Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lusty Passion for Putanesca

Since I have some time to waste while I wait for breakfast to cook, I thought I would share my passion for putanesca sauce. --How cute, spell check wants me to change 'putanesca' to Bhutanese or cutaneous.-- It is something I just keep coming back to over and over again for a quick and tasty dinner. It probably takes 20 minutes at most to make, and you can make variations depending on the ingredients you have. In fact, I may better describe the sauces I make as variations on a theme of putanesca or just tomato sauce with tasty add ins. I always have the tomatoes, either diced or whole (which I squish or chop), always two or three cloves of garlic chopped or put through a press, and always some chili paste to taste. I usually have available some kalamata (spell check prefers 'salamander') olives and capers (I am currently in love with capers, which does not speak well of my personal life). Two or three anchovy fillets are great if you have them and they are the tasty rather than cat-foody ones. I have also recently been adding chopped artichoke hearts, the marinated kind, with increased yumminess as a result. For sprinkling on top, either parmesan or feta (goat feta competes with capers for my affection) and chopped fresh parsley, mostly for colour because I don't really like parsley. I once, in an attempt to increase the protein content of my dinner, added a can of tuna, regular old white flake or chunk stuff, drained of the packing water. It was really good and I was enthusiastic to do it again. However, the next time I only had a can of pink salmon, no tuna. I added it in happily making enough pasta for two extra portions for lunch/dinner the next day. The smell was almost unbearable. In fact, the smell was unbearable. I managed to eat about half of one portion, but the stink was making me nauseous even though the taste wasn't as bad. Please note that there was nothing wrong with the salmon, it was just a really bad combo with the sauce. I don't know why so bad, but really really bad. I had to compost the whole thing. So tuna yes, salmon no. You can also add cooked sliced or diced chicken breast, but it doesn't really add anything other than protein and volume. Shrimp/prawns might work too, haven't tried it.

I've lately been using whole wheat spaghetti with this recipe and it is good and doesn't leave you with that nasty, bloaty feeling that a heap of white pasta often does.

Recipe (makes enough sauce for 2-3 servings):
1 14oz can of diced or whole tomatoes (if whole, chop them)
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
~1/2 tsp of chili paste (more or less to your taste)
2-4 anchovy fillets (or a squeeze of the paste if you have it and want it)
~10 kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1-2 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
3-4 chunks of marinated artichokes, coarsely chopped
1 can of tuna (or 1 cooked chicken breast, or some cooked shrimp)
parmesan or feta (sprinkle as much as you like on top)
chopped parsley (pretty green accent)
pasta for 2-3 people

Bring pasta water to a boil, and put pasta in. Put olive oil in a medium hot pan. Add in garlic, anchovy and chili and fry until garlic is golden. Add in can of tomatoes with all the juice and leave to simmer and reduce. WARNING: With a hot pan it takes very little time for the garlic to become burnt and icky and you have to start again or just live with the off taste. Better to have the can of tomatoes open and ready to be dumped in. Cook until the liquid is reduced by at least half to two thirds. The pasta may be done before the liquid is finished reducing, if so, drain it and set it to the side for a few minutes. It won't sit long enough to get gummy and sticky so don't worry about it. When the liquid is reduced, add all the other ingredients that you are using (except the cheese and parsley). Dump the pasta into the sauce (I forgot to mention that you should use a big skillet for this, the larger bottom surface area reduces the liquid faster than a saucepan would). If you are feeling organized, you can reserve some of the tomato juice in the can (about 1/3 cup) and add it at the end if the sauce is a bit thick. Stir it all up and serve sprinkled with cheese and parsley and possibly a medium bodied Italian red if you are so inclined. Yum.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I don't know if I'm a fan

Last weekend at the Moss St. Market I picked up some Italian dandelion greens (among other tasty fresh vegetables). I was clueless about how to prepare them, but they looked really pretty - all vibrant and green with strong red stems. Kind of like... well, fancy dandelions.

Anyhow, last night they were the only vegetables left in the fridge. So I hit the internet and found a general consensus that dandelions should be simmered or boiled until they're not bitter anymore, then dressed how you like.

That's a great theory. Maybe these ones were too old, but they didn't get not-bitter. They got slightly less bitter. Slightly. Very slightly.

I boiled them for 8 minutes in lightly salted water. Then when they were in danger of losing their vibrant colour, I drained them and tossed them with a generous pat of butter, a big splash of balsamic vinegar and a slightly less big splash of maple syrup.

The end result was definitely... not bad. I ate them quite happily, Stirling ate them quite happily, and Rowan even ate some voluntarily (I snuck some more into her disguised as chicken). We could still taste the bitterness, but the dressing certainly mellowed it. They had a strong enough flavour, though, that we could still taste the greens, and not just the maple/balsamic. The texture was VERY nice, tender but substantial.

So, not a definite thumbs-up, but I'd do it again.

Monday, June 04, 2007

a new way to enjoy kale

...or any other braising green. I did this last night with some simple pan-fried trout and it was delightful. I would highly recommend this with fish.


1 bunch kale or other green suitable for braising
1 small fennel bulb
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup white wine
juice & zest of a lemon
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups cooked rotini pasta

Dice the fennel and roughly chop the greens. Sautée the fennel in the butter until softened, about 10 min. Add the greens, stir around until wilted then add wine, maple syrup, lemon juice and zest. Cover and simmer about 5 min. Add cream and dill, stir, salt to taste. Add pasta and simmer on very very low for about two minutes so that pasta can absorb some of the flavour.

Serve with fish or chicken.