Pinzimonio With Creamy New Umbrian Olive Oil and Winter Vegetable Crudités
Pinzimonio: An appetizer or side dish originating in Rome made of raw vegetables with a simple sauce of the best raw olive oil you can find, salt and pepper and sometimes vinegar. This is typically a summer dish since it’s served cold and needs no cooking. The thing is, the best creamy olive oil comes fresh and virgin from the (cold) presses in November, so I’m turning this into a late fall, early winter dish. The cold weather vegetables here are (starting at 7:00) Belgian endive, Radicchio di Treviso, celery, carrots, puntarelle and fennel.
Anyway, it seems many of you need a boost to your immune systems in this cold weather! I’ve been reading many very sad tales of blog-friends soldiering through their sniffles and worse. The nutritional impact of all these raw veggies in their rainbow of colors (evidently a sign of vitamin and mineral richness) should put your ever-battling immune systems in good stead this holiday season.
Here you have regular extra-virgin olive oil on the left; notice that it is transparent and newly pressed Umbrian olive oil (evoo, of course) on the right. See how much creamier it looks? It stays that way only for a while and Italians prize it's rich flavor and creaminess. (It is a fact that my Greek mother-in-law, thinks they're crazy and actually lets her family house oil rest until all the "sediment" has gone to the bottom and the oil is nice and clear! So to each his own.)
Probably because of it’s price, newly pressed Umbrian olive oil has become a symbol of all that’s wrong with the foodie movement these days, the culinary snobbery of “only the best ingredients will do”, the lack of actual cooking since the theory with this stuff is to “treat it with the respect it deserves” by doing as little as possible to it. I normally have more respect for cooks that can make carrots and potatoes taste really good through good cooking techniques and feel like the “treat great ingredients with respect” school is one step away from making reservations at a good restaurant. But we have Umbrian friends, and so they just brought us some of their good stuff from home recently. To Simone, Carlo and Teresa, this is comfort food. The beauty part for me? The oil was free. The beauty part for you? It’s elegant and really easy to do. And hell, it’s once a year, right?
New, creamy virgin olive oil from Umbria
Salt and pepper to taste
Vinegar (optional. Sherry vinegar if you don’t want sweetness, balsamic if you do; they’re both fab)
Your choice of any seasonal vegetable. Here are some suggestions for December:
Long, thin carrot sticks
Long, thin celery sticks
Long, thin radicchio di Treviso leaves
Long, thin slices of fennel bulb
Catalogna spigata, aka puntarelle (they come in spears)
I chose all raw, finger-food veggies, but you can choose to use forks for dipping and go for more round vegetables like par-boiled broccoli, cauliflower or brussels sprouts. You can serve this at a cocktail party on one large plate with a bowl of the sauce in the center or at the dinner table with small bowls of sauce and cups of tall, stalky veggies beside. The theory behind this is similar to the bagna cauda, which I really recommend for the cold winter nights ahead!