An Antipasto Misto Toscano: What’s on the Plate

An Antipasto Misto Toscano

An Antipasto Misto Toscano

Festive Tuscan meals generally begin with a mixture of antipasti, consisting of cold cuts, crostini, and perhaps pickles or cheese, or both, and maybe a sauce or two. If you’re in a home the antipasti will be presented in platters, which people pass about, picking and choosing.

In a restaurant this is obviously less practical, and to avoid the risk of a run on something especially enticing that leaves others at the table without, the antipasto is often assembled in the kitchen and brought out in individual portions, like this, which was prepared by the Osteria L’Antica Quercia, in Barberino Val D’Elsa.

Starting at 6 O’clock, we have assorted crostini, followed by assorted cold cuts, and in the center a nice chunk of Pecorino Toscano drizzled with aceto balsamico. In the next shots I have highlighted them one at a time, to help you recognize them.

Crostino alle Olive Nere, with Black Olives

Crostino alle Olive Nere, with Black Olives

Crostino alle Olive Nere
This is quite simple, a slice of bread toasted over the coals, and spread with black olive paté. Quite tasty too, and easy to do.

A Recipe:

  • 8 slices bread, of the kind you prefer
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) black olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • Julienned strips of orange or lemon zest (just the colored part), optional

Begin by pitting the olives and mincing or blending the olive pulp. If you are blending, use short bursts.

Transfer the olive pulp to a bowl and work the olive oil into it, mixing well.

Toast the bread, and rub the slices lightly with the garlic,

Spread the paté over the slices, decorate each crostino with a strip or two of zest if you want, and serve.

Note: Depending upon the size of the slices of bread and the function (party food or antipasto) you may want to cut the slices into triangles before you spread the paté over them.

Crostino ai Fegatini di Pollo, with chicken livers

Crostino ai Fegatini di Pollo, with chicken livers

Crostini ai Fegatini
Fegatini are chicken livers, and I can say from personal experience that even those who are not great fans of liver greet chicken liver crostini with a smile: the process of transforming the liver into paté works a magical transformation on the liver, which retains its livery accents but becomes somehow addictive too.

Crostini di Fegatini di Pollo, Chicken Liver Crostini

Here is a recipe, cryptically presented by Aldo Santini in La Cucina Fiorentina:

“Remove the gall bladders from the livers without breaking them. And then it’s as easy as 123. Pot or skillet. Mince and sauté white onion or shallot, prosciutto fat, parsley, celery and carrot – a little of each – in olive oil. Coarsely chop and add the livers. Sprinkle with white wine. Let evaporate. When the livers are half done remove them from the pot and mince them, with a few previously steeped dried porcini. Finish cooking the paté over a low flame, moistening it with broth, white wine or Marsala. Feel free to make variations, for example capers or anchovies instead of mushrooms. The drinks are on me if you can find two Florentine homes or restaurants whose crostini taste (even remotely) alike.”

Perhaps Mr. Santini is too cryptic; you will want 3 to 4 chicken livers to begin with, about a tablespoon of onion, a couple of teaspoons each of the remaining herbs, and the amount of prosciutto fat that comes from one or two slices. The spread is done when the chicken livers are completely cooked; it takes about 10 minutes of simmering (with constant stirring) after you return the ground mixture to the stove.

A variation on the standard crostini di fegatini di pollo, which I prefer, has you mince 2 teaspoons each onion and prosciutto. Sauté the mixture in a dollop of olive oil, and when it has browned, add 3-4 minced chicken livers and 4-5 leaves of sage. Sprinkle with white wine, let evaporate, and when the livers are half done, remove them from the pan and mince them to a fine paste with the sage. Return the mixture to the fire, season it with salt and pepper, stir in a teaspoon of flour to bind it, and finish cooking it over a low flame, moistening it with broth, or more white wine, and a pat of butter as you remove it from the flames. Artusi suggests you also stir in a tablespoon of grated Parmigiano just before you remove the paté from the fire.

