Creating an antipasto paste can be as simple or as complex as you want. In Italy, the dish is served before the meal and often consists of cured meats, cheeses, anchovies and more. In today’s Italian restaurants, such as Il Sogno or Ristorante Grissini, antipasto options also include grilled vegetables, marinated olives, roasted peppers, caponata and other vegetable dishes.
In the above platter, perfect for vegetarians or as a vegetable complement to a cheese tray, grilled asparagus, roasted yellow tomatoes, oven-dried roma tomatoes with garlic, and slivers of roasted peppers are fanned around marinated olives mixed with a few strips of roasted red bell pepper.
The secret to creating the plate is grilling one type of vegetable at a time because the cooking time for each is different. For the asparagus and the honey gold tomatoes, use a grill tray or basket, so nothing will slip into the fire.
For the asparagus, trim the ends off each spear, then coat all in oil and season with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. Place over a low heat and monitor closely because the spears will cook quickly.
The honey gold tomatoes need to caramelize until the sugars inside are even more intense and the skins begin to shrivel slightly.
For the oven-dried tomatoes, cut the romas in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with a little olive oil. Salt each half and top with minced garlic. Place in a 250-degree oven and let cook slowly until they are dry yet soft.
Char multi-colored peppers on the grill. Place in paper bags and sweat until the skin can be removed easily. Then slice into strips and layer like flower petals onto your plate.
The olives are a mixture of various olives marinated for several hours in a touch of orange juice and olive oil with a little rosemary to season it. Add a few garlic cloves, unless you use garlic-stuffed olives, and strips of roasted pepper. Heat, if desired.
Serve the whole tray, with the possible exception of the olives, at room temperature. These foods are soft and silky, so use the appropriate tongs or forks for serving.
For more tips on grilling vegetables, click here.