Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onions, garlic, and red pepper for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the ham and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf, salt, pepper and water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the liquid has almost all evaporated and the mixture is quite thick. Discard the bay leaf. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a 9 x 9-inch ceramic or earthenware casserole with 2 inch sides. Spread the sofrito evenly in the base of the dish and break the eggs carefully, one at a time, in a circle on the top. Heap the peas in 3 or 4 mounds in between the eggs and arrange the asparagus and pepper strips as a sort of frame for the eggs. Sprinkle the top with sherry, if desired, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking. Garnish with a few parsley sprigs and serve at once, accompanied by chunks of grilled country bread.
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved