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Easy summer antipasto: pinzimonio

August 26, 2008 |  2:00 pm

When I was young and poor and hanging out in Tuscany, I fell hard for pinzimonio. It was inexpensive. It was incredibly delicious. And it took a while to eat, perfect if you want to linger over dinner without spending too much.

Forget the dish of olive oil with your bread served at Italian restaurants here: nobody does it in Italy. But pinzimonio is a better way to assess and appreciate the virtues of a special bottle of extra-virgin olive oil. It’s basically a platter of raw vegetables -- baby fennel, celery, red bell peppers, cauliflower, carrots, scallions, et cetera, cut into strips or pieces and served with a small bowl of that deep-green-gold olive oil, the very best you can afford. (Peppery olio nuovo, new oil, is the ultimate.) It’s usually accompanied by sea salt. Some like to add a grinding of black peppercorns, too....

... Oh, and when those beautiful pointed purple artichokes are in season in Tuscany, the ones you can eat raw, that’s my favorite. You can add lightly blanched green beans, Belgian endive leaves or other vegetables in season, radishes, whatever you’ve got.

Most important: No balsamic vinegar, please. Resist the temptation to embellish. Pinzimonio is all about the simplicity and quality of the ingredients and you want to taste them just as they are.

Think of it as a Tuscan variation on the all-American relish plate. Put out some olives, too, and you’ve got a brilliant summery first course that’s hardly any work at all.

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo of pinzimonio by S. Irene Virbila