Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Feature: Antipasti Salad and Prosecco

It's getting to be that time of year again... you know when it gets warm enough that you want to start eating salads as the main course.  Salads don't have to boring, but can be a lot of fun filled with an exorbitant amount of flavors and supplemental foods to add to the lettuce base.  Sometimes, one doesn't even need a lettuce as the base!

This salad that I'm featuring is from the Food Network, but I have it here with some of my edits for reader convenience.  I loved this salad for it's multiple flavors: the anise (black licorice) from the fennel with a crisp, watery, crunchy bite; the oily, soft, and green flavor of the marinated artichokes; the smokey and peppery taste of the roasted red peppers; the citrusy sweetness of the Parmigiano-Reggiano; the light pepper taste of the argula; the sharp, sour flavor of the kalamata olives; and the bright pungent taste of the red onions.  With a touch of homemade dressing, this salad is divine!  

Antipasti Salad
(Photo by author)

Antipasti Salad (from the Food Network)

1/4 medium red onion, minced (I'd recommend low amounts of onion because this 
1/2 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cored
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 jarred roasted sweet red peppers, chopped (about 3&4 cup)
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and quartered, if whole
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted (about 2 ounces)
1/2 to 1 cup freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 small garlic clove, peeled (I skipped this because raw garlic upsets my tummy! You can always opt for a dash of garlic powder or garlic salt and then skip the salt addition.)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (I used whatever citrus I could find in my fridge)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1) For the salad: To mellow the minced onion, soak it in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain well, pat dry, and put in a serving bowl.

2) Meanwhile, make the dressing: Smash the garlic clove, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and, with the side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Put the paste in a bowl and add the orange zest, vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream to make a smooth, slightly thick dressing.

3) Using a handheld mandoline or a knife, cut the fennel lengthwise into long, thin slices. Add to the onion and toss with the chickpeas, peppers, artichoke hearts, arugula, parsley, and dressing. Scatter the olives and shave the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.

Shopsmart: Baby arugula has smaller, more tender leaves and a slightly less peppery and assertive flavor than "grown-up" arugula.

Know-How: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings are a simple way to add texture, taste, and eye appeal to salads. To make them, hold the cheese firmly in 1 hand and run a vegetable peeler firmly across the longest edge of the cheese to peel off long, thin strips.

Wine Pairing: Prosecco
Prosecco and Antipasti Salad
(Photo by author)

What better wine to pair with an Italian-based antipasti salad, than an Italian-style sparkling wine?  Prosecco is the great every-day meal starter kind of wine, or a great thing to buy if you like fruity-styled bubbly.  I chose a $10 bottle of off-dry Prosecco from our local Wine & Spirits (PA) store.

(Photo by author)

Again, $10 with minimal sweetness.  This wasn't as sweet as some other Prosecco's I've had in the past.  I would definitely ask your wine buyer what they'd suggest based on your sweetness preference.  But lots of great, lasting bubbles (this bottle actually lasted me two days).  The carbonation really helps clear the palate from the difficult-to-pair antipasti salad.  The wine itself acts more like a palate cleanser, especially with the strong onion flavor.

And with so many flavors involved in the salad, it's quite difficult to find a wine that will go with it.  But the bright citrus, crisp melon, touch of honey, fresh pears, and apple peels of the Prosecco really came together for me with this salad.  They went hand-in-and-hand, and married quite well together.  As you let the wine sit, one can even get a touch of that bready/yeasty note that many enjoy in bubbly from Champagne.  Definitely a wine worth trying with or without the salad.  Cheers!

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