From the Kitchen of Dean Cacciatore
Antipasto –“before the pasta”-
The word antipasto means “before the pasta” and is Italy’s version of hors d’oeuvres. It usually consists of a variety of small foods served before the meal to stimulate the appetite. My grandmother would make a lunch consisting of fresh vegetables and salad greens, which she called her antipasto salad. This would be just enough to hold you over until the massive pasta dinner. She always stressed that when picking the vegetables, “the fresher the better”. This is especially true today, since after visiting your local farmers market, you can come home and make this easy salad recipe. You can incorporate any vegetables, meats or cheeses you desire.
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 hearts of romaine (12 ounces total), torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 medium fresh red bell peppers, cut into strips
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced
- 1 cup assorted brine- cured olives
- 1/2 lb of broccoli rabe, cut and large chop
• 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1/2 cup of grated pecorino cheese
• 2 T of rough chopped basil
• 3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
• 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Vinaigrette: Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl until combined well.
Salad: Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then add onion, broccoli rabe and simmer until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool.
Grill the zucchini and red peppers on a medium heated grill.
Spread romaine on a large platter and scatter with parsley, peppers, olives, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli rabe and onion. Whisk vinaigrette again and drizzle over salad, garnish with fresh basil and cheese.