Antipasti makes Valentine’s dinner easy
So you’re a dangerously bumbling fool in the kitchen, but you still want to pull off a homemade dinner for that someone special. You’ve got three choices, and the first two aren’t good.
You could try your luck cooking and hope your significant other is charmed by the hapless idiot schtick. Or you could get takeout, toss the cartons and pretend you slaved away. Both are pretty risky.
Better is to ditch the idea of cooked food entirely. Antipasti ” or what “Cooking for Two” author Jessica Strand calls “nibble night” ” is a perfectly respectable and wonderfully romantic way to pull together an impressive dinner.
The concept is simple. Assemble a platter of cheeses, cured meats, olives and bite-sized vegetables, accompany them with a baguette or other artisanal bread and a bottle or two of wine. That’s it.
Strand has assembled a list of great choices for an antipasti dinner, but it’s easy to assemble your own, too. If you have access to a good cheese and meat shop, tell them what you’re planning and let them suggest good combinations.
If you’re limited to a grocer, start at the olive bar, then grab some bread, jarred peppers, wine, cheese and the best cured meats you can find. For ease, have the deli slice everything thin and small.
Start to finish: 10 minutes
4 slices sopressata
4 slices prosciutto
4 slices bresaola
1/2 cup green olives
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives
1/2 cup roasted and salted almonds
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, cut into chunks
4 ounces brie
6- to 12-inch baguette, cut into slices and toasted
6 piquillo peppers (or other small, pickled peppers, such as Peppadews)
4-ounce log goat cheese
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
On a large serving platter, tray or cutting board, arrange the meats. Place the olives toward the center of the platter, the almonds next to them, then the Parmesan chunks.
Place the brie on the other side of the platter with a butter knife beside it. Place the bread in a small basket lined with a napkin to keep it warm.
Fill each piquillo pepper with 1/2 teaspoon of the goat cheese (extra cheese can be cut into rounds and added to the platter), then place the peppers next to the Parmesan.
In a small bowl, combine the fennel and tomatoes, then drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss. Place this mixture next to the peppers. Serve with a small bowl for the olive pits.
(Recipe from Jessica Strand’s “Cooking for Two,” Chronicle Books, 2009)