A first-rate first course

May 30, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

The first pickings of the season are a spring tonic for vegetable lovers. What better way to make the most of their freshness than by serving them as a separate course? Dipped or cooked in olive oil, young vegetables are a favorite form of antipasto. Italy's Piedmont region is the home of bagna cauda (hot bath), a warm, pungent dip for raw vegetables or bread.

A zesty antipasto or side dish for grilled fish or chicken is new potatoes and onions in an olive-oil marinade.

Bagna Cauda

Makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup virgin or pure olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

2 ounces anchovy fillets, mashed

salt and freshly ground pepper

In small skillet over moderate heat, heat oil and butter until bubbly. Add garlic. Cook over low heat until fragrant; do not allow to brown.

Add anchovies and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to warm serving bowl or small chafing dish.

Roman Potato-Onion Salad

Serves 4

grated zest of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely minced

2 tablespoons small capers, drained

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 large white sweet onions, sliced in 1/4 -inch rounds

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes

3 tablespoons minced parsley, for garnish

Grate lemon zest, setting aside 1/2 tablespoon for garnish. In large bowl, combine lemon zest, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, capers, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Add onion slices and mix well.

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes; cook until barely tender. Drain; when cool enough to handle, slice potatoes 1/3 inch thick. Immediately add potatoes to dressing and toss well. Cool to room temperature, then taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with minced parsley and the reserved grated lemon zest.

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