This is our first