Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Antipasto Platter!

What meal requires virtually no cooking and elicits spontaneous marriage proposals…?

This is the story of a girl who loved food. No bite could pass her lips until she held the morsel under her nose and inhaled its aroma, as smelling only enhanced the pleasure of tasting. She also snuck straight pats of butter at the table when no one was looking. The girl eventually outgrew her butter fetish, stopped sniffing food in polite company and found a guy who didn’t mind, heck, even embraced her obsession with food. The pair got married and the girl, bolstered by the love and support of her wonderful husband, decided to start a food blog.

What does this have to do with antipasto, not to mention that audacious claim about marriage proposals? Well, I guess I will just have to drop the handy third person literary convention and explain myself. I am that girl, and I believe that the antipasto platter is the best way to introduce you to my food-centric life and explain why you should bother reading this blog in the first place.

Why Another Food Blog?
As I think I have already made pretty clear, I love food. Shopping for it, eating it, paying for it in snazzy restaurants and, most especially, cooking it myself. My husband, Mike, and I cook all the time. We might go with something complex and time-consuming like Moussaka on the weekend or something fast and simple like soy-glazed salmon with couscous after work that we eat while watching Jeopardy and ripping on Alex Trebek. We know our food is as tasty and definitely healthier than restaurant food, and we can drink better wine at home because we’re not paying the restaurant mark-up. Don’t get me wrong, I love restaurants. My favorites are ethnic places and anywhere I can order food that I wouldn’t or couldn’t cook at home. Our travel is often planned around where we can eat, and I’ll be sharing all those destinations with you too. To my knowledge, there are no South Florida food bloggers out there, so all you New Yorkers can read about me eating fish tacos on the beach in February…ha!

I am here to say that there is no excuse for not eating well every single day. Life is too short for a bad meal. Why squander any opportunity to delight your senses by eating any food that is tasteless, unappealing or seasoned primarily with grease? Sure we all need to fall back on the occasional bowl of Cap’n Crunch for dinner on a rough day, but why save your moments of ultimate culinary satisfaction only for dining out or the occasional holiday dinner? In this blog, I want to share the way I eat and cook and encourage all the food lovers out there to approach every hunger pang as a chance for total sensual pleasure or at least some really tasty food.

So What’s the Deal with Antipasto?
Antipasto is the appetizer that you skip in most Italian restaurants. It’s basically a shopping and assembly job that only requires cooking if you insist on grilling the vegetables yourself, like I do.

Otherwise anyone with access to a decent supermarket can pull off antipasto; but that, of course, is why I love it.

This is my first contribution to the food blogosphere: The easy antipasto platter, one of the ultimate mingling of tastes. The more foods and flavors I can fit into any single meal, the happier I am.

To do the vegetables, lightly coat them with olive oil using a pastry brush and season with salt and pepper. Roasting is good, but cooking under the broiler is faster. Drizzle them with balsamic vinegar when they are done. Or you can buy roasted vegetables at any market with a good prepared foods counter.

Artfully arrange the roasted veggies on a big platter and buy some different types of olives from the bulk bins.

Arrange the olives (That’s me contemplating how to most artfully arrange them).

Buy some thinly sliced prosciutto imported from Italy. Most markets carry it pre-sliced, but getting it straight from a gourmet deli can be worth the extra trip. We get ours at Fernanda’s Gourmet Market on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.

That’s Mike artfully arranging the prosciutto. Check out the stunning selection of cheeses on the left. Our Whole Foods Market has a basket near the cheese counter labeled, “cheese ends.” These are the little bits that are small and awkwardly shaped, the runts, if you will. They all cost around $1.50 or less, so we get to try lots of new cheeses without investing in a massive half pound wedge. If your cheese store doesn’t have “cheese ends,” just get your hands on as many different kinds as possible.

Above is a picture of the cheese wrappers. Mike saves them and lays them out next to the cheeses so we actually know what we’re eating. Mike rocks at meticulous kitchen tasks that I have no patience for.

And here’s the finished platter next to the light and zippy California Merlot that we bought for the occasion. That bottle would go for at least $35 in a restaurant. Our price: $14.99. Nice.

And the best part about the antipasto platter is that it can be different every time. It’s the perfect medium for low-pressure creativity in the kitchen! Experiment with different charcuterie! Turn those olives into tapenade! Go Greek and buy baba ganoush!

Get to the proposal thing, you big teaser…
The lovely antipasto platter that you see above is a re-creation of the meal Mike and I prepared the night he proposed to me. We had already bought the ring together, so I knew it was coming eventually. Mike kept saying that he was trying to think of a cool way to ask me that wasn’t cheesy and lame. It was just another Saturday night and antipasto was the dish of the day. We’re the type of diners who firmly believe that the appetizers are the best part of most menus and we love tapas and small plates because we get to try lots of different tasty things. We had a fun time shopping for and preparing the dinner and were tickled pink with our discovery of the “cheese ends” basket, so we were both in a good mood and feeling smug that we didn’t have to leave our comfy condo to eat a gourmet meal. While we were eating, Mike got up to go to the bathroom or something. A few minutes later he came over to me and asked me to marry him while I had a big piece of prosciutto and baguette in my mouth. My lips were kind of greasy from the olive oil, but we kissed anyway. And there you have it: spontaneous marriage proposal induced by antipasto. Don’t knock it till you try it…

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