This week I bring you five recipes for a stress-free luncheon or dinner party. Four of these beautiful antipasti can be served at room temperature, which almost eliminates the stress of cooking for friends (or at least it does for me). You can serve this with a lovely cold white wine for an entirely vegetarian feast, or you can grill some tuna or steak if you want to make it a more substantial meal. Your grill will already be fired up to make bruschetta, my favorite food in the world.


    Artichokes With Basil And Mint

    The artichoke’s perfect, unique flavor asks for little more than a brief steam and a squeeze of lemon, though cooking them with a few herbs and white wine is a bit more exciting and fit for company.

    Serves: 8
    Time: 1 hour

    • 8 small artichokes
    • 2 lemons
    • 2 leafy stalks basil
    • 3 stalks mint
    • 2 cups white wine
    • a drizzle of your very best olive oil

    1.To prepare the artichokes, pull off the tough outer leaves. With a serrated knife, trim off the spiky ends from the top half-inch of each artichoke. Trim the stalks down to about two inches. As you work, put the cleaned artichokes in a large bowl of water that you have squeezed one of the lemons into (reserve the lemon halves).

    2.Put the artichokes, stem-side down, into a wide pot with the squeezed lemon halves, one stalk of basil and two stalks of mint. Pour the wine and three cups of water over the artichokes. The liquid should come at least halfway up the artichokes (if not, add more in the same ratio). Bring to a boil, turn the heat down low, cover and cook, turning occasionally until they’re tender – about 45 minutes.

    3.To serve, cut the remaining lemon into wedges and tear the leaves from the remaining stalks of basil and mint into rough pieces. Scatter the leaves over the artichokes, drizzle the whole thing with your good olive oil and serve.

    Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

    These tomatoes are a staple in my house – I put them on sandwiches, fold them into frittatas, turn them into soup and more. They might be at their best, though, served with fresh mozzarella that’s been torn into pieces and dressed with good olive oil, coarse salt and pepper. Make these in advance, even days ahead, but be sure to serve them at room temperature.

    Serves: 8
    Time: 3 hours, almost completely unattended

    • a dozen vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in half horizontally
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil

    1.Preheat the oven to 275ºF.

    2.In a small roasting pan, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil. Roast the tomatoes, seed-side up, for three hours.

    Grilled Zucchini With Mint And Red Chili

    This requires a little patience because it’s best to let the flavor of the zucchini develop slowly on a not-too-hot grill, rather than just char them quickly. They get a wonderful, almost fried flavor.

    Serves: 8
    Time: 15 minutes

    • 5 medium-sized zucchini (each about 1/2 pound)
    • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided in half
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • a dozen large mint leaves, finely sliced
    • as much very thinly sliced red chili as you can handle
    • coarse salt

    1.Preheat your grill to medium.

    2.Cut each zucchini in half crosswise and then cut each half into 1/8" planks. In a very large bowl, toss the zucchini with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Lay the zucchini on the grill and cook for about four minutes per side, keeping the heat moderate so you’re sweating them and not really giving them a ton of color. Turn the heat up to high and grill for about a minute more on each side to mark them. Depending on the size of your grill, this may need to be done in batches.

    3.Remove the zucchini to a large platter. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with the vinegar, mint and chili (I just use the bowl I originally tossed the zucchini in). Drizzle this over the zucchini, being sure to evenly distribute the chili, sprinkle with coarse salt and serve.

    Lentil And Sweet Potato Salad

    This savory, satisfying salad offers an earthy balance to the other antipasti.

    Serves: at least 8
    Time: 1 hour

    • 2 sweet potatoes (each about 2/3 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup
    • 2 pinches red chili flakes
    • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1/4" dice
    • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/2" dice
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
    • 2 cups green lentils, rinsed and drained
    • a healthy drizzle of your finest, best quality olive oil
    • coarse sea salt
    • 2 tablespoons torn parsley leaves

    1.Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

    2.Toss the sweet potatoes with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, the maple syrup and one pinch of chili. Roast, stirring, until caramelized and a paring knife slips easily through a piece, about 20 minutes.

    3.Meanwhile, heat the additional two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the remaining pinch of chili, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano, pepper and thyme. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are a bit softened and just beginning to brown. Add the lentils and four cups of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down to low, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

    4.Let the lentils cool to room temperature. Fold the lentils together with the sweet potatoes. Drizzle with your good olive oil, sprinkle with salt and parsley, and serve.


    It doesn’t get better than this – so simple and so perfect.

    Serves: at least 8
    Time: 10 minutes

    • 2 loaves of fresh pane pugliese (or your favorite country-style bread), cut into 3/4" thick slices
    • 3 large garlic cloves, cut in half
    • good olive oil
    • coarse salt

    Grill the bread over a medium flame for about a minute on each side or until toasted and just barely charred at spots. Rub both sides of the bread with the cut side of the garlic. Drizzle one side generously with olive oil (at least a tablespoon and a half per slice). Sprinkle with coarse salt and serve.

    The goop collection