Dream Dishes: John Amory’s Vegetarian Antipasto Platter

November 5, 2015

Hi everyone! I’m John Amory, and I have a confession to make: I love to eat. I’m Italian (and from New Jersey), so it’s in my blood. No one knows how to eat better at the holidays than Italians, but all that heavy food can really take its toll from Thanksgiving to the New Year, when it seems like every week there’s some new feast, party, or family gathering. So I took my absolute favorite course, the antipasto, and modified it to make everything a little lighter and a little healthier, but no less delicious.

To start, despite what every take-out pizza place in America will have you believe, antipasto is not a salad. It means “before the meal,” so it’s technically an appetizer course, traditionally served with pre-dinner drinks. It can range from meat and cheese platters to fried foods like calamari. These are the kind of antipasti I grew up with, and they’re what my family still serves at Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. But my version of an antipasto platter is composed entirely of vegetarian options, so you’re not stuffed before you even sit down to the table (and so you can drink more, which is what the holidays are really all about). Everything in this antipasto is easy to prepare and can be served all together on one big tray, or you can pick and choose individual dishes to liven up your store-bought platters.

Balsamic Garlic Cloves
Serves: 6-8

Please don’t be scared of this one. It sounds really intense to eat whole garlic clove cooked in pure vinegar, but I promise they get really soft and sweet and tangy. They’re delicious by themselves or smashed on a piece of toasted bread.

20-30 whole garlic cloves
1 c. balsamic vinegar

1. Peel garlic cloves, but don’t smash them. Leave them whole, but remove the papery covering. Place in a small saucepan.
2. Add balsamic vinegar until cloves are covered.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
4. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until garlic is tender.
5. Drain vinegar and serve once cooled. (You can reserve the reduced vinegar and use it for salad dressings; it has lots of flavor!)

Caponata
Serves: 6-8

This dish is an eggplant spread that I love to take to parties because you can make it a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it, and it will taste even better than when it’s right off the stove.

1 large eggplant (equivalent of 1-1.5 pounds), peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. capers
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & black pepper

1. Cut peeled eggplant into cubes (about one inch).
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring often. (The eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb all the oil. If the pan gets too dry and the eggplant looks like it is burning, add some water.)
3. Add tomato, garlic, capers, vinegar, oregano, and red pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until eggplant is tender and has begun to release oil, about 5-10 minutes. (For softer caponata, cover and reduce to low and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.)
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat. Stir in parsley and store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Serve cold or warm.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Serves: 6-8

You can buy artichoke hearts in a jar already marinated, but they have a weird texture that I don’t quite like, and they don’t taste the way artichokes were meant to: bright and green. So take the extra few minutes and marinate them yourself!

1 package (8-10 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 c. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. lemon zest
Salt

1. Thaw and cook artichoke hearts according to package directions. Place in small bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade. Simmer thyme, pepper, and lemon zest in olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Pour oil over artichoke hearts, stir, and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (but up to a day). Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Assemble each of these components on a platter with your favorite store-bought additions: roasted red peppers, cheese (parmesan chunks, small fresh mozzarella balls), raw vegetables, olives, pepperoncini, crackers, dried fruits, whatever you like. Just don’t forget to add toasted slices of good Italian or French bread so everyone has something to build on!

Mangia!

Find John Amory online:

Twitter: @JohnAmory
GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/JohnAmory
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JohnAmoryAuthor
Dreamspinner Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/john-amory

2 Responses to “Dream Dishes: John Amory’s Vegetarian Antipasto Platter”

  1. Juliana says:

    Oh my this all sounds soooo yummy!

  2. John Amory says:

    It absolutely is! I know it looks intimidating to see three recipes up here for one complete dish, but they’re so easy and so worth the extra effort. :-)

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