Once upon a time, in a mystical, unforgivably hot, far away land – that you may know as Florida – lived my wife and I.
It’s hard to think about it now, but we were young once. We lived recklessly and laughed in the face of responsibility. We did unspeakable things that I, as a parent now, am appalled by. What did we do? I’m almost afraid to tell you because I know we’ll be judged. But I must…
We used to do things like… Stay out past 9. Spend the entire day at theme parks only to go home, get dressed, and go out again. We used to order Chinese takeout at 10pm to eat that night. We went to the theater to watch an opening night movie that started at 1am (that’s after midnight), didn’t get home till 3 (in the morning), only to get up in a few hours for a 7am shift.
We were rebels without a cause. It’s amazing what a few years and 2 kids can do to you!
Because now? We go to the movies once every 6-8 months if we’re lucky.
I’m thinking about the comfort of a couch 2 hours into a theme park. The thought of staying out of the house past 7pm for any reason whatsoever absolutely frightens me. And if we eat Chinese food after 6pm this happens:
.Getting old sucks.
What was the point I was… Oh yeah.
Something else we used to do on a regular basis was go out to eat. I mean, we were pros. We always loved going somewhere, enjoying a meal, having the age old debate – we’re stuffed, do we get dessert? – it was some memorable times. Now? It’s nothing but waste of time! And money! Oh boy, don’t get me started on how much of a waste of money going out to eat is. Do you know how many amiibos I could buy with that money?! Yeah, we still do it sometimes but it’s almost instant regret.
But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about a restaurant we used to frequent for all of our special occasions and one that I’d still happily go to – Texas de Brazil.
If you never heard of it, you’re missing out. I’ve talked about it before – it’s a Churrascaria, specializing in various cuts of meat, carved tableside right onto your plate by an army of guachos. It’s a carnivores dream. But, what they also have is the absolute best salad bar anyone could ever ask for.
It’s a plethora of Italian meats and gourmet cheeses. Olives, breads, salads, soups, vegetables.. There is absolutely nothing I can say that would do it justice. It’s a salad lovers paradise and puts almost every other salad bar to shame.
Depending on the time you go, the price to eat the full dinner there is $45 per person! But the salad bar by itself is only $25. You don’t get the service of the guachos passing by with all their sticks of glory, but to be completely honest, you don’t need them if you have the salad bar.
And that’s where the inspiration came for putting this together. We don’t have a Texas de Brazil 15 minutes down the highway like we used to. The closest is 3 hours north and I’d be lying if I told you we didn’t think about it once or twice. But even if we did go, it’s not exactly a place where the kids could enjoy themselves. So in a feeble attempt to recreate my favorite plate I put together from the salad bar, this antipasto was born.
It’s nothing special or fancy, it’s just what we like around here. Seriously, this is some basic stuff we’re talking about, but simple is usually more than enough. Whenever we went to the restaurant, my plate always consisted of mozzarella, prosciutto, grilled provolone slices, chunks of good parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, peppered bacon, and some toasted ciabatta bread. Yes, I fit it all on a plate, and I even went back for seconds. Despite my love for the flank steak, it wasn’t until the last few times we went that I realized I didn’t even want the full dinner with the meat. I was perfectly happy and content making frequent trips to the salad bar. And so was the wife, who usually grabbed salami, soppressata, and olives in addition to what I usually got.
The great thing about antipasto is you can put together whatever you like. Personally, I’m a sucker for sun-dried tomatoes but I couldn’t care less about olives, while the wife is the opposite. This set up is what we like, and if there’s one thing I want you to learn from this post, it’s that you have freedom here. If you’re a fan of artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes, or you have the cash to splurge on some good parmesan, go for it! What I have in this post is just to give you an idea of how easy it is to throw it on a plate and make a great appetizer or mid-day meal.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Again, I can’t stress enough to substitute or add anything you’d like. You’re making a plate of your favorite stuff, not mine.
- What can you use? Straight from an old article on the Houston Press Food Blog by Brooke Viggiano, here’s a great list of various things you can use in an antipasto:
Thinly sliced deli meats like prosciutto, ham, salami, capicola, pancetta, bresaola, pepperoni or soppressata; chunks of dried sausages, like chorizo, pepperoni, salami, sweet and hot Italian sausage, andouille or kielbasa; slice or wedge chunks of your favorite cheeses like parmesan, pecorino, provolone, gruyere, manchego, ricotta salata, gouda, feta, brie, blue cheese or goat cheese; sliced celery, tomatoes, marinated sun dried tomatoes, pickled eggplant and zucchini, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, carrots, stuffed cherry peppers, marinated mushrooms, cauliflower, chickpeas, mixed green and black olives, roasted cipollini onions, capers, small pickles, or pepperoncini peppers.
