The farmer’s markets in Los Angeles are finally filling up with summer vegetables. Summer squash of all shapes and colors, Italian and Japanese eggplant, bell peppers of all colors. I’m still waiting for really good tomatoes but all in good time. And fresh summer vegetables are the perfect ingredient for antipasti platters served with fresh sliced bread.
Here’s two recipes to make a great summer appetizer plate. You can also serve this with sliced Italian meats like Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella and Capicola. These recipes are adapted from “The Splendid Table” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR-fame.
Balsamic Vegetable (Verdure sott’Aceto)
- Pickling Ingredients:
- 1 quart of white wine vinegar
- 1 quart of water
- 1/2 bottle of dry white wine
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 big pinch of freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons of fresh basil chopped
- 4 brightly colored bell peppers – for example, 2 yellow and 2 red – cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
- 1 small head of cauliflower – broken into bite sized florets
- Peeled pearl onions (Trader Joe’s sells frozen and pre-peeled pearl onions)
- 1/3 cup commercial balsamic vinegar (mass market balsamic vinegar works for this recipe)
- In a large heavy bottom pot, add all the pickling ingredients. Bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the peppers and cauliflower and cook for 2-3 minutes. Using a spider or large slotted spoon, drain and remove to a bowl.
- Add the pearl onions and cook for 5 minutes. Again, using a spider or large slotted spoon, remove to the bowl containing the peppers and cauliflower.
- Add the balsamic vinegar to the pickling liquid. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat.
- Let the vegetables and the pickling liquid cool separately to near room temperature. Pack the vegetables into a large jar and pour over the pickling liquid. Seal the jar and refrigerate.
- When cold, drain and serve. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. The vegetables will get better the longer they marinate.
Herb and Garlic Grilled Eggplant (Melanzane all Graticola)
- 3 large long Japanese eggplant – as straight as possible (I personally like the shape of Japanese eggplant because of the shape for grilling)
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- A big handful of chopped parsley and chopped basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim the eggplant ends and slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices (use a mandolin slicer to simplify this task)
- Mix together all the remaining ingredients. Using a pastry or silicon brush, brush both sides of each slice of the eggplant with the marinade. Lay them on a large platter stacking as you go.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let them marinate for 2 hours.
- Heat an outdoor grill to moderate heat. Grill the eggplant for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Remove back to the marinade and brush any remaining marinade over the grilled eggplant. Cool to room temperature and serve.