Twenty days into 2021 and I think I’ve eaten more vegetables than in the entirety of 2020. This statement makes me equally proud and embarrassed. Especially as a gardener, I had lettuce at my fingertips for several months in the spring, as well as an endless supply of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers all summer long. It’s not that I didn’t eat them, it’s just that a lot of it went to waste or was given away to friends and neighbors. In recent years, I’ve really come away from being someone who reaches for veggies first. This is not a good thing!
So the new year was a fresh opportunity to change that, and I’m happy to say that I’m well on my way to reestablishing a good relationship with veggies. Salads are making an almost daily appearance at our dinner table. Sometimes they’re just a basic accompaniment to a main meal, but lots of times they are the main event. And on those nights, I raise my salad game just a little. Like with this Italian Antipasti Salad w/ Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing – it’s the definition of an entree salad.
I remember my mom making antipasti salads like this when I was growing up. She would lay the romaine leaves out on a huge serving platter and arrange all the different toppings in a pretty way on the platter. It seemed like there was something for everyone in her antipasti. We would each fill our plates with our favorites and nobody ever asked where the main course was. This Italian Antipasti Salad w/ Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing has everything you could want in a filling, satisfying salad. The huge variety in flavors and textures is what makes it so satisfying. There are briny artichokes, crispy roasted chick peas, sharp cheeses and crunchy veggies.
Where my mom used to serve the chick peas right out of the can on her antipasti, I like to roast mine with a little bit of sea salt. The crispy, salty texture of them is a really nice complement to the creamy cheeses. I like to have a sharp cheese like pecorino romano or asiago plus a traditional deli-sliced provolone on my antipasti platters, cause variety.
For the meats, you can really go nuts. If I had been able to find a hard turkey pepperoni, you’d see it on this platter. Unfortunately for me, all that’s available in my supermarket are the pre-sliced pliable turkey pepperonis. I was, however, able to find turkey salami which was fun. And using turkey products instead of beef or pork will keep the overall calorie and fat content of this Italian Antipasti Salad w/ Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing nice and low. But if you’re a meat eater, by all means, load this salad up with hard salami, pepperoni and prosciutto. It will be much more traditional that way.
It’s tough to choose my favorite part of this salad, but I’d have to say it’s the dressing. I seriously love this Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing. My mom only put out red wine vinegar and oil when she served antipasti. And obviously, much lower in calories that way! But. We are talking about having a super satisfying entree salad here – a salad that won’t leave us wanting a main course. Soooo, I’d argue that this Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing is necessary. It’s creamy, just the right amount of salty, and has a healthy kick of crushed peppercorns. If you’re serving this salad with crusty bread, be sure to sop up some of this delicious dressing with the bread. Heaven.
In addition to the crusty bread, serve this Italian Antipasti Salad w/ Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing with a great bottle of wine – red or white will go equally well. And definitely serve it like my mom did, laid out on a pretty platter, so your crew can customize their own plates. It really brings everyone together this way. With this salad in tow, I’d say we’re already on our way to a healthier 2021. Enjoy!
- 3 hearts of romaine lettuce
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/2 lb. deli-sliced provolone cheese
- 8 oz. sharp Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 lb. hard or deli-sliced salami, pepperoni or other Italian meats
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives
- 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced into wedges
- 1/2 cup artichoke hearts
- 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
- 15.5 oz. can of chick peas (garbanzo beans)
- flaky sea salt for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 Tbsp. whole peppercorns
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Make the crispy chickpeas: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the can of chickpeas. Rinse under water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Spread the chickpeas out onto a baking sheet and allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes to dry out. Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Wash and dry the romaine hearts. Arrange the leaves on a serving platter or in a large shallow bowl. Arrange remaining ingredients on the bed of lettuce.
For the dressing, place the peppercorns in a ziploc bag and seal. Using a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy measuring cup, crush the peppercorns. Combine all ingredients in a jar or airtight container. Seal tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Shake well before serving.