Once the mixture is ready, spread it on thinly sliced bread. Tuscan bakeries make special crostini loaves shaped in profile like the suits of playing cards. Elegant, but a baguette will work as well, as will squares of quick-fried polenta. Serve as an antipasto.

Crostini ai Broccoletti, with Broccoli

Crostini ai Broccoletti, with Broccoli

Crostini Verdi
There was a certain debate at our table about what these were, and we eventually decided they were based on broccoli. And quite good. I don’t have a recipe for the broccoli paté, but one could achieve a similar effect with dried fava bean paté, or one could make crostini with spinach and anchovies:

  • 8 Slices of toasted bread of the kind preferred (remove and discard the crusts if you want), cut into triangles if desired
  • 1 pound (450 g) spinach, washed well (frozen will also work – thaw it)
  • 3 anchovies, boned, rinsed and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano

Wilt the spinach in a pot, using just the water that adheres to the leaves after you washed it. When it is thoroughly wilted, drain it well, mince it or blend it using short pulses, and put it in a pan with half the butter and the anchovies.

Simmer the mixture for a few minutes, stirring constantly, and while doing this toast the bread.

Stir the cream and the cheese into the spinach mixture, mix well, and turn off the heat.

Butter the toasted bread with the remaining butter, spread the spinach over it, and serve.

Prosciutto Toscano

Prosciutto Toscano

Prosciutto
People have written books about Northern Italy’s cured raw hams. Broadly speaking, prosciutto can be divided into two categories: dolce (sweet), and salato, casalingo, or Toscano (salty, home made, or Tuscan). Here we have the latter.

Prosciutto salato is more heavily salted than prosciutto dolce, and is also rubbed with a spice mixture called agliata, made with garlic and pepper. The meat is frequently darker in color, and the fat can be pinkish.

Salame Toscano

Salame Toscano

Salame
A Salame (plural salami, while cold cuts in general are called salumi — note the u) is a cured sausage generally made by grinding lean pork with pork fat to make a paste, and stuffing the paste into a casing, generally pig’s intestine. The salame is then aged in a cool dark, well ventilated place until it’s ready. Like prosciutto, Italian salami is raw, with the meat being cured by the salt in the spice mix.

The concept sounds simple and is, but within the category there are tremendous variations, both in the grind of the meat and the fat, which result in different textures, and in the spicing mixes used to season the meat.

Because of this, almost every town in Italy has a local salame, and if the town isn’t known for its pork it may be made from another kind of meat, for example asino (ass) or oca (goose – Friuli Venezia Giulia is known for its goose salami and prosciutto, both of which are made under Rabbinical supervision and thus Kosher).

Finocchiona

Finocchiona

Finocchiona
This is a variation on salami that supposedly owes its origins to a thief at a fair near the town of Prato, who stole a fresh salami and hid it in a stand of wild fennel. When he returned for it he discovered it had absorbed the aromas of its hiding place and had become fit for the Gods.

There are two kinds of finocchiona.

One is called finocchiona, and is made of finely ground pork and fat, laced with fennel, and aged for a while; it’s fairly firm.

The other is called sbriciolona, a word that means crumbly, and though the mixture is the same it’s much fresher — so fresh that it simply crumbles unless sliced thick, at leas a quarter inch (1/2 cm). A good sbriciolona is an amazing treat, especially on a slice of schiacciata.

The finocchiona shown here was just firm enough to be sliceable, and quite nice.

Capocollo, or Coppa

Capocollo, or Coppa

Capocollo
Also known as coppa, this is cured pork shoulder but. Again raw, and prepared with salt, herbs, and spices.

Pecorino Toscano

Pecorino Toscano

Pecorino Toscano
Pecorino Toscano is a mildly flavored, firm sheep’s milk cheese that looks and tastes quite similar to Pecorino Sardo (and is quite different from the much saltier Pecorino Romano). This similarity is no accident; when Tuscan farmers abandoned the land in the late 50s and early 60s, preferring new houses in town with modern amenities and better paying factory jobs, Sardinian shepherds took their places, bringing their flocks with them and making cheese as they always had. And very fine cheese it is.
This slice was drizzled with Aceto Balsamico, which provides a delightful contrast to the creamy slightly pungent milkiness of moderately aged sheep’s milk cheese.

