Antipasto Platter

Tonight I am a guest at a dinner club.  I have been asked to contribute the appetizer course.  There will be eight people; pasta is the entree; and the request is that the appetizers be vegetarian.  The garden is coming in so this seems like a good time to use the peppers and tomatoes.  I canned a bunch of salsa verde today so I feel like I’ve done my stint in the kitchen for the day.  An antipasto platter is an easy way to do appetizers for a group and the tray can be added to the table at serving time for people to continue eating on during dinner.  And no cooking to speak of.  Sounds like a winner.

I roasted some red and orange peppers from my garden.  If you’ve never roasted peppers before here’s an easy way to manage it.  You can do these in a broiler or a toaster oven.  Line a baking sheet with foil so there’s no clean up.  Cut the peppers in half, longways, and remove the seeds.  Place the peppers skin side up on the baking sheet and flatten them with your hand.  They’ll split some and that’s fine.  Put them in the broiler and leave them until all the skins are blistered (puffy and wrinkled).  They’ll likely char some as well.  Once the skins are completely blistered  put the peppers in a zipper bag and seal the bag.  Let the peppers cool in the sealed bag.  Once they’re cool you’ll be able to slip the skins right off.

Then I broiled some tomatoes.  I used Romas today because I had the right amount ripe on the vine.  Use the same foil lined baking sheet that you used for the peppers.  Cut the romas in half longways and put them on the baking sheet skin side down.  Brush each tomato half with olive oil.  You can use your hands for this if you don’t have a brush.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Feel free to add dried herbs if you like.  I didn’t because I’m going to add fresh herbs to the platter.

Finally, a neighbor was kind enough to give me some figs from her tree.  Figs are good just as they are, but are especially yummy grilled.  Technically mine are seared because they’re really too small to put on the grill.  Add a little salted butter to a skillet and melt it.  Halve the figs and place them flesh side down in the hot buttered skillet.  Leave them until there’s a nice brown, crispy coating on each fig half.  Take them out of the skillet and set them aside.

If you want to make a little balsamic reduction to drizzle over your platter, just add some balsamic vinegar and a tiny bit of brown sugar to the fig skillet.  Stir it over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the vinegar has reduced by half.  It should be a little thicker, but still liquid.  Maybe a little thinner than syrup.  Turn off the heat and stir in a little butter for shine.  The flavor is very intense so you don’t need much at all.

If you want to add other things to your platter feel free to add some fresh mozzarella or goat cheese; some olives; some prosciutto or salami; whatever you like.  Tonight I chose fresh mozzarella (because I had some) and kalamata olives.  I serve pitted olives if I can.  No one really wants to look at a bowl of olive pits that people have spit out, even if the bowl is cute.  I chopped some fresh basil and sprinkled it over the platter after I drizzled the balsamic reduction.  In the middle is a sprig of basil and a few oregano flowers for color.  Be sure that everything is small enough to eat in a bite or two. That way people can eat off of the platter without really needing appetizer plates.

So there you have it.  Appetizers for eight with very little time in the kitchen and very little money spent.  And having everyone gathered around a platter is a great way for dinner party guests to get to know each other a little!

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