When things are really hectic at work, as they are now, even a hardcore food fanatic like myself doesn’t always feel like cooking. Or perhaps you’ve had a heavy lunch or midday dinner and feel like a light dinner. Or you’re looking for something to serve an easy and convivial antipasto to start a warm weather meal or a light something to serve with drinks? Well, for times like these, may I recommend the classic Tuscan pinzimonio?
Pinzimonio is, quite simply, olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper in which various crudités of your choice can be dipped. It’s healthy, it’s easy and it’s almost infinitely variable. If you have decent knife skills, you can make enough to serve four in five minutes or under.
- An assortment of vegetables of your choice (see Notes), cut into bite sized sticks or pieces
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Cut the vegetables and arrange on a serving platter. In a dipping bowl, mix the salt and pepper vigorously into the oil with a fork or whisk. Serve right away. Diners take pieces of vegetables and dip them into the oil.
The choice of vegetables is yours, but a typical pinzimonio will include carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks, celery and/or fennel, also cut up into dippable pieces, and radishes. From there, you can add any other vegetables that you enjoy eating raw: tomatoes, cut into wedges, green onions, ramps, very tender asparagus… Other common vegetables include bell peppers and cauliflower, although personally, I don’t care for these vegetables eaten raw. And although really tender raw baby artichokes are a favorite served in pinzimonio, I’ve yet to find any State-side that aren’t unpleasantly bitter when eaten raw.
To the dipping oil, you can add additional ingredients if you like to spice things up—freshly squeezed lemon juice or wine vinegar, a bit of mustard or some minced garlic, for example—but I prefer the simplicity of olive oil, salt and pepper. Of course, use the best possible quality ingredients that you can find: impeccably fresh, young Spring vegetables that the Italians call primizie dipped in fruity, cold-pressed extra-virgin Tuscan olive oil, sea salt from Trapani and freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper would give you the ne plus ultra version.
The name ‘pinzimonio’ is a combination of the word pinze, or tweezers, and matrimonio, or marriage, referring to how you pinch the vegetables between two fingers (the tweezers part) and marry it to the seasoned oil. Poetic, no? The term is sometimes used, in error, as a catch-all for any dish of crudités served with a dipping sauce.
And speaking of knife skills, a great place to learn them online is by watching the excellent instructional videos at the Rouxbe Online Cooking School.