Whenever I am lost for dinner ideas and wandering aimlessly through the grocery store (this happens more often than you might think), I make my way over to the antipasti bar. You know the one — it's that little corner of the store, maybe by the fancy cheese or the deli, with a gorgeous display of olives and marinated vegetables.
The antipasti bar isn't just a good spot for appetizers or snacks — it's also a source to gather the inspiration needed to get dinner on the table.
No-Cook Ingredients at the Ready
You see, every single thing at the antipasti bar, from the mixed olives to the marinated artichokes, is ready to eat. And since most of the items are tossed in some kind of herby oil or tucked in with garlic cloves, they're packed with flavor. You could simply pile those artichokes on toast and call it dinner, but take that concept one step further and you've got something even greater.
An Instant Enhancement for Instant Dinner
What those fixings at the antipasti bar do is quickly enhance just about anything you're cooking. Craving pasta, but don't feel like assembling an actual sauce for it? Toss a few different things (may I suggest some of those tangy peppadew peppers?) from the antipasti bar with the hot pasta and it creates an instant sauce — particularly if you include some of that flavorful oil from the marinated veggies in there. Eat it cold and you've got pasta salad. Both work well and both can be dinner. Any grain can substitute the pasta as well, from quinoa and farro to barley and brown rice.
What about risotto? That feels fancy, right? Well, it's actually quite easy to make — especially if you make it plain and then stir in chopped antipasti bar ingredients at the end, right before serving. My favorite is chopped sun-dried tomatoes. I wouldn't fault you for stirring in a handful of those small mozzarella balls, halved, or crumbling a little of that marinated feta on top either.
Gently warm up those vinegary giant white beans, also called gigante beans, and serve them over creamy polenta — there's dinner.
Or toss a mix of roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, and olives with chicken breasts or thighs in a baking dish. Bake the whole thing and you've got a meal that's impressive enough to invite friends over. Oh, and this works great with fish or shrimp, and sausage too. Whichever protein you choose, just make sure that you have crusty bread at the ready because there's going to be great sauce that needs sopping up.
Get the Recipe: Antipasti Bar Pasta