I have a ravenous appetite for vegetables these days, especially in this antipasto form, but as a child I had an insatiable appetite for books and read a bit of everything including a phase in high school almost too humiliating to record when I read the kind of books that showcased a glistening muscular man (complete with a flowing golden mane) gazing over the horizon while a woman of well-endowed proportions swooned in his arms. If there are any redemptive qualities by comparison, I was also the kid that read the dictionary for fun. Less embarrassing than either of those examples are books I read like Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon and Redwall which overflowed with characters who grew into better versions of themselves. To me, that’s the real power of books and the reason I’m an optimistic girl is because I live my life as a story. I have my own primary narrative filled with good and bad characters, with trials and tribulations, and with joyful surprises, but I also relish the times when I get to be a supporting character in other people’s stories.
In all the tales I’ve read and which now live tangled together in my mind, things perpetually end well. “Well” doesn’t always mean a happy ending but that’s okay because it turns out we humans are very bad at calculating how much happiness we actually gain from the things we think will make us happy. The best thing about that is that we are also terrible at the opposite: we over-estimate how bad the bad things will be.1
My childhood idols, mentors, and heroines raced and thrashed across the pages, danced through lines and twirled between words, cried in frustration, screamed with disappointment, but always persevered. The moments that are toughest to live in, those times when you howl I don’t care anymore I’m done, when you want to spend every day sheltered beneath your covers, those are the days when you turn just one more page. You lift your foot and take one more step. And one more after that. You need to know what happens next in your story. Soon you’re not even aware of your steps because you’re not counting them anymore, you’re not giving yourself ultimatums anymore, suddenly you realize you’re actually DOING that thing; the thing that’s uncomfortable, nagging, painful, or boring. The thing about those moments, however long they last, those are the moments you look back on and think about most. Those are the moments when you see your grit and perseverance shine through and those are the chapters where you learn the most about yourself. There are a lot of steps in the prep for this vegetable antipasto but use your moxie and like most things that require time and effort, you will be rewarded (in this case with some happy food bites).
The great thing about antipasto is much like a frittata, you can use up any vegetables you have on hand. For this one I used fennel, red and yellow bell peppers, and multicolored carrots as the big veggies.
Lop the green stalk and leaves from the top of the fennel and cut it half.
Slice each half into strips.
The rotate ninety degrees and dice into large chunks. Once the fennel and carrots are chopped to pieces, add them to a large pot of boiling water and cook for three to five minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and plunge directly into an ice bath until completely cooled.
Roasted peppers have an extra smoky layer of flavor and you can use jarred ones but it’s so easy to roast your own! Just like charring tortillas, put the pepper directly over a high flame and rotate every thirty seconds until blackened all the around.
Once your peppers looks like this, put them in a paper bag with the top folded down a few times for five to ten minutes. As they cool in the bag, the steam will loosen the skin and it will slide off with a gently push from your fingers.
When the skin is removed the peppers will be soft and shiny and almost slimy.
Peel the peppers open and scrape out the seeds, then dice into medium-sized chunks.
This would be a very long and very boring post if I had pictures of all the chopping so here are the supporting flavor characters, all sliced and diced: shallots, black olives, marinated artichoke hearts (jarred), pimento stuffed olives (jarred), sun-dried tomatoes (jarred), and fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Once all the veggies are chopped and tossed together in a large bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.
Pour marinade over vegetables and toss until well-coated. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator at least twelve hours before enjoying. Antipasto is wonderfully versatile, toss with pasta, serve on oat biscuits, or just eat it by heaping spoonful right out of the bowl! Keeps up to one week in the fridge.
Below is your printable recipe with nutrition information included
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 1 cup diced fennel bulb
- ½ cup minced shallots
- 1 cup diced roasted bell peppers
- ½ cup black olives, chopped
- ½ cup pimento stuffed olives, chopped
- ½ cup diced marinated artichoke hearts
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, vinegar, spices, and olive oil until well-blended. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add carrots and fennel at the same time and cook about 3 minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and blanch immediately in ice bath until completely cool.
- Drain carrots and fennel and combine with shallots, roasted peppers, olives, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan in a large bowl. Pour marinade over vegetables and stir until vegetables are coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours and up to 1 week.
Human beings are works in progress who mistakenly think they are finished.
Dan Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness
This is one of my favorite ted talks about happiness by Dan Gilbert. ↩