Monday, October 3, 2011

Stuffed Artichokes and Eggplants

I think we are all pretty lucky to come from a line of people with good imaginations and a good sense of thrift.
Where we have no problem with tossing out things we feel useless or not fresh enough to bother with, our forbears did not have that luxury of wastefulness but had to use everything to make the food go as far as it could. And we are the ones who enjoy the fruits of those imaginations. The idea of sausage alone bears this out!
But the lowly bread crumb is what makes these two recipes so special. Who would have guessed that old bread could be elevated to such magnificence except the wise person who could not afford to throw it away? I wonder how many of us still buy bread crumbs in the can while tossing out that loaf that got moldy or too stale? (Raises hand. lol)
It really only takes a few minutes to chop it in the food processor and let it dry out on a baking sheet. And you can pat yourself on the back afterwards.
However you do it, breadcrumbs are the stars of the next two recipes along with some important supporting members of course.

Stuffed Artichokes

3 medium artichokes
1 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 anchovy fillet, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, enough to moisten the mixture

Take the artichokes by the stem and smash each one on the top of the counter allowing the leaves to spread.
Cut off the stems, peel them and mince them. This you will later add to the stuffing mixture.
With a kitchen shears, cut off the points of the leaves and discard.
Mix all the ingredients together and put some of the stuffing in between the leaves.
Add enough water in a pot to come up 1 1/2 inches. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a few chili flakes in.
Add artichokes so they sit upright. Cover and steam for about 45 minutes or until tender adding more water if it gets too low.

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

8 Japanese or baby eggplant (around 8-9 inches long)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1/4 cup unflavored bread crumbs, lightly toasted
Enough extra virgin olive oil to moisten
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Trim tops of eggplants, split lengthwise and cut a deep crisscross in each cut side without going down to the skin.
Mix together the garlic, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Moisten with olive oil.
Stuff each eggplant with some of the mixture making sure to get it into the crevices.
Place in a large skillet and drizzle with olive oil making sure some gets into the bottom of the skillet.
Cover and turn heat to medium high.
When they are tender enough to pierce with the tip of a paring knife, close the heat, top with cheese and replace the lid until the cheese melts.
Serve with good crusty bread to soak up the flavorful oil that will result in the bottom of the pan. This can be poured around the side of the platter on which you will serve the eggplant.

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