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Vegetarian Antipasto with Roasted Red Peppers

Updated on August 30, 2013

A Summer Treat... Indoors or Out on the Grill

Antipasto salad... sounds a little anti-vegetarian, doesn't it? Doesn't that mean, uh, putting meat in salad?

Not necessarily! With a few alterations, it becomes vegetarian -- even vegan -- party food. There are plenty of satisfying marinades person can create: heady stuff that isn't even pretending to be meat. Olives, artichoke hearts, baby corn ears, marinated mushrooms... It's the vinegar that gives it the umami kick.

Then there are the cheeses and cheese alternatives. And you can even buy veggie salami that is pleasing enough to eat plain.

Antipasto salads are often served a la carte, so they are a good option for events where people have different dietary preferences. An antipasto salad makes a good veggie alternative at a picnic, outdoor reception, or cookout. You can mix the whole thing up beforehand. That does away with the "What's been on that grill?" issue if guests have different dietary needs (i.e. some vegan, some not).

You can also go fancier: roast red peppers and other goodies (artichokes, garlic bubs) on the grill and serve them alongside the chilled stuff. Most of the prep is still done beforehand; there's just a few things to toss on at dinner time. Grilling marinade is optional -- there's plenty of marinade in the other fixings!

Images are my photography, except where otherwise noted.

Suggested Ingredients - And How to 'Collect' Them

You can find a lot of what you might want at the Grocery Outlet. Canned baby corn and olives are a staple. Vegan deli meats and marinated baked tofu show up from time to time. You may find some cheap marinades, though some are cheaper still if you make them yourself.

The nice thing about an antipasto is that there isn't a set list of ingredients that you have to have. You can take a lot of your inspiration from what's on the store shelves.

A lot of the ingredients are easy to store, too. I like to freeze homemade marinades in small containers.

  • Green salad: spinach, lettuce, herbs
  • Olives
  • Pepperoncini, dilly beans, or other pickled vegetables
  • Garbanzo beans or white beans
  • Baby corn
  • Yves or Tofurky deli "meats"
  • Homemade marinades: mushroom, artichoke, and or sun dried tomato
  • Cheese (or vegan cheese or marinated baked tofu)
  • Roasted peppers
  • Roasted artichokes, garlic, and onions

Antipasto Meal

Making Marinades

I stopped using recipes to marinade years ago. These are the basics:

Mushrooms go good in a blend of oil and red wine vinegar. It's healthier and cheaper if you use several parts vinegar to one part oil. But be a little liberal with the oil -- the liquid from the marinade can replace store bought dressing.

Mushrooms soak in flavors better if you steam (or microwave) ever so slightly before soaking them -- but err on the side of less cooking.

After that, you simply cover them with oil and vinegar and chill. All you really need as seasoning is some minced garlic, but it can be good to toss in a bit of ground pepper and parsley. (Fresh parsley also contributes to that fancy schmancy outdoor party look.)

Sun dried tomatoes are cheaper if you marinade them yourself. A little goes a long way. Here I do use olive oil as the primary ingredient in the marinade. I use a very small Tupperware container -- you can see it there in the picture. There is no need to cook anything. Put some olive oil and chopped garlic in, and you've got dressing. You can even freeze some of those little containers.

How Do You Like Your Tomatoes?

Best way to serve tomatoes at an outdoor party?

See results

Antipasto Making: A Eureka Moment

Here a professional chef makes antipasto salad with roasted red peppers.

I am showing a non-vegetarian video here on a vegetarian page because it got me thinking how easy it would be to achieve the effect with smoke and mirrors... and YVes luncheon non-meats.

What you will observe in the video is that this restaurant chef is not using salami in a roll -- he's stacking sliced deli items and dicing them. You can indeed do that with the Yves items that show up in the Grocery Outlet (or that you buy from Whole Foods or the food co-op).

Make Vegan Salami

I wasn't vegetarian until college. I was not a burger fan in my non-vegetarian days. No, I preferred luncheon meat -- yup, the stuff that was so processed and seasoned you couldn't tell what they started with. Is salami about meat... or seasoning? There are others things that can be doctored up just as nicely -- and the ingredient list is less scary in more than one way.

I have bought veggie salami, and thought it was quite good, but the more economical choice, of course, is to make one's own.

Vegan Italian Sausage - For the Grill

I hear this vegan Italian sausage does well on the grill. It has a softer texture than vegan salami, but might be a nice addition if you're blending cooked and uncooked in an outdoor antipasto spread.

Grilling Videos: Peppers, Garlic, and Onions

There are so many ways to roast a pepper. Once upon a time, when I lived in a vegetarian housing co-op, I roasted hot peppers sometimes under the broiler. Not what people typically like to do in the summer time... not if they have a yard and a grill.

Here are some basic demos on grilling -- and roasting -- your peppers. The first two videos include the basics for roasting on an outdoor grill, and using a simple balsamic marinade. The third video brings us back into familiar territory: the kitchen.

And the last video? Grilling garlic and onions!

Mediterranean Grilling Inspiration - The chef here grilled the peppers, but not the mozzarella -- that's balsamic vinegar you see drizzled over the top!

Grilled Mozzarella - Got Chard?

If you're a real fan of the outdoor barbecue, you can grill up the mozzarella, too. Here are two different takes on grilled mozzarella. The second has the mozzarella wrapped in chard leaves. It's not the most traditional antipasto fixing, but it could fit right in! The chef even decided to toss in some kalamata olives.

Will You Be Vegging Out?

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