One of Frank Sinatra's very favorite recipes. Below is our typical preparation, but we changed it slightly to accommodate Frank's aversion to a strong garlic taste
4 large or jumbo artichokes
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped black olives, preferably gaeta
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped nonpareil capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Rinse the artichokes under cold running water. With a sharp knife, remove the stem, and cut 2 inches from the top of each artichoke. Pull the center leaves apart, and with a small spoon remove the fuzzy choke and tiny inner leaves. Reserve.
Place the bread crumbs, olives, cheese, garlic, parsley, basil, capers, red pepper flakes, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil gradually, stirring until thoroughly combined and moistened. Spoon the bread-crumb mixture into the hollowed-out artichoke centers, tamping down with the back of the spoon until each artichoke is filled to the top. Season to taste with salt and additional pepper.
Place the artichokes in a baking dish and add enough water to cover the bottom halves of the artichokes. Cover the pan with foil, and bake in the preheated oven for
1 hour and 15 minutes, until artichokes are cooked through. Check for tenderness by removing a leaf or two after l hour and tasting. If the water level drops to less than 1/2 inch while cooking, add more.
Remove from the oven and increase the heat to broil. Take off the foil and place the artichokes under the broiler until the bread-crumb topping has browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Place the artichokes on a serving platter and spoon 2 to 4 tablespoons of the pan juices over each artichoke.
There are many ways to cook asparagus, but I find the following method easiest. Break off the bottom inch of each asparagus stalk and discard. Rinse the asparagus and place in one layer in a large skillet. Add water almost to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until just tender. Depending on the age and thickness of the asparagus, that could be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Check tenderness frequently with a fork.
2 tablespoons ricotta
3 tablespoons finely chopped mozzarella
6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 paper-thin slices prosciutto (each approximately 3 inches by 6 inches)
1 pound thin asparagus (about 16 to 20 spears), cooked (see headnote) and chilled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup dry white wine
Preheat the broiler.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 4 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix thoroughly. Reserve.
Place a slice of prosciutto on a cutting board. Divide the cooked asparagus evenly into 4 portions. Line up l portion (about 4 to 5 spears) on the prosciutto slice. Top with a quarter of the cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the ends of the prosciutto over the asparagus, and roll until the asparagus and cheese is completely wrapped in prosciutto. Repeat for the remaining 3 portions.
Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium flame. Place the asparagus rolls cheese side up in the skillet and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt. Remove from the skillet and place in a shallow nonstick baking pan. Set aside.
Add the garlic to the skillet and sauté over medium heat until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, basil, parsley, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the ingredients are blended and heated through.
Sprinkle the asparagus rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Place in the broiler and cook until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of sauce in the center of 4 plates. Place an asparagus roll on top of the sauce, and garnish with additional sauce.
Joe's Eggplant Sandwich
"This was one of my mother's wonderful inventions at a time when she had a large family and very little money," says Joe. "One big eggplant could go far, as she and other Neapolitans knew. Eggplant could be used as a main course-that's where Eggplant Parmigiana comes from. And it added body and flavor to soups, sauces, and stews.
"When we were kids, we looked forward to eating what we called an Eggplant Sandwich when we came home from school. My mother called it Torta di Melanzane, an eggplant cake. 'Speak English,' we would beg her, 'speak English'-the cry of many children of immigrant parents. Today I love the joke of it-an eggplant sandwich, an unpretentious name for a delicious dish. I've been in the restaurant business long enough to have gotten past the need to give every dish a 'continental' name on a menu. So here's my recipe for an early favorite. Serve it as an appetizer; it goes especially well with a Campari-and-soda or a dry Pinot Grigio; Santa Margherita is my favorite."
1 large eggplant (about 11/4 pounds)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup olive oil, plus more for deep-frying
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Roasted Red Bell Peppers, each sliced into 5 pieces
10 thin slices (about 1/2 pound) mozzarella
10 thin slices (about 1/4 pound) prosciutto
10 large basil leaves
3 to 4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Trim the ends of the eggplant and peel. Cut it lengthwise into 10 slices, approximately 1/4 inch or less in thickness.
Spread the flour on a large plate. Coat each eggplant slice in the flour, and then dip in the beaten egg. Reserve the leftover egg.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high flame. Add the battered eggplant slices in batches (don't crowd the pan) and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned on both sides. Remove with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, assemble the sandwiches. Line up the 10 eggplant slices on a work surface. Place a slice of roasted pepper on half of each slice, and top with a slice each of mozzarella and prosciutto and a leaf of basil. Fold the other half of each slice up and over the ingredients, creating a sandwich. Spread the Parmigiano-Reggiano on a large plate. Coat each sandwich with the remainder of the beaten egg, and roll it in the plate of grated cheese. Wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until thoroughly chilled and firm.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep skillet to a frying temperature of 375°F. Fry the sandwiches one at a time, turning carefully until the cheese crust is golden and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.