Puttanesca Relish

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My mother gave me this lovely book simply called Charcuterie, published in 2014. “How to enjoy, serve and cook with cured meats.”

For the blog I’ve already made an eye catching and incredibly tasting salad – chorizo and red cabbage.

This little book is full of surprisingly unique recipes using charcuterie, making charcuterie, or for charcuterie.

Case in point, puttanesca relish caught my attention. Being that pasta puttanesca is my favorite pasta dish, I could easily imagine all of the puttanesca flavors together, served as a relish.

From the book, “This relish is quite like tapenade, but it’s lighter and not as rich. It can be used to add to sandwiches and recipes, but it’s also lovely served with a charcuterie board and spooned onto the meats.”

I couldn’t wait to make it. It’s as easy as making a tapenade, because you can use your food processor.

Puttanesca Relish
Slightly adapted

2 ounces pitted Kalamata olives
2 anchovy fillets, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained
Big pinch of fresh chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes, seeded, drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper flakes

Place the first six ingredients into a food processor and whizz until the pieces are nice and small and the texture is relatively smooth.

Add remaining ingredients. Leave some small chunks, don’t let it become a purée.

Transfer the mixture to a small sterilized jar or an airtight container and cover, if not using immediately.


I served the relish with soft bread, Parmesan, and soprasetta. It is outstanding.


This relish will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and is suitable for freezing.


If you freeze it, make sure to test the relish. It might need a boost in flavor.

I will definitely be making this again and again.

I used a new product for this recipe – capers in olive oil. Excellent.

Pasta Puttanesca

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I recently looked at my recipe index for pasta ideas, because a girlfriend was visiting. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta, served with a salad. A perfect meal.

Creamy and cheesy pasta always comes to mind. But of course pasta with various types of red sauces, raw or cooked then pop into my brain… and I began dreaming of pasta puttanesca. It’s not something I can make for my husband because he is not fond of olives and capers… but my girlfriend is.

So, I looked up my own blog post for pasta puttanesca, because I knew I’d made it early on in my blog, and it was missing! All I had were these photos.

The “finished” pasta photos don’t look horrible, which many photos of mine did in the “early” days (2012-2014…) but for some reason the post had disappeared. And this pasta is my favorite pasta if you had a gun to my head.

Well, I got to make it again! And my girlfriend and I enjoyed it immensely.

The recipe I used is from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Kitchen,” – the story of her love affair with the kitchen.

Quote from Lady Nigella regarding pasta puttanesca: “Well, how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore’s pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?

I really wish I could talk and write like Ms. Lawson.

Pasta Puttanesca
Aka whore’s pasta
Printable recipe below
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons strong extra-virgin olive oil, like Hojasanta
8 anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon cayenne chile pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti (I used linguine)
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed, dried
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.

Pour the oil into a wide, shallowish frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have almost “melted”, then add the garlic and cayenne flakes and cook, stirring for another minute.


This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to package instructions.

Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the garlic-anchovy mixture, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Just before the pasta is ready, remove about an espresso cupful of cooking water, and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your wok or pan, adding a little reserved pasta water, if needed, to help amalgamate the sauce. (I don’t do this step.)

Scatter with chopped parsley, if there’s some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.

What’s slatternly? No idea.

I served the pasta with a pinot noir. It was perfect.

 

 

Kefta Meatball Tagine

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The whole name of this recipe is Kefta Meatball Tagine in Tomato Sauce with Eggs. It’s from the cookbook Morocco, written by Jeff Koehler, published in 2012. I think I bought the cookbook because of the stunning photo on the cover, which is a beet and potato soup.

The subtitle describes this book as “a culinary journey with recipes from the spice-scented markets of Marrakech to the date-filled oasis of Zamora.”

From the book, “Tagine is the name of the dish as well as the round, shallow-based terra-cotta (clay or ceramic) casserole with a tall, pointed, conical lid. The lid fits into the base’s grooved rim and acts as a closed chimney. The steam rises and condenses on the wall of the lid, and the moisture falls back onto the simmering food, preventing the loss of moisture or flavor. Tagines are perfect for slow cooking, whether over an ember-filled brazier or the low to medium heat on a stove.”

There is some prepping to do if you’ve just purchased a tagine, similar to seasoning a cast-iron skillet. But care must be taken always to not overheat the tagine or it will crack. Medium direct heat is the maximum suggested for using a tagine on the stove.

Also from the book, “To season a tagine, submerge the base and lid in water for at least 2 hours (overnight if not glazed). Remove and let dry completely. Brush the inside of the base and lid with olive oil. For an unglazed tagine, paint the entire vessel with oil. Place in a cold oven and turn on to 350 degrees. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the tagine to slowly, and completely, cool. Season the tagine again if it goes unused for a number of months.”

Which is probably what happened to my first tagine. I hadn’t used it for a while, and didn’t realize I should re-season it, so the bottom cracked.

