Stuck for a starter? Check out Planet Organic’s Antipasti & Olives


renee-elliott

We have people around for dinner pretty much every Saturday evening. I never run out of ideas for main courses, I have a fabulous selection of recipes – from my Mom, from my cookbooks and a few other cookbooks. But I often find that I am stuck for what to do for a starter and my girlfriends often say they have the same problem.

I like three courses, but struggle, more often than not, with how to begin. Well, that is, until I remember the Antipasti & Olives section at Planet Organic. Here we have a small and select group of quality products that are either starters in their own right – Italian style – or with a little preparation can be turned into a tasty, inviting first course.

Antipasti

The easiest starter is a beautifully-displayed plate of vegetable antipasti from which people can help themselves. This usually consists of a selection of roasted vegetables and olives. We have a range of organic antipasti that includes the perfect selection of ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes, and grilled artichoke hearts, red peppers, zucchini and aubergines. Add a few silver skin onions and olives, serve with fresh, wholemeal bread and ta-da, off you go.

Olives

Olives, green and black, made great hors d’oeuvres while people are having a drink. Usually, people eat green olives and cook with black olives, but of course there are no hard and fast rules. Olives are in my top favourite four foods (the others all being ‘a’ words – artichoke, avocado and asparagus) and one I love to see my kids eating because of the wonderful nutrition they provide.
As well as providing you with excellent quality fat – the kind you don’t need to worry about eating too much of! – olives are also loaded with an astounding number of phytonutrients. This means that they have a beneficial effect on almost every system in your body. Add to that the olive’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits – and it’s a wonder that you don’t have them on your table every day…I practically do.

At Planet Organic, we have a great selection of green and black olives, pitted and whole olives, olives with herbs like Provencal and Cerignola olives, extra large and flavoursome beauties from Puglia.

Capers

One of my favourite cooking ingredients, capers will add zip to any dish. I have created an amazing lasagne that features capers, and love to add them to salads, pasta and fish dishes. When I sent my proposed recipe list to my editor for my last book, she came back saying, “There are too many recipes with capers.” Go figure.

Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes are so packed with flavour that I love them. Add them to salads, serve on corn cakes with a spread of tahini or include them in bean dips.

Bruschetta (which means garlic bread and is pronounced bru-sketta) makes a great starter. All you need is some fresh bread that you toast in the oven and then spread with yummy toppings. If you don’t want to make your own tomato topping, we have some ready-made, from semi-dried tomatoes with garlic and herbs.

Pâtés & Dips

Another great starter is to put out small bowls of pâtés and dips with a gorgeous selection of breads, savoury biscuits, crispbreads, oatcakes and/or grissini. Friends can dip or spread for themselves. It’s nice to put out at least two different types that they can try. We have several different kinds – all with very individual flavours – black olive, raw artichoke, garlic, roasted red pepper and roasted aubergine.

What’s left?

Then we have two little gems which I would not be without in my fridge – cornichons and jalapeños. Okay, I don’t call them cornichons. I didn’t even know what that was until I looked it up. But I’m a gherkin girl and although I wouldn’t use them in a starter, my family love them sliced in sandwiches, added to wraps and chopped into egg mayonnaise.

And the same goes for jalapeños, which I love it pita breads stuffed with a sprinkle of oregano, cubed cheddar and chopped vegetables tossed with mayonnaise.

But, interestingly, one of my all-time favourite starters – which is a salad – actually uses four ingredients from this gem of a section at Planet Organic. Here it is…

Marty’s Salad

Seggiano Roasted ArtichokesMy sister Lauren was engaged to this very nice guy called Marty. He introduced this gorgeous salad to our gastronomic family – and my mother has loved him ever since. He and Lauren eventually moved on instead of getting married, but we always think of him when we make ‘his’ salad. Over the years, I have tried this salad with different olives and feta, but it is magical only with the Seggiano artichokes. The brown rice vinegar is perfect because it is delicate and it compliments the other strong flavours. This is wonderful as a starter before dinner or makes a perfect lunch.

SERVES: 4 adults as a starter or 2 adults as a main
PREPARATION TIME: 25 minutes
STORAGE: Does not keep.

Ingredients

  • 145g of Seggiano Roast Artichoke Hearts in extra virgin olive oil, drained and sliced (reserve the oil)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 70g rocket, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 150g feta, cubed
  • 80g Kalamata olives
  • 60g de-stemmed caper berries (if you can find them) or capers
  • 3-4 jalapeños peppers, chopped, to taste
  • 3 tbsp oil from the artichokes
  • 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
  • wholemeal bread, to serve

Method

Put the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Serve with wholemeal bread.

Eat well; live better.

Renée Elliott
Founder, Planet Organic

One Response to “Stuck for a starter? Check out Planet Organic’s Antipasti & Olives”

  1. Dudley says:

    Fantastisk info…I avoid the tomates (night shades) but thanks sooo much.

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