Monday, February 14, 2011

Pasta Puttanesca

In their inimitable manner, our friends, T and J, texted from the road yesterday.

"What's for dinner?"

"Where are you?"

"We'll be home in two hours."

"Good.  What do you want for dinner?"

"Do you have pasta?"

"Of course.  See you at six."

I did a quick survey of the pantry and the refrigerator and determined  that pasta puttanesca would be perfect.

Out of all the stories of the origins of this spicy tomato sauce,  I like this legend the best. It is said that puttanesca sauce was originated in Naples by the ladies of the evening.  The ingredients were easy to keep on hand and very quick to cook. Thus, the ladies were able to get some sustenance between customers. Although the prostitutes probably did not invent this sauce, they sure made it popular.

This sauce is one of my favorites, and it cooks in the time it takes for the water for the pasta comes to a boil. While spaghetti seems to be the preferred pasta here, I had none so I used penne.  Nothing was lost in the translation.

After filming the bottom of a saucepan with olive oil, I dropped in 6 diced anchovy fillets.  Don't worry--the anchovies magically melt into the oil giving the sauce a lovely a depth of flavor. Then I pressed about 4 cloves of garlic into the oil and turned the heat to medium. When the anchovies began to melt and the garlic softened, I added a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and one and a half boxes of Pomi chopped tomatoes.  Actually, I gave the tomatoes a rough puree with my immersion blender before adding them to the pot.  After bringing the tomatoes to a simmer, I added about a half a cup of chopped Kalamata olives, 2 tablespoons capers and a handful of chopped parsley and cooked it for about 10 minutes.

After draining 1 pound of penne, I tossed most of the sauce with the pasta and sprinkled on some more chopped parsley.

I served additional sauce at the table for those who wanted more along with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

World Nutella Day 2011

Did you know that today is the fifth anniversary of World Nutella Day?

Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso, declare Saturday, February 5 "World Nutella Day  2011."  This is the day to celebrate Nutella--that wonderful concoction of chocolaty-hazel nutty goodness. 

Bake something using Nutella, eat it with a spoon right out of the jar, or write an ode to this sugary treat.
Whatever you choose to do today, do it with Nutella.

This recipe for Nutella Scones, from the book "Baked Explorations" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, came to me through Susan at Spoon and Shutter. What a great way to start the day!

Of course, I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but they were still good.

If you don't have the time or the inclination to make scones, try sandwiching two amarettini cookies together with a smear of Nutella.  They will do just fine.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's In Season--Citrus

Just when we need a mid-winter boost the most, bright and happy citrus fruit is piled high in all its glory.  The produce aisle is shiny with jewels of every color--bright orange, yellow and green. Large navel oranges, tangerines, blood oranges, limes and clementines are enticing us to touch them and bring them home. And that large dose of Vitamin C can't hurt either.

Citrus adapts well to salads, main course dishes as well as dessert. A very versatile ingredient to be sure.

One of my favorite winter salads is this one composed of blood oranges, fennel and oil-cured black olives.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice and it's good to go.

And what could be more beautiful than a pitcher of blood orange juice?

A lime adds punch to a cup of turkey chili.

And lemon sits atop a piece of salmon ready to be wrapped up and roasted in the oven.  Or you might want to try Martha Stewart's version.

And for dessert,  Walnut-Orange Cake.

OK, winter, bring it on.