I recently decided to purchase one again. Because I love the look of La Chamba cookware, I purchased a La Chamba tagine. Seasoning directions were included.

This recipe is reminiscent of shakshuka, with the eggs cooked in red sauce, but then, with meatballs?!! I just had to make it.

Kefta Meatball Tagine in Tomato Sauce with Eggs
printable recipe below

1 1/4 pound ground beef, not learn
1/2 medium red onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
Heaped 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heaped 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups canned peeled whole Italian plum tomatoes, seeded, with juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large eggs

In a mixing bowl, add the meat, onion, one of the garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon each of the cumin, paprika, cinnamon, parsley, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and blend into a consistent, smooth paste.


Taking spoonfuls of the mix, roll meatballs that are about 1 1/4” in diameter. There should be about 36 total.


In a food processor, using quick pulses, purée the tomatoes and their juice. (I used tomato sauce I’d made from my fresh tomatoes.)

In a tagine, add the olive oil and tomatoes, season with salt, and cook over medium-low heat until deep red and thicker, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining garlic, spices, and herbs.

Gently set the meatballs in the tomato sauce. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes, gently turning the meatballs with a pair of spoons until browned on all sides.

Dribble in 1/4 cup of water, loosely cover, and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. The tomato sauce should be a little loose. Add a bit more water if necessary to keep the sauce loose.

Make four spaces between the meatballs and gently crack the eggs into the tagine. Cover and cook until the eggs set, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I served with a little bit more chopped parsley and cilantro, as well as a flatbread on the side.


 

I didn’t make my own flatbread, I purchased pita bread.

Wow this is so good, just as expected. The spices make this dish, as do the herbs.

Of course, you don’t need a tagine to make this dish, so don’t worry if you don’t own one. Use a braiser or deep skillet.

 

Chicken with Chick Peas, Tomatoes, and Chorizo

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You all know that I’m kind of a stubborn gal. Trends of all kinds send me in the opposite direction. I did love bell bottoms, but I was young and silly then. I will never get long pointy fingernails that seems de rigeur these days. I’m too practical. Besides I’d mostly like slice my eyeballs.

When it comes to food, I’m the same, although I’m the first to admit that I’ve been wrong. I married a guy with an orange crock pot. Never used it. Now they’re called slow cookers. I bought one and use it. Pesto and sun-dried tomatoes were on every menu in the 80’s, so none for me. Very silly. And then there was cauliflower rice. Made my eyes roll, but the recipe I made was really good! Bowls? Why does food have to be in bowls? I’ll never have an instapot, but that’s mostly cause I don’t need anything insta anymore with no kids at home.


Which brings me to when I first started noticing tray bakes and sheet pan bakes and the sort. Even my beloved Nigella put food baked in a jelly roll pan on Instagram. Really? A jelly roll pan is just a shallow baking dish!!!

Once again, I broke down once I saw the cookbook, The Roasting Tin, by Rukmini Iyer. It’s “simple one dish dinners.” Which I’m assuming are different than one pot dinners?!! Sorry, I can’t help myself.

The Roasting Tin, below left, was published in 2017, followed in 2018 by The Green Roasting Tin.

To be fair, I bookmarked a number of good sounding recipes in the cookbook. The recipes are easy and I trust that the main ingredients come out of the oven all cooked properly, because the authors seems quite popular. One pot tray-bake meals do cut out any preliminary steps like sautéing or browning or par-boiling.

This is the recipe I chose to make first.

Chicken with Chorizo, Chick Peas, and Tomatoes

1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
100 grams or 3.5 ounces chorizo, roughly chopped
1 – 400 gram tin of chickpeas, drained
1 – 400 grams or 14 ounce tin of tomatoes
300 milliliter or 10 ounces water
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.4 kilograms or 3 pounds chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F. Place the onion, garlic, rosemary, chorizo, chickpeas and tomatoes in a roasting tin, and use the water to rinse out the tomato tin before pouring it in with everything else. Season well with salt and pepper.


Arrange the chicken thighs over the tomato mixture, and rub with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, then transfer to the oven and roast for 40 minutes.

Turn the heat up to 200 degrees C or 400 degrees F and roast for a further 50 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.

Taste the sauce, season as needed with salt and black pepper, and serve hot.

So, have I ever in my million years of cooking thrown purple onions in with sweet potatoes when roasting? Sure. Have I ever cooked chicken and sausages in the same roasting pan? Of course.

However, this book does have some unique ideas, and I can’t deny the fact that it is fun to cook a whole meal in a “tray” with minimal preparation and mess!

Although if you noticed, I did use a roasting pan. My jelly-roll pans warp when they’re in the oven, which would have created a terrible mess.

I’m sure the author will forgive me for not using a tray.