Festive festive meals generally begin with a mixture of antipasti, consisting of cold cuts, crostini, and perhaps pickles or cheese, or both, and maybe a sauce or two. If you’re in a home the antipasti will be presented in platters, which people pass about, picking and choosing.

In a restaurant this is obviously less practical, and to avoid the risk of a run on something especially enticing that leaves others at the table without, the antipasto is often assembled in the kitchen and brought out in individual portions, like this, which was prepared by the Osteria L’Antica Quercia, in Barberino Val D’Elsa.

Starting at 6 O’clock, we have assorted crostini, followed by assorted cold cuts, and in the center a nice chunk of Pecorino Toscano drizzled with aceto balsamico. In the next shots I have highlighted them one at a time, to help you recognize them.

2
Crostino alle Olive Nere
This is quite simple, a slice of bread toasted over the coals, and spread with balck olive paté. Quite tasty, and easy to do.

A Recipe:

8 slices bread, of the kind you prefer
1/2 pound (225 g) black olives, pitted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
Julienned strips of orange or lemon zest (just the colored part), optional

Begin by pitting the olives and mincing or blending the olive pulp. If you are blending, use short bursts.

Transfer the olive pulp to a bowl and work the olive oil into it, mixing well.

Toast the bread, and rub the slices lightly with the garlic,

Spread the paté over the slices, decorate each crostino with a strip or two of zest if you want, and serve.

Note: Depending upon the size of the slices of bread and the function (party food or antipasto) you may want to cut the slices into triangles before you spread the paté over them.

3
Crostini ai Fegatini
Fegatini are chicken livers, and I can say from personal experience that even those who are not great fans of liver greet chicken liver crostini with a smile: the process of transforming the liver into paté works a magical transformation on the liver, which retains its livery accents but becomes somehow addictive too.

Crostini di Fegatini di Pollo — Chicken Liver Crostini

Here is a recipe, cryptically presented by Aldo Santini in La Cucina Fiorentina:

“Remove the gall bladders from the livers without breaking them. And then it’s as easy as 123. Pot or skillet. Mince and sauté white onion or shallot, prosciutto fat, parsley, celery and carrot – a little of each – in olive oil. Coarsely chop and add the livers. Sprinkle with white wine. Let evaporate. When the livers are half done remove them from the pot and mince them, with a few previously steeped dried porcini. Finish cooking the paté over a low flame, moistening it with broth, white wine or Marsala. Feel free to make variations, for example capers or anchovies instead of mushrooms. The drinks are on me if you can find two Florentine homes or restaurants whose crostini taste (even remotely) alike.”

Perhaps Mr. Santini is too cryptic; you will want 3 to 4 chicken livers to begin with, about a tablespoon of onion, a couple of teaspoons each of the remaining herbs, and the amount of prosciutto fat that comes from one or two slices. The spread is done when the chicken livers are completely cooked; it takes about 10 minutes of simmering (with constant stirring) after you return the ground mixture to the stove.

A variation on the standard crostini di fegatini di pollo, which I prefer, has you mince 2 teaspoons each onion and prosciutto. Sauté the mixture in a dollop of olive oil, and when it has browned, add 3-4 minced chicken livers and 4-5 leaves of sage. Sprinkle with white wine, let evaporate, and when the livers are half done, remove them from the pan and mince them to a fine paste with the sage. Return the mixture to the fire, season it with salt and pepper, stir in a teaspoon of flour to bind it, and finish cooking it over a low flame, moistening it with broth, or more white wine, and a pat of butter as you remove it from the flames. Artusi suggests you also stir in a tablespoon of grated Parmigiano just before you remove the paté from the fire.

