Antipasto, ad hoc

November 28, 2015
A little of this, a little of that, and Bob's your uncle! It's a snacking supper that covers all the bases (pretty much) and is also fun to eat. The original impetus for this one was a little pot of game pate, a gift from friends. To make up a platter we added a ball of buffalo mozzarella that we'd splurged on earlier in the week, plus a cookie sheet's worth of oven-dried tomatoes.* Earlier in the day  I had made a bean dip.* Then, because the Mad Shopper had just arrived home with four bunches of kale and two of broccoli, I made kale chips* and steamed some of the broccoli (leaving the rest raw, for the diners who like it that way).
*Suggestions for making these starred dishes can be found here. The pate, in case your friends have failed to provide you with a pot of it, can be deli-purchased or homemade. In a future posting I'll tell you how I make a couple of different chicken liver pates. But not today. Sufficient unto today are these three ideas:
THE OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES. The beauty of this version is that you can use good-quality canned tomatoes, which are preferable this time of year to the anaemic "fresh" ones that have traveled the globe to reach you. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Remove the tomatoes from the can one by one, draining (but saving for another purpose) the sauce in which  they've been processed. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise and place the pieces on a large cookie sheet (parchment-lined makes for easier clean-up).
Now, put a couple of cloves of garlic, a tablespoon or so of fresh rosemary, and a heaping teaspoon of coarse sea salt onto your cutting board. Chop these all together, then put them in a little dish along with some freshly ground black pepper and stir in three or four tablespoons of olive oil. Spoon this mixture over the tomatoes, distributing the garlic and rosemary more or less evenly.
Put the tomatoes into the oven and leave them for three or four hours. Check them after three hours and remove any that are well caramelized (usually the ones that are thinner and the ones around the edges of the cookie sheet). When the tomatoes are noticeably less moist and most of them have caramelized edges, remove them all to a dish. If you plan not to use them for a few days, stir in a bit more olive oil, then cover and refrigerate. You can also freeze them.
Some uses for these tomatoes: 1) chop them and add olive oil and some minced garlic, then use this as a sauce for pasta; 2) chop them and add to cream cheese or ricotta and use as a sandwich spread; 3) thin the previous mixture with milk, yogurt, or mayonnaise and use as a dip; 4) use as the Tomato in a BLT; 5) add to anything that needs a tangy hit.
THE KALE CHIPS. I used lacinato kale (dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale, black kale), but any kind of kale will work. The advantage of the lacinato is that when you remove the stems (a necessary step when making chips, because the stems are really too tough for this way of cooking) you are left with spear-shaped kale leaves which are very satisfying to eat.
You can make kale chips plain: put the raw, stemmed kale into a large bowl with some olive oil and salt, then massage the oil into the leaves. Or you can make fancier kale chips by rubbing the leaves with any of these:
1) olive oil mixed with miso paste
2) olive oil and nutritional yeast
3) olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard
These are only the beginning, but they are enough to start you off.
Spread the leaves on a cookie sheet (in one layer as much as possible) and put them into a slow oven. If you've thought ahead, you can dry them out at the same time as the tomatoes (above) at 275 degrees for about 45 minutes. Alternatively, use an even slower oven (say, 200 degrees) and allow sixty to ninety minutes. Check the leaves after an hour and turn them over to facilitate crispness. I've found that with this longer, slower cooking the kale chips are very crisp and less inclined to shatter at the slightest touch.
These kale chips are addictive, but if you have some left over they will keep, air-tight, for two or three days. I'm planning to crumble some of the leftovers on popcorn.
THE BEAN DIP.  Mince a large clove of garlic in the food processor by turning on the processor and then dropping the (peeled) garlic through the food tube. In one or two seconds it will be pulverized. Now add two cups of beans. I used Romano beans that I had just cooked, but you could use pintos, garbanzos (chickpeas), or white beans. To use canned beans here, drain them and rinse them before adding to the processor. Put in half a cup or more of tahini, with a little of its oil.
Now run the food processor to puree the whole thing. For a less dense mixture, add up to half a cup of water. Now stop the processor and add a teaspoon of salt and the juice of a lemon. Mix again. At this point I added a teaspoon of  chipotle powder; a bit of cayenne or Sriracha or chili powder would also be good. Taste and decide what else is needed. Store in the refrigerator until needed.
PLATTER SUGGESTIONS. Your ad-hoc antipasto platter can be anything you want. Stuffed celery, for example. Or cheese (we don't usually have buffalo mozzarella on hand; I would use sticks of cheddar or Emmenthaler, or a small chunk of triple-cream, or anything else that I love). Be sure to include some crackers and/or good bread to spread things on.
For the easiest possible dip, make a pinzimonio: extra-virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt, and freshly ground pepper in a little dish. Dip into it any bread and any raw or cooked vegetables.


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