Tomato Basil Soup

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There was a little bistro here in my town – a sandwich, soup, and salad kind of place. It was successful, but the owners eventually retired and moved to Texas to be closer to their extended family.

The one thing I always ordered was their tomato basil soup. It was rich, tomatoey, and perfumed with sweet basil. And I don’t typically order soup at restaurants.


This is my attempt to recreate something hopefully similar, and definitely good, based on the following criteria.

1. I believe in using good quality canned tomatoes. Summer fresh tomatoes are lovely, but can lack in sweetness, or worse yet – can be tart.

2. I’m adding a carrot to provide a sweet boost, something I learned from making an Italian tomato tart.

3. I’m including a few sun-dried tomatoes for sweetness; they also help thicken.

4. Dried basil goes into this soup. I know that it seems unsophisticated, but I feel both fresh and dried herbs have their places in cooking.

Tomato Basil Soup
printable recipe below

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, halved
2 – 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes, or other high quality brand
6 sun-dried tomato halves, jarred in oil
1 tablespoon (or more) dried sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large enameled pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté for about 5 minutes.


Add the garlic halves and stir for about 30 seconds, then pour in the canned tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.

Simmer the tomato mixture for at least 30 minutes, uncovered. Cook longer if there’s still too much liquid; you’ll be adding cream later.

Stir in the sweet basil and salt, and season to taste.

Let the soup cool. Then pour the soup into a large blender jar, along with the cream.

Return the puréed soup to the pot and heat through before serving.

Even with the cream, the soup remains tomato-red, and definitely rich in flavor.

If more richness and creaminess are desired, you can always add a little sour cream or creme fraiche.

Alternatively, crumble a little goat cheese on top.

This soup is fairly quick and definitely easy. If you don’t have sun-dried tomatoes, just use a good quality tomato paste instead, about 3 tablespoons. I like tubular tomato paste for a small job.

Add more dried basil if the soup isn’t basil-y enough. You should definitely taste the tomato-basil combination!

 

 

White Bean-Tomato Gratin

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I love to use tomatoes when they’re perfectly red and ripe during the summer months when my garden is behaving properly. I probably overuse them, in fact, because I love tomatoes so much. Sometimes they’re good just sliced, with a little salt. They are also perfect for fresh sauces and salsas, and I’ll certainly cook them when necessary. None go to waste.

But then there are the winter months. Sometimes, “vine-ripened” tomatoes are available at my local grocery store, but these really fall flat in quality. Which isn’t surprising, of course. They sell them even attached to the vine, but they’re never the same.

Fortunately for all of us, there is such a thing as canned tomatoes. The kind you purchase. I haven’t gotten to the point where I’ve canned my own before, because my garden produces just enough for some nibbling and a little cooking, when, like I said, it’s behaving.

But I really love canned tomatoes. They serve a purpose. I think it’s important to buy the best, highest quality you can find, no matter the price. Because it does make a gigantic difference.

And while we’re on canned ingredients, let’s discuss canned beans. Specifically, white beans. From all of my white bean dip posts you know that I happen to respect canned beans. Certainly there’s nothing quite like home-made beans, from scratch, but white beans, like tomatoes in cans, are wonderful when necessary. (And for pureeing purposes, canned white beans process smoother than home-made, I’ve found.)

So today I’m simply making a gratin using canned white beans and tomatoes. The rest you should have on hand. Within an hour, this gratin was done. And it’s good. Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to cook.

White Bean-Tomato Gratin

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
Salt, pepper

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2 – 15.8 ounce cans white beans, rinsed and well drained

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1/2 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan

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1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
Fresh rosemary leaves, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and give them a good stir.
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Add the tomatoes, and cook for just a few minutes. There should be no significant liquid in the bottom of the saucepan. Stir in some salt and pepper to taste.
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Stir in the white beans and remove from the saucepan from the heat. Lightly grease a baking dish. The size of the baking dish depends if you want a thin white bean and tomato layer, topped with a significantly larger amount of breadcrumbs and cheese, or a deeper dish, which is what I chose.

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Place the bean and tomato mixture into the baking dish. Cover with the cheese.
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And then cover with the breadcrumbs.
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Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top, if desired.
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And then sprinkle a few rosemary leaves over the top, if you like rosemary. This is completely optional. Honestly, there’s not much rosemary flavor in just those few leaves, but I happened to have them on hand, and like the looks of rosemary.

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Bake until the top browns, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

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Today I served the gratin with some sous vide flank steak, which was a really nice combination.
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But the gratin would be delicious with just about any protein.
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Even fish, because it’s not strongly flavored in any way.

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note: If you don’t like rosemary, other options would be to add dried thyme to the white bean and tomato mixture while it’s cooking, or even dried basil or fresh basil. It’s just what flavor you want in the gratin. Even some fresh lemon or orange zest would be lovely. Or, just leave the basic flavors of the onion, garlic, and tomato shine on their own. There is nothing wrong with that.