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Not all antipasti boards are equal—here are tips from Caffè la Tana's chef Phil Scarfone.
As described by Chef Phil Scarfone of Caffè la Tana.
When I think of antipasti, I think of a generous spread of all of my favourite cured meats, cheeses, condiments, pickles, preserves and breads. It’s best shared between friends and family, but don’t be shy about making a platter for yourself to chow down on while watching The Office or lounging on the (heated) patio with a spritz!
I love to build perfect bite after perfect bite, combining sweet, salty, acidic and rich items into delicious flavour bombs. It’s a great way to share new and exciting products that you find at the farmers’ market and at our little boutique Italian grocer and restaurant, Caffè la Tana on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
For me, I start with the meat. Usually 18- to 24-month aged prosciutto di Parma, coppa, mortadella, finocchiona and smoked speck. These provide a range of flavours and textures that you can mix and match with the cheeses and really set the tone for the whole platter.
Cheeses! My favourite part of the antipasti. This is where you can get pretty adventurous and try new products that you might not otherwise buy. I love to experiment with funky Italian cheeses like taleggio and gorgonzola, but I always grab some pecorino al tartufo and some smoked provolone to round it all out. Burrata and buffalo mozzarella are classics as well, but make sure to give them their own little bowl so they don’t leach all of their delicious juices out all over the table.
Pickled and cured vegetables are a must as well. I usually stick to a traditional giardiniera that I make with veggies from my garden at home a few times a year, plus some little button chanterelles if the timing is right. The pickles are here to make sure your palate doesn’t get overwhelmed with richness, and to open up your tastebuds to different sensations. Think pickled ginger with sushi—same deal!
I love adding some delicious Tropea onion jam or blood orange jam to the platter as well. This really ties the platter together by offering some sweetness late in the game. Think of it as the quasi dessert portion of the board that you can turn to when you tap out on pork and cheese.
Fresh figs are often in abundance around Vancouver in the early fall. Make sure you find a public tree, or get the homeowners permission to harvest them. They are the quintessential antipasti ingredient, and there’s something so luxurious about biting into a perfectly ripe fig that’s still warm from the sun.
Finally, I like to have a selection of sliced sourdough, crackers and grissini to act as vehicles for the board. Slicing the bread right before serving is key—you want everything to be at their optimal flavours and textures. I like to let the board sit at room temperature loosely covered in plastic wrap for 30 minutes before serving. This allows the cheeses to temper, and the fats in the meats to become soft and supple on the palate.
So, get in there! Build a board and have a time, ’tis the season for an antipasti.
Prosciutto di Parma, 24 month
Filone crostini with Domenica Fiore Novello olive oil
BioSol organic cherry tomato jam
BioSol organic Sicilian red onion jam
Savio Volpe marinated olives
Savio Volpe giardiniera
Originally published December 10, 2020