Jennifer Rubell shows
how to put together
an Italian spread that
decadence for purity—
and without ever
leaving your house.
If you live in New York or L.A., it’s easy to throw yourself whole hog into the organic movement. Shop locally. Cook seasonally. Buy antibiotic-free meat from ranchers at the farmers market. Source cheese from couples who used to be in advertising and now run farms with goats named after philosophers. But if you’re somewhere that hasn’t reached organic critical mass, you need another plan. That’s where mail order comes in. There are downsides—shipping is pricey and polluting, and no shipped produce can better a farm stand’s bounty—but the upside is that with a click of the mouse you give a local artisan somewhere a shot at being economically viable. But food should never be all about politics. My antipasto party is a show-and-tell for meat, cheese, vegetables and quick homemade bruschetta that are all-natural yet—most importantly—delicious.
- 2 organic sourdough rounds ( 1 1⁄2 pounds)
- 1 jar Kathleen’s Fresh Organic pesto
- 2 jars ( 6 1⁄3 ounces) organic artichoke cream
- 4 cans ( 15 ounces) organic great northern beans
- 1 jar organic sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
- 1 container Supremo Estate “Olivenol” olive oil
- 3 organic lemons
- organic bay leaves
- 1 jar organic green olives
- 2 jars ( 7.6 ounces) organic kalamata olives
- 1 jar spicy pickled peppers
- 1 jar organic roasted red peppers
- 1 jar organic pickled Italian beans
- 4 packages ( 8 ounces) organic mozzarella
- organic black peppercorns
- 2 wedges ( 6 ounces) organic Gorgonzola
- 2 chunks ( 8 ounces) organic Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 1⁄2 pounds salami
- 1 1⁄2 pounds summer sausage
- 1 pound pepperoni sticks
- whole organic coriander seeds
- whole organic fennel seeds
For the purest, tastiest meats, I’m loyal to the Meat Shop of Tacoma in Washington. The Markholt family butchers have raised organic meat for 45 years, and their cured meats forgo additives considered mandatory even by many organic producers. They have no chemical tang, but rather a fresh-meat flavor with delicate spicing (and the subtle color is beautiful once you realize it’s from the lack of nitrates).
salami: This 100 percent beef sausage gets its balance from a mix of honey, nutmeg and black pepper. Slice into discs.
summer sausage: Notes of mustard and garlic, and the clear taste of pork and beef. Slice into discs.
pepperoni sticks: These skinny reddish sausages look great piled up like pixie sticks. The hue comes from crushed red peppers and cayenne. Cut into shorter lengths.
One of the biggest success stories in organics is the widespread availability of high-quality, hormone-free dairy products. Still, classic cheeses are a rarity. Two delectable exceptions are Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gorgonzola. Less exquisite cheeses, like a commercially produced organic mozzarella, can be punched up with intensely flavored toppings.
parmigiano: From a co-op of eight family farms near Modena, Italy. A combo of evening milk (left overnight so the cream can naturally come to the surface) and morning milk is placed in copper kettles with organic rennet. Only 10 wheels per day are made, each aged 24 months. Break into hunks with a knife.
gorgonzola: From the Lombardy region of Italy, which has the most open-air organic markets in the country. It’s creamy and sweet, with a powerful aroma and tangy bursts.
mozzarella with lemon zest and cracked pepper: Not half as creamy as what you can find at an organic dairy near you, but the firm texture and neutral flavor work to its benefit in this toothpick-ready snack. Cut into cubes, and add 1⁄4 cup olive oil, the zest of two lemons and cracked black pepper to taste.
Organic produce isn’t subjected to gases relied on to accelerate or stunt ripening, so it can become dull long before its chemically treated cousins. A great safeguard is pickled, roasted or brined items, using vegetables picked at the height of ripeness and preserved the old-fashioned way, with all-organic ingredients and no additives.
black and green olives: It’s nice to doll up brined organic olives—like purple kalamatas and green olives with a few thin branches attached—by tossing with lemon slices and bay leaves. Drain and serve.
roasted red peppers: Roasted whole, peeled, then placed in jars with water and sea salt. Drain, slice into thirds and place in a bowl.
pickled italian beans: Flavored with fragrant organic basil, these come from the Happy Girl Kitchen Company, a favorite at farmers markets in the San Francisco area. Drain and serve.
This Italian-derived toast with toppings (broo-SKET-uh) is the most substantial component of your feast, but two thirds of the work is done for you with ready-made pesto and artichoke cream from Diamond Organics. All you have to do is toast the bread and whip up the white-bean and sun-dried-tomato combo.
pesto: A vegan paste of basil, miso, olive oil and walnuts, this is pop-the-top heaven. Optional: Garnish with chopped pine nuts (pignoli). artichoke cream: Despite its name, there’s no cream in this ambrosial whipped delicacy from the Piemonte region of Italy—just organic artichokes, extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings. Optional: Garnish with thyme leaves.
white-bean and sun-dried-tomato spread: Inspired by a chickpea version at Mario Batali’s famed restaurant Babbo, I subbed in white beans and added dried coriander and fennel seeds—all organic, of course.