Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eggplant, Artichoke and Prosciutto Parmesan

I love cooking from the garden and tonight's meal centered on today's harvest - tomatoes, eggplant and basil. The inspiration came from a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan that used eggplant minus the breading. I added frozen artichokes and prosciutto to create a more balanced flavor.

The counter was full of ripe tomatoes that needed to be cooked and preserved for later. I roasted the tomatoes as described in an earlier post and used some of them for the sauce. The Japanese eggplants were peeled, sliced and salted before frying in hot olive oil to a golden brown. The preparation was simple and easy and packs a lot of flavor in one dish.
Eggplant, Artichoke and Prosciutto Parmesan

2 Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Olive oil
3 cups roasted tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 - 9 ounce package frozen artichokes
1 ounce prosciutto, thinly sliced
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

Salt the eggplants and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat olive oil in a large skillet to 375 degrees F. Add eggplant and fry until golden brown. Drain in a paper towel.

In the same skillet, remove all but 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and saute the minced garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the white wine and cook rapidly for 5 minutes. Add the basil and remove from the heat.

Cook the frozen artichokes in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.

In a baking dish, add 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of the eggplant and artichokes. Separate the proscuitto into thin strips and layer on top of the artichokes. Top with mozzarell and more tomato sauce. Repeat the layers one more time. Top with Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 4 servings

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grilled Artichokes

Houston's Restaurant is one of our favorite dining places in Atlanta. I often use Houston's as a bribe to entice Kenny into a shopping trip to Lenox. I thought we had tried everything on the menu until our last visit. While sitting at the bar waiting on friends, enjoying one of their delicious Salty Dogs made with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, the bartender told us about his favorite appetizer, Grilled Artichokes. Grilled Artichokes? How had we missed them? It seems that are a special menu item, only available when artichokes are in season. And yes, they were on the day's menu and on our table.

Wow, were they good. But how did they create this tasty treat? After questioning our waitress and a search of the Internet, we now have a pretty good duplication of the recipe. Artichokes can be a pricey item, but 2 artichokes - $2.50 each - were a generous serving for 6-8. These tasty thistles barely made it off the grill before being devoured. I served them with basil mayonnaise for dipping, but to be honest, they needed nothing to enhance the flavor. Grilled artichokes will be a regular addition to our menu.

Grilled Artichokes

2 artichokes
2 lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin 0live oil
4 clove garlic, finely chopped

Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into the water. Wash the artichokes and break off the tough outer leaves. Trim the remaining tips and cut in half. Toss into the lemon water, making sure they are submerged in water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the artichokes and cook for 15 minutes. The artichokes should be tender. Remove the chokes (the fuzzy stuff in the middle of the artichoke) and drain thoroughly. Chill for 1 hour.

Combine the juice from one lemon, olive oil and garlic.

Preheat the grill and oil the grill rack. Baste the artichokes with the oil mixture on both side and place on the hot grill. Grill on both sides about 5 minutes or until brown. Serve hot with basil mayonnaise or a lemon aioli. Serves 6 - 8.