Olive Antipasto Tree

(March 19, 2021) Change is in the air more ways than one.

Jack Frost is packing his bags and bidding adieu till next year.

The cases of Coronavirus are going down, people are receiving their vaccinations, and there is hope that normalcy is in the future.

That being said, entertaining at home will start to increase. Time to get back into the swing of things as company is on the horizon.

Antipasto is a fun way to start your festivities. Don’t worry about following a recipe slavishly. There are no rules, only suggestions which lessons the pressure for those who have less experience.

Antipasto boards are fantastic for feeding family and friends because this first course is meant to be shared. In addition, the Italian appetizer can be prepared in advance, which makes it a popular choice.

Antipasto is rich in tradition and is comprised of customary foods such as cheese, cured meats, fruits and olives. Variety and contrast are a must when building your antipasto. Opt for a mix of cheeses like a milky mozzarella or a firm Parmigiano-Reggiano.

If one prefers brie, consider topping it with a drizzle of honey or tasty jam. Details equate superlative results, which heighten the level of remembrance.

Color is another key element when presenting antipasto. This dish is not only delicious, but is a feast for the eyes. Black olives, red peppers, green cornichons and white pickled onions are just a few colors that mesmerize one’s sensorial experience.

Height is another important aspect of antipasto. Place some bread sticks in a drinking glass for a more stunning presentation.

Antipasto is delicious but it can be a pricy course.

Olives have played an intricate part in Italy’s history. Following are two recipes that highlight olives and yet put a unique spin on the theme of antipasto.

If time is of the essence and you want something quick and inexpensive, how about a creamy olive spread. Cream cheese, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, mayo, kalamata olives, green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, scallions and dried pepper flakes are baked until a warm, gooey, consistency is achieved.

Spread it on your favorite crackers or toasted baguette slices for a delightful, innovative appetizer.

If one wants a challenge, consider creating an olive antipasto tree. Simply take a Styrofoam cone, wrap it in plastic wrap, and attach antipasto ingredients by way of tooth picks. This tree is a creative and a stunning way to serve antipasto.

There is nothing wrong with serving olives in a bowl. But if a host wants to stand out, an olive antipasto tree will make quite an impression.

In addition, Easter is around the corner. If you are planning to serve lamb, an olive tree would be a festive way to showcase the olives.

Anytime there is an opportunity to shine, take advantage of it. Enjoy!

Creamy Olive Spread

12 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

½ cup, plus 1 rounded tablespoon combined, green olives, kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

¼ cup scallions, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

kosher salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.

3. Spread into a small baking dish and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is hot and a slightly golden brown color is achieved.

4. Serve with favorite crackers or toasted baguette slices.

Olive Antipasto Tree

6-inch cone

plastic wrap

toothpicks

pruning shears or sharp scissors

approximately 3 cups assorted olives, sundried tomatoes, pickled onions, pickled mushrooms, pepperoncini, cornichons, hot peppers, capers, marinated artichokes, roasted peppers and extra-virgin olive oil.

1. Make sure the base of the cone is even.

2. Wrap the cone in plastic wrap.

3. Starting from the bottom and working your way up, insert the sharp end of the toothpick into the vegetable. Then, insert the toothpick at a 45-degree angle, so it is pointing upwards. If you do not follow this step, the vegetables will slide off the toothpick.

4. Alternate the vegetables and fill in any gaps. Beautification is key to this dish.

5. When the olive antipasto tree is completed, place in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before you plate the olive tree, brush it with a light coating of olive oil.

6. Do not forget to place cocktail napkins next to the tree so your guests have something for them to wipe their hands on.

Secret Ingredient – Change of Seasons. “When the winds of change blow, remember…sometimes what appears dead is simply preparing for a new season.”

– Jane Lee Logan

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