No-meat meal means a visit to the colorful farmers market

A recent visit to my local farmers market served as inspiration for a cocktail party I was due to host for my annual vegetarian family visit.

The vegetables and herbs were in all their glory: piles of peppers in a profusion of color; baskets of gleaming eggplants; neat rows of infant zucchini with blossoms still attached; and tiny tomatoes with fruitlike names (pear, cherry, plum, grape) that could be consumed in one bite. Beautiful bundles of freshly picked basil, oregano, thyme and mint were imparting their heady aromas reminiscent of a fine Mediterranean afternoon.

Simple preparations of this glorious bounty would be perfect for platters of marinated appetizers or “antipasto,” which I decided would be the evening’s theme. A trip to the deli for some imported cheeses and olives to complement the prepared-in-advance vegetables is easy on the cook, especially if the weatherman’s sizzling predictions are true.

Carnivores are always welcome to this herbivorous feast, and I rest assured they will never miss the meat.

Mint Marinated Zucchini

Serves 6 as a side dish or 16 as part of an antipasto platter

6 medium zucchini, green, gold or both

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves

salt and pepper

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

Slice zucchini on the diagonal to make 1/4-inch slices that will be oval in shape. Heat oil in large skillet and cook zucchini in one layer just until lightly colored on each side. Place in bowl or serving dish. Sprinkle with garlic and mint and season with salt and pepper. Heat vinegar just until boiling and pour over zucchini. Allow to cool. Cover and marinate at least 24 hours before serving.

Marinated Multicolored Peppers with Anchovies

Serves 8 as a side dish or 16 as part of an antipasto platter

6 bell peppers, assorted colors

6 flat anchovy fillets

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs. fresh oregano or 1 Tbs. dried

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

Roast and peel peppers. Cut them into lengthwise strips about 1 inch wide. Cut anchovy fillets in half. In a flat, non-corrosive dish, layer the peppers with anchovies, garlic and oregano. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over all and marinate at least 24 hours in refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature and toss with vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toasted country bread slices.

Tomato and Mozzarella Antipasto

Serves 6 as a side dish or 16 as part of antipasto platter

1 lb. whole milk mozzarella, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 cups cherry or pear tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup pitted oil-cured olives, halved

1/4 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

freshly ground pepper

Place cheese in bowl. Combine tomatoes, olives and basil with vinegar. Toss with cheese and pour enough oil over all just to coat. Grind pepper on top. Can be served immediately or stored, covered in refrigerator up to two days.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].