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Cooking for a Crowd

Throughout most of the year you will find Chef Tony Mantuano in the kitchen of the four-star Italian restaurant Spiaggia in downtown Chicago. But every year when the US Open comes to New York, Tony and his crew head east and set up a restaurant at the grand slam tennis event serving small bites from his Mediterranean-inspired cookbook "Wine Bar Food."

On "The Early Show" Tuesday chef Mantuano showed a few simple dishes that are sure to be crowd pleasers, and shared some tips to ensure whether your crowd is big or small, they'll fall in love with your food.

Throughout the two weeks at the US Open, Mantuano and his crew will serve thousands of people gourmet food.

What's his secret to culinary success on such a large scale?

He said the key to serving all these people is keeping the ingredients simple. By using the highest quality of product available, he said, the food pretty much takes care of itself

Prosciutto salad with grana, shaved artichokes and hearts of palms
Tomato bread with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese
Marinated olives
Cheese two ways -- mozzarella bar and a cheese plate


Prosciutto with Grana, Shaved Artichokes, and Hearts of Palm

When Neil Empson, the renowned Italian wine importer, took us to his favorite restaurant in Milan, we were very curious. The prosciutto lavorato, a delicious salad of artichokes, hearts of palm, and shaved cheese with a lemon vinaigrette served over paper-thin slices of prosciutto, won us over and has become a favorite at our house ever since.

1 small lemon cut in half
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper, plus more for serving
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 baby artichokes
1 fresh heart of palm
4 ounces Grana Padano cheese
Handful of arugula
8 thin slices prosciutto

To make the vinaigrette, squeeze 3 tablespoons lemon juice from the lemon, reserving the lemon, and put the juice in a medium bowl. Add the salt and pepper. In a slow stream, drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is well blended. Set aside.

Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Squeeze any remaining juice from the lemon halves into the water and add the lemon halves too. Cut off all but 1 inch of the stem from each artichoke and then cut off the top fourth of each artichoke. Bend back and snap off the dark green outer leaves at the base until only the pale green and yellow leaves remain. Peel the stems with a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the tough outer layer. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise. Using the point of a knife, remove any purple-tipped leaves or fuzzy choke from the center.

Using a mandoline, a ceramic handheld slicer, or a very sharp knife, carefully shave the artichokes into thin slices, starting with the flat side of the artichoke. Place the artichoke slices in the lemon water.
Shave or thinly slice the heart of palm and then the cheese. Drain the artichokes and place on paper towels to dry. To serve, place 2 slices of prosciutto on each of 4 plates. Add the artichokes, heart of palm, cheese, and arugula to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Divide the mixture among the plates, placing a portion on top of the prosciutto. Offer freshly ground pepper at the table.

Tomato Bread with Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese

A tapas bar staple, this dish is easy to make and always pleases, provided you follow four simple points: Make this dish only when tomatoes are great. Use quality manchego cheese, preferably aged for six months. Drizzle with excellent olive oil. Finally, use only imported Serrano ham, thinly sliced. Although the bread is important, if you adhere to those four points, it may be enough to make even pre-sliced sandwich bread taste good (not that we suggest that).

3 ripe plum tomatoes
Six 1-inch slices baguette
6 thin slices manchego cheese, about the same size as the bread
6 thin slices Serrano ham
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Cut the tomatoes in half and rub the cut side of one half against one slice of the bread, pressing firmly until the juice of the tomato soaks into the bread. Repeat with the remaining tomato halves and bread slices. Discard the tomatoes. Top each piece of tomato bread with cheese and then ham. Drizzle each piece with olive oil and serve.

Marinated Olives
Large and meaty, Cerignola olives are either black or bright green, depending on maturity. For marinating, we prefer the firmer-textured super colossal green olives. The orange zest highlights the olives' inherent sweetness while adding a splash of color.

3 cups Cerignola olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Zest of 1 orange, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely ground

In a large bowl, combine the olives with the olive oil, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, and fennel seeds. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 5 days. Bring the olives to room temperature before serving. Stir the olives and transfer to a small dish to serve.

For tips on making a Mozzarella Bar, go to Page 2.

Mozzarella Bar

The mozzarella bar is a showcase for the fabulous fresh bufala (buffalo) milk cheeses of southern Italy. The Mozzarella Bar concept comes from Rome where the first restaurant of its kind recently opened. Based on the same idea as a sushi bar, where the freshness of the raw fish is vital, substitute the subtle, tangy, creamy cheese and you have a Mozzarella Bar.

The idea is to choose different accompaniments to pair with the mozzarella; such as salami, prosciutto, caviar, or anchovies as well as cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant, mashed zucchini, fresh basil, arugula, and grilled seasonal vegetables. Condiments of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper are really all you need.

Traditional shapes of fresh mozzarella are round and oval. Other forms of mozzarella like cielegini "little cherries" offer variety. Supplement those shapes with some fresh burratta, a buttery, creamy cheese from Apulia. Match any of the accompaniments with any of the cheese to find which combinations you like best. Set out the different cheeses with the chosen condiments and have a tasting.