Pantry Antipasto (recipe)
With my kitchen under construction, I’m reminded of a story I wrote when I was editor of the San Jose Mercury News in California. We were approaching the one-year anniversary of the 1989 earthquake that caused havoc in the Bay Area. I thought it might be interesting to live for a week on food I had stored in the event of the next Big One.
This meant no gas and no electricity. Everything out of cans and bottles. It was quite an experiment. But my wife and I survived. (In truth, the only thing I really missed was my morning coffee.)
I thought it might be instructive to talk about putting together a Pantry Antipasto, a meal without cooking or using any electrical appliances, in case some disaster causes you to lose your kitchen. To give you as many options as possible, that pantry has to be well stocked. (My earthquake pantry was kept in two clean garbage cans outside the house, in case the house collapsed!)
I’ve preached the importance of a well-stocked pantry for quick meals for years but it is just as important for disaster meals. Canned beans are a good place to start. I always keep several kinds on hand, including the cannellini beans I use to make a quick bean salad as part of the antipasto. Other canned vegetables to keep on hand include canned beets, corn, water chestnuts, and roasted sweet red peppers, which are actually in a jar.
There is quite a bit of canned seafood in my pantry. In addition to tuna, packed in water or in olive oil, there is salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies. Anchovies and those sweet red peppers are a classic antipasto combination.
Olives are usually part of an antipasto, whether in oil or brine. So is cheese, especially an aged, somewhat sharp cheese such as aged provolone or aged asiago.
Fresh vegetables add a crunchy contrast. I particularly like fennel (mistakenly labeled anise in most supermarkets) but you can also use carrots, celery, and cucumbers, especially the smaller pickling cucumbers. If tomatoes are in season, nothing beats a simple tomato salad with olive oil, good red wine vinegar, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
In addition to olive oil, other oils in your pantry can include walnut oil, sesame oil and flavored oils like basil oil. Other vinegars to consider are balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and fruit vinegars such as raspberry vinegar. I don’t use a lot of dried herbs but four of the better ones are thyme, sage, mint, and rosemary. I also use herbs de Provence, a blend of several dried herbs.
Serve your antipasto with crusty bread and a sturdy southern Italian white wine such as Greco di Tufo or Fiano di Avellino from Campania, or a red wine like Primitivo from Puglia.
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 15-ounce can sliced beets
tablespoons sherry vinegar, raspberry vinegar, or other mild, fruity vinegar
One 15-ounce can artichoke hearts packed in water
2 teaspoons dried mint
24 oil-cured or other black olives (not ripe olives)
1 small fennel bulb or 2 Kirby pickling cucumbers, about 12 ounces
One 7-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers
6 to 8 ounces Asiago or aged provolone cheese
Two 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil
1)Open the canned cannellini beans into a colander, rinse, and drain briefly. Put them in a large mixing bowl with the sage leaves, crushed between your fingers, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and scrape into a small serving bowl with a rubber spatula. Open the canned beets into the same colander to drain briefly. Put in the same mixing bowl, add the vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil, and salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well and scrape into a small serving bowl with a rubber spatula. Chop the chives and sprinkle over the beets.
2)Open the canned artichoke hearts into the same colander to drain briefly. Halve lengthwise and put in the same mixing bowl. Add the dried the mint, crushed between your fingers, 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Juice the lemon half and add. Mix well and scrape into a small serving bowl with a rubber spatula. In the same mixing bowl, toss the olives and a healthy pinch of hot pepper flakes. Put the olives in a small serving bowl.
3)Trim green the stalks from the top of the fennel bulb and cut 1/4-inch from the bottom. Cut the remaining white bulb lengthwise into 4 slices, then cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide. (If using cucumbers, trim and cut each into 8 lengthwise wedges.) Cut the roasted peppers into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Cut the cheese into 1/2-inch cubes.
4)Open the cans of tuna and arrange the tuna and cheese cubes at opposite ends of a large platter. Arrange the peppers next to the tuna and the fennel next to the cheese. Put the olives in the center of the platter. Surround the platter with the bowls of the beans, beets, and artichokes.