Many years ago when I was fresh out of college and a newlywed, I had a friend of Italian heritage. She was born and raised in New Orleans and we became friends as our new circle of young married couples formed. She married a good friend of mine who joined the Navy fresh out of college. (I like to say "fresh out of college":) He was trained to fly F-4 jets and during his time in the Navy our vacations centered around wherever they were stationed.
One of the things I remember most about our visits with them in Virginia Beach, Pensacola and New Orleans was the food. Between her Cajun influences and her Italian upbringing, she would make wonderful meals that I still think about today.
Here's just one. If I had never met her I would never have made...
The ingredients are simple and making them is a bit time consuming, but the result is worth it. Here's what you'll need:
Artichokes, olive oil, Italian breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, celery, green onions, flat leaf parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
Chop off the top of the artichoke.
Using sissors snip off the sharp tips on each leaf.
Add a tablespoon of salt to a pot of boiling water.
Drop the artichokes in the boiling water and boil them for about 10 minutes. They should brighten up and turn a nice shade of green.
When the artichokes are done put them upside down to drain. Prepare the rest of the ingredients for the food processor. I don't know the exact amounts of each vegetable, she never got around to giving me a written recipe. I guess it's about 10 green onions, 7 stalks of celery, a half of a cup of flat leaf parsley, 3 gloves of garlic, salt and pepper.
Don't process it to a liquid, just process it enough to make it looked chopped really well.
In a large bowl prepare the dry ingredients. I use equal parts Italian bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. I add salt and pepper as I mix the two together.
I combine the wet ingredients with the dry.
I put the wet and dry in a large bowl so that I can put the artichoke in the middle and stuff them in the bowl. This makes the stuffing easy and much less messy. My friend taught be to pull back every leaf and gently stuff each one with the mixture.
By stuffing each leaf, every serving (leaf) has the tasty mixture as well and the tender bite at the end of the leaf.
Now this is the part that just amazed me. She put the stuffed artichokes in a pan with a bit of water and then......she poured an entire 32 oz. bottle olive oil over the artichokes and let them simmer on low all day. (I've found that putting the artichokes on a rack in the pan keeps them from burning on the botton.)
I was speechless and awestruck at the same time. In all my 28 years I had never used olive oil and I had never seen anybody pour an entire bottle of anything over food. It's the Scotch/Irish in me I guess. Cooking was never a big part of my day to day life growing up.
Well, needless to say I was hooked and wanted to know more. Over the next few years she taught me how to make gumbo, shrimp creole, bread pudding with rum butter sauce, red beans and rice, lasagna, hot tamales from scratch, and meatballs, to name a few. Sadly, our friendship didn't last and I haven't heard from her in years. Still, her cooking tips and recipes remain and I use them often.
Here's to my Italian friends, old and new. :)