Once the mixture is ready, spread it on thinly sliced bread. Tuscan bakeries make special crostini loaves shaped in profile like the suits of playing cards. Elegant, but a baguette will work as well, as will squares of quick-fried polenta. Serve as an antipasto.

4
Crostini Verdi
There was a certain debate at our table about what these were, and we eventually decided they were based on broccoli. And quite good. I don’t have a recipe for the broccoli paté, but one could achieve a similar effect with dried fava bean paté, or one could make crostini with spinach and anchovies:

8 Slices of toasted bread of the kind preferred (remove and discard the crusts if you want), cut into triangles if desired
1 pound (450 g) spinach, washed well (frozen will also work – thaw it)
3 anchovies, boned, rinsed and crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano

Wilt the spinach in a pot, using just the water that adheres to the leaves after you washed it. When it is thoroughly wilted, drain it well, mince it or blend it using short pulses, and put it in a pan with half the butter and the anchovies.

Simmer the mixture for a few minutes, stirring constantly, and while doing this toast the bread.

Stir the cream and the cheese into the spinach mixture, mix well, and turn off the heat.

Butter the toasted bread with the remaining butter, spread the spinach over it, and serve.

5
Prosciutto
People have written books about Northern Italy’s cured raw hams. Broadly speaking, prosciutto can be divided into two categories: dolce (sweet), and salato, casalingo, or Toscano (salty, home made, or Tuscan). Here we have the latter.

Prosciutto salato is more heavily salted than prosciutto dolce, and is also rubbed with a spice mixture called agliata, made with garlic and pepper. The meat is frequently darker in color, and the fat can be pinkish.

6
Salame
A Salame (plural salami, while cold cuts in general are called salumi — note the u) is a cured sausage generally made by grinding lean pork with pork fat to make a paste, and stuffing the paste into a casing, generally pig’s intestine. The salame is then aged in a cool dark, well ventilated place until it’s ready. Like prosciutto, Italian salami is raw, with the meat being cured by the salt in the spice mix.

The concept sounds simple and is, but within the category there are tremendous variations, both in the grind of the meat and the fat, which result in different textures, and in the spicing mixes used to season the meat.

Because of this, almost every town in Italy has a local salame, and if the town isn’t known for its pork it may be made from another kind of meat, for example asino (ass) or oca (goose – Friuli Venezia Giulia is known for its goose salami and prosciutto, both of which are made under Rabbinical supervision and thus Kosher).

7
Finocchiona:
This is a variation on salami that supposedly owes its origins to a thief at a fair near the town of Prato, who stole a fresh salami and hid it in a stand of wild fennel. When he returned for it he discovered it had absorbed the aromas of its hiding place and had become fit for the Gods.

There are two kinds of finocchiona.

One is called finocchiona, and is made of finely ground pork and fat, laced with fennel, and aged for a while; it’s fairly firm.

The other is called sbriciolona, a word that means crumbly, and though the mixture is the same it’s much fresher — so fresh that it simply crumbles unless sliced thick, at leas a quarter inch (1/2 cm). A good sbriciolona is an amazing treat, especially on a slice of schiacciata.

The finocchiona shown here was just firm enough to be sliceable, and quite nice.

8
Capocollo:
Also known as coppa, this is cured pork shoulder but. Again raw, and prepared with salt, herbs, and spices.

9
Pecorino Toscano
Pecorino Toscano is a mildly flavored, firm sheep’s milk cheese that looks and tastes quite similar to Pecorino Sardo (and is quite different from the much saltier Pecorino Romano). This similarity is no accident; when Tuscan farmers abandoned the land in the late 50s and early 60s, preferring new houses in town with modern amenities and better paying factory jobs, Sardinian shepherds took their places, bringing their flocks with them and making cheese as they always had. And very fine cheese it is.
This slice was drizzled with Aceto Balsamico, which provides a delightful contrast to the creamy slightly pungent milkiness of moderately aged sheep’s milk cheese.

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Categories: Antipasti and Starters, Illustrated Recipes And More, Tuscan Antipasti

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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