Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As I resume the normal swing of life following my week away on the road trip, I'm finding it difficult to get back into my diet groove. I've stabilised at roughly 76kg, which is four kilograms shy of my target.

There are a number of reasons for this. The week away was not condusive to diets. The change of seasons is taking key fruits and vegetables off the menu. Self-denial is getting boring. But by far the most dangerous factor now is a certain book which has come into my possession.

'Antipasti', or as I call it, 'The Devil's Gastronecronomicon'.

I've always loved true Italian antipasto. Most local restaurants interpret antipasto rather coarsely as 'deli platter': tossing salamis, cheeses, olives, sundried tomatoes and a few token pieces of marinated mushroom or artichoke heart onto a plate and then charging $20 for it. Authentic antipasto is a subtler beast: it's about preparing simple appetisers rather than just raiding an epicure's refrigerator. It's almost impossible to find in this country, so when I saw a recipe book that might allow me to prepare a proper antipasto myself, I bought it.

So far I've made two things: involtini di melanzane and insalata di fave. The former is little baked rolls of grilled aubergine, mozzarella, pesto and fresh basil. The latter is a salad of broad beans, tomato, parmesan and basil in a garlic dressing. Both were wonderful. Both were about as diet-friendly as a Sizzler all-you-can-eat dessert bar that's been deep-fried.

I tried to ameliorate the caloric density. I halved the amount of parmesan in the insalata di fave. I didn't drizzle olive oil over it as instructed. I used the thinnest possible slices of mozzarella in the involtini di melanzane. They still turned out glistening with oil and bursting with fat... and blazing with deliciousness.

The book continues to taunt me with its high quality ingredients and artful scatterings of fresh herbs. Let us not even consider the sgonfiotti al formaggio (fried cheese pastries) or the mozzarella in carrozza (blitzkrieg on your arteries). It has no shame.

On the plus side, my next dinner party should be a moderate success.


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