorse making your own roasted peppers. Until next week, when we will show you how).

Olives….your choice (go for a little color). But, your choices must include pitted black olives.

Cheeses….you need at least two, preferably a good sharp provolone (try Vanta) and some fresh mozzarella (smoked mozzarella is a good option – try both).

Genoa salami….get the good stuff! If it’s made on this side of the Atlantic give it to your dog.

Soppresata….again, please, the good stuff. Preferably homemade by a good Italian deli or butcher.  Nothing from the deli case in shrink wrap.

Composition & Assembly
This is the whole show people.

First, you need a large platter….round or oval will do. Then follow this assembly formula:

The veggie type things (ceci's, artichokes, roasted peppers, olives) can go in the middle, confined by the fat and salt-free items (salami, soppresata, cheeses). If you wish, you can incorporate a small bowl to hold some items in one place (ceci’s in particular).

Next, go to work on the perimeter.

Roll the Genoa salami into cylinders and stack along the side.

Follow with one of your cheeses. The provolone should be cut in relatively thin rectangles.

Next, go to the soppresata. Try to slice this a bit on the bias so that you get thin oval slices. 

Follow with your second cheese as you continue around the perimeter of your platter. However, if you use the mozzarella balls you will have to get creative and may want to “sprinkle” them around your creation.

Quantity
This is an ITALIAN dish: Figure out how much stuff you need for the number of people coming and multiply by four. If you run out..or even come close..you will be a disgrazia!

The only food article missing in this “recipe” is Uncle Harry’s Chicken Liver.  Chicken liver in an antipasto??  That’s right cupcake! But that’s a story for another day.

MANGIA!!