A good place to shop for your antipasto table, in Norcia, Italy.
Recipe: Antipasto Salad with Soppressata, Roasted Chickpeas and Tomatoes
You know how it is. After throwing a big dinner, you’ve got leftover bits of mortadella, pecorino, a lump of mozzarella, roasted peppers, some sliced fennel, perhaps a few olives, the stuff that made up your antipasto platter. Some of it is still on platters, some worked into the rug, along with a shattered wine glass (a terrible conundrum for cats). I just assume most of my readers can relate to this. I wrap all the food nuggets separately and shove them in the fridge, usually not including the stuff on the rug. Often they make it into a pasta sauce, everybody’s standby dish for odds and ends. But lately my favorite use for enticing refrigerator finds is in a salad. I know this isn’t exactly a mind-blowing concept, but some of the antipasto- inspired salads I’ve come up with have really moved me.
Flavors from the antipasto table tend toward the rich, the salty, and the vinegary, qualities that to my palate work best with winter greens, especially chicories. Escarole, curly chicory, radicchio, frisée, endive, in combination or alone, all make a good base. For me such a sturdy salad is a nice change from winter’s heavy-duty “comfort food.” I mean, how much baked macaroni can one body stand?
My antipasto offerings change according to my meal plans, of course, and thus the salads that come later vary, too. When I make an all-out traditional meal, with fresh anchovies, preserved tuna or cacciatorini, roasted peppers, cannellini beans, pecorino, those leftovers will produce one type of salad. If, on the other hand, I use lots of roasted vegetables, that’s an altogether different situation. I keep an open mind.
The antipasto salad is essentially improvisational, but if I’m in the mood, I’ll go out and buy stuff especially for it, maybe just to round out what I’ve got in the fridge (a chunk of sliced prosciutto, for instance). The key to success here, no matter if I use leftovers or head to the store on a mission, is what I choose to include and, even more important, leave out. Overkill doesn’t work.
Here’s a recent version. I had leftover roasted chickpeas and tomatoes on hand. They’re both easy enough to make, but please feel free to substitute something you’ve already got and feel would blend nicely.
By the way, if you ever get to Norcia, the pork shop in the above photo is an amazing place. You can’t miss it. The last time I was there, it had blown up pig’s bladders hanging all over the place like party balloons. I certainly hope that tradition continues.
Antipasto Salad with Soppressata, Roasted Chickpeas and Tomatoes
(Serves 4 as lunch or a light supper)
2 cans chickpeas, well rinsed and dried
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
About 6 sage leaves, chopped
4 small rosemary sprigs, leaves chopped
A medium head of escarole, torn into bits
2 endives, cut into long, thin slices
A very small shallot, thinly sliced
A chunk of soppressata, cut into matchsticks
A small chunk of aged pecorino Toscano cheese, broken into small pieces
2 inner celery stalks, thinly sliced, plus a handful of celery leaves, left whole
A teaspoon or so of red wine vinegar
A tablespoon of chicken broth
A pinch of ground allspice
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set out two sheet pans. Spread the chickpeas out on one and the tomatoes on the other. Toss them both with olive oil. Season the chickpeas with salt and the Aleppo (or another medium hot dried chili), and sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and black pepper. Bake until the chickpeas are crisp but still soft in the center, about 20 minutes, and the tomatoes have burst and are starting to brown at the edges, about 15 minutes. Take them from the oven, and scatter garlic over both. Scatter the rosemary on the tomatoes, and the sage on the chickpeas. Let cool a bit.
In a large salad bowl, combine the escarole, endive, shallot, soppressata, pecorino, and the celery and its leaves. Add as much of the tomatoes and chickpeas as you like (save leftovers for pasta or soup or another salad (you see, it’s a continuing cycle)).
Whisk together the vinegar, chicken broth, allspice, a pinch of salt, and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Pour this over the salad and toss well.
Here are the main ingredients for a few other antipasto salads I’ve recently made and really liked:
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Baby artichokes cooked in oil and white wine
Roasted potatoes with fennel seeds
Roasted red peppers
Marjoram and parsley