Summer is the season when the weather is nice and impromptu gatherings are common. With a bit of planning, unexpected guests and spur-of-the-moment parties are no problem -- it's easy to whip up something tasty at the last minute.
Try assembling an antipasto platter with these summer pantry staples.
- Soppressatta is an Italian aged salami made from pork and flavored with lemon peel and various spices.
- Capocollo is a cured pork that is seasoned, and packed into natural casings and aged for at least three months. It can be sweet or hot, and spiced with fennel or hot or sweet peppers. Capocollo by Daniele is lean, sweet, and finely marbled.
- Aged Gouda is made from whole milk. It has a sweet and nutty taste; that intensifies as it ages. It is the most famous exported Dutch cheese, named after the city in Holland.
- Aged Provolone is sharp when aged over a year, and very sharp and hot to the tongue if aged for 18 months or more. The age of a provolone cheese determines its sharpness. The longer it's aged, the oilier the texture will become.
- Nicoise olives, which come from France, Italy, and Morocco, have a rich, nutty, mellow flavor. They're cured in brine and packed in olive oil.
- Kalamata olives are purple olives that come from Greece and are brine-cured.
- Spanish olives are picked when young. They contain less oil and are a lighter in color than those picked when a little riper.
- Capers are the flower bud of a bush native to the Mediterranean. The small buds are picked, sun-dried, and then pickled in a vinegar brine.
- Caperberries are Spanish-imported and are about the size of cocktail onions.
- Semolina bread is durum wheat that is more coarsely ground than normal wheat flours.
- Cornichons are crisp, tart pickles made from the tiny gherkin cucumbers.
- Olives, capers, cornichons, and anchovies unopened have a very long shelf life -- once opened they'll keep for months in a refrigerator.
- Roasted peppers.
- Marinated artichoke hearts in a lemon vinaigrette.
- Quesadillas are an easy appetizer because you can fill them with almost anything. And you don't always have to serve them with guacamole -- try a delicious chutney. Try these easy-to-make Quesadillas.