Antipasto = cold cut salad that’s more fun to say.

Growing up, antipasto always confused me. It sounded like it should be a pasta (but it most definitely is not), was always listed on the menu with the salads (which it usually is not, unless it says “antipasto salad”) and it never seemed to be the same anywhere. Really, antipasto is pretty much the original meat and cheese plate that’s often rehashed for better presentation at a restaurant.

I got the idea for this dish visiting my sister in California. We ended up at this great little cafe that’s also an olive oil producer. Needless to say, the oil and the antipasto were both really delicious. It’s the first time I’d ever really liked the dish, honestly. And, I managed to procure something I’d only ever read about: fresh olive oil!


Olive oil definitely has a shelf-life. If you’re an ingredient snob, look for the expiration dates on your bottles of extra virgin. The dates are usually September to November, as that’s when most olives are harvested. The later the date, the fresher the oil. I have read about “fresh” olive oil as being something truly magical. There aren’t any olive growers in North Texas, but there are some near Austin so it’s been on my list to go around harvest time to check out this “fresh” oil thing. Luckily I don’t even have to do that. An autumn visit to California found me in a state of greasy serendipity as the olive oil tasting included “oleo nuevo.”

Before I knew it, a peppery tang hit the back of my throat as this unfiltered, “fresh” nectar suddenly became my new best friend. Does it taste better? Yes. Better than other really good olive oil? Eh. I feel like I can spend good money on good oil and find something comparable. The fresh olive oil is definitely more pungent, like a really good, strong olive oil on steroids. The one downfall is that it spoils more easily. You know what that means? Bottoms up!


I decided to use my fresh olive oil in an application that really let it sing – with an antipasto! Here, I used cured wild ham and smoked sausage for the meat. I decided to give it a southwest spin with pickled okra instead of artichoke hearts and a pinch of smoked paprika. If you’re using really good olive oil, let the flavor sing and go easy on the spices. If you’re using the jug from Costco that you usually cook with, feel free to be a little more liberal on the spice if you like. The vinegar doesn’t necessarily have to be white wine, but given the smoky notes I’d keep it light and stay away from balsamic or anything fruity.

Serve as an appetizer with some fresh veggies and adorable tiny forks or over lettuce for a robust salad. Make sure to provide tortillas to soak up any oil at the bottom of the dish.

Southwest Antipasto


  • 1/4lb smoked venison sausage (cubed)
  • 1/4lb smoked wild hog ham (cubed)
  • 3-4oz sharp cheddar (cubed)
  • 3-4oz smoked gouda (cubed)
  • 1 jar pickled okra (sliced in bite sized pieces and stems removed)
  • 1 jar pitted kalmata olives (cut in half if they are really large)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste


Step 1
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together to mix.
Step 2
Serve as an appetizer or alongside greens as a salad.

Non-game substitution: Any cured or smoked meat will work here. Get creative!

Vegetarian Substitution: You can definitely do this without meat at all. I would add in another pickled something and maybe an extra cheese or some fresh grape tomatoes to fill it out.

Posted in Venison
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