The list can go on and on. It’s a pretty sweet article with a good story, lots of info and tips so check it out.
- We get our prosciutto from the deli. At about 6 or 7 slices for quarter of a pound, it gave us 2 good days of antipasto. If you want to get more than a quarter of a pound, be my guest! But $14-something a pound is absolutely insane, I don’t care what it is.
- Ok, I’m lying, prosciutto is totally worth it.
- The deli should also sell pre-packaged prosciutto, but I think it’s worth it to go freshly sliced since it comes out to about the same price.
- I love using ciabatta bread because it gets nice and crispy outside while still being nice and chewy inside. If you have a favorite bread to use then it’ll probably work here.
- The oil and vinegar are of course for dipping. So if you want to skip it, by all means. We had it so I put it out and I had no regrets.
- You can buy fresh mozzarella just about anywhere now. Like I mentioned in the Caprese post, I get mine from BJ’s in a 3 pack for $8 or so. You can also use the little balls of that come in a bucket of water. The mozzarella ball is in your court.
- I don’t season my cheese. I know, crazy, but I think the prosciutto and salami bring enough sodium to the table, that if you were to salt the cheese, it’ll be too much. You could pepper it up if you want!
Alright, there’s no real mystery to this.
- All you have to do is arrange everything on a plate. Seriously, that’s it.
If you’re trying to impress someone or you’re doing this for a party, you may want to stress presentation. There’s something about a well organized and properly presented plate of antipasto that just feels right.
Heck, when it’s just the wife and I, I still have to fix up the plate instead of just throwing everything on there. I could give you a few tips on presentation, but seriously, it’s not rocket science. You really need to try and mess up in order to make a plate of arranged meats and cheeses look bad.
The presentation depends on the type of plate you’re using. If it’s a big platter, you have a lot more room to play with. If it’s a little plate like I used, you have to try and utilize the space you have. Whether it be a platter, plate, big wooden cutting board, it doesn’t matter, the arrangement is traditionally the same regardless of what you use.
One of the only rules is you have to have order on the plate, or else it’s just going to look like you don’t care. And you do care, right? Things like olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or julienned roasted red peppers, typically go in the middle. You could spruce them up by putting them on a bed of mixed greens, again, just don’t mix them all up. Keep them well divided. If you have the room and the hardware, you can also put them in bowls and keep the plate for just the heavy hitters.
Whatever meats and cheeses you decide to use, make sure they’re arranged in groups. Meaning don’t cross the streams and layer the prosciutto with the salami. Have the salami in one spot, the prosciutto next to it, the capicola next to that, and so on. The same goes for the cheeses, vegetables, everything.
Again, don’t be afraid to set up small bowls on the side with various things. Like if olives are a big hit in your house, just put them in a bowl. Get small dishes and keep the balsamic and extra virgin olive oil at the table so every can help themselves.
Also, it’s not abnormal to set out a separate plate of caprese salad to accompany the antipasto. Trust me, if it’s there, people will eat it and in turn, love you.
Of course, I’m talking as if this is for a party. You must keep in mind antipasto literally translates to “before the meal”. Your appetizer. So yes, you can totally have this as the main course, but traditionally speaking, the antipasto is the precursor to an italian dinner. I’m just warning you, don’t go putting out 5 plates of antipasti and then expect everyone to eat dinner a half hour later.
Personally, my kryptonite is sandwiches. So if I see bread, meat, and cheese on a platter, I’m making me a sandwich!
There’s not much more to really say. I mean, it’s sliced meat and cheese? O0o0o0, olives and bread too. Curve balls. If you’ve never put a plate like this together do not stress it. Give it a shot one night, spice up the dinner table. Know you’re going to have spaghetti or lasagna one night? Go ahead and take a trip to the deli and get a few slices of meat. Buy a ball of mozzarella. Get a loaf of good bread. Surprise the family and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be extravagant like the plates pictured above from Texas de Brazil. Keep it simple is probably the best advice I could give you. You don’t need a spread of 10 different components. Stick to 3-5 different things plus the bread and you and your family will feel like royalty.