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Antipasto Presto

March 01, 1987|BETSY BALSLEY | Betsy Balsley is The Times' food editor.

One of the best things about entertaining today is that it is acceptable to take advantage of shortcuts in preparing the food--providing the results are both attractive and appetizing. It's no longer necessary to impress your guests with the fact that you have spent hours preparing goodies for them. And who has the time to do that these days? Instead, it's permissible to adapt good commercial products to your own ends.

And that's just what we have done with a batch of Bobolis, those handy and delicious little cheese-flavored bread rounds found in the deli section of many markets. These chewy breads make wonderful bases for pizza-like snacks to precede a light meal. Or, when you provide enough variety in the toppings, they can even be the meal themselves.

All it takes is some imagination and an eye for arranging the toppings attractively. The breads can be warmed and brushed lightly with a good-quality olive oil before being topped, or they can be served at room temperature. In some cases, they can be topped first and then heated. In other words, anything goes when you start with a Boboli bread.

To give you an idea of how flexible this type of party food can be, we photographed one example topped with colorful fresh deli salsa, marinated shrimp, avocado, cilantro and lime slices. Another was layered with sliced Roma tomatoes and bufala mozzarella cheese, then drizzled with store-bought pesto sauce and sprinkled with pine nuts and some fresh basil leaves. Still another was covered with a mixture of cucumber slices combined with prepared caponata , capers, Greek olives and feta cheese. Fresh curried chicken salad was the base for apple slices, raisins, mandarin oranges, banana chips, peanuts and coconut. And our final Boboli creation was a variation on lox and bagels: cream cheese topped with smoked salmon and garnished with chives, fresh dill, lemon and peppercorns.

Those are just the beginning. You'll find other ideas below. Better yet, create a batch of compatible toppings that reflect your personal tastes. It's easier than you may think. (One final suggestion: We found it easier to cut the Bobolis into graceful serving-size portions by using large shears rather than a sharp knife.)

The following combinations show the variety of foods that can be used as toppings. We have made no attempt to designate quantities, since some people prefer sparse toppings whereas others like them heaped on. The beauty of this type of appetizer is that you can do it your way.

Spread Boboli with deli vegetarian chili at room temperature; then top with grated Cheddar cheese, green pepper rings, sliced green onion, a dab of sour cream and a pimiento-stuffed olive or jalapeno chile garnish.

Place thin slices of chicken liver pate atop a Boboli, and garnish with cornichons , almond slivers and tarragon sprigs.

Spread Boboli with herb-flavored cream cheese, and top with fresh pear slices and grated black pepper.

Crumble herb-marinated goat cheese on Boboli; add marinated French green bean salad, then sprinkle with sun-dried tomatoes and fruity olive oil.

PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER

FOOD STYLIST: EDENA SHELDON

TILE FROM COUNTRY FLOORS, LOS ANGELES

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