It's been cool and rainy in Los Angeles the past few weeks and I find myself daydreaming about Spring gardening. My family and friends in the Midwest have been hit with subzero temps, so I think it's safe to say they're doing the same. So for all of you dreaming of warmer days, here's a recipe that's perfect for when those farm stands start popping up and fresh veggies are plentiful.
Antipasto, Italian for "before the meal", commonly refers to an appetizer plate of olives, meats, and cheeses. A less common dish of the same name refers to a tomato-based and very versatile spoon relish. My vegetarianized version of the side dish has been in our family for decades. My mom and her godmother used to spend an entire day chopping veggies and canning dozens of jars in a tiny farm kitchen.
This is a fantastic canning recipe because antipasto tastes better after it's had time to sit in jars a couple weeks. It will take a few hours to make, but when guests arrive and you're able to offer them a plate of cheese, crackers, and antipasto you'll be glad you had jars on hand. Better yet, when you're starving and too tired to cook, just boil a quick batch of pasta and use this as a sauce.
There are probably as many antipasto recipes as there are Italian families, so expect a great deal of variation. This particular recipe contains a lot of tomatoes but I wouldn't describe its flavor as particularly tomatoe-y. It's tangy but balanced, smooth and comforting, but also complex with its surprising ingredient list.
"Tuna" is the surprise ingredient here. Canned tuna is used in traditional antipasto relish recipes. It adds a heartiness that rounds out the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar. The acids in turn takes the edge off the fishiness. For my vegetarian adaptation I use VegeUSA's Vegan Tuna Roll. It's a frozen product, it's amazing, but it can be hard to find. Here are the stores that might carry it. You can also order cans of Sophie's VeganToona on Amazon or buy it at Whole Foods. To amp up the "taste of the sea" I also add a couple healthy pinches of dried arame (seaweed), also available at Whole Foods and Amazon. If you're using actual tuna, use this tool from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to identify fisheries that have pledged to protect the oceans.
Consider this recipe a jumping off point for your foray into antipasto canning. It can and should be customized to your preferences. Switch up the types of veggies and be as bold as you like with the seasonings. Grab a friend to help you chop veggies and drink the leftover wine. Antipasto should be as fun to make as it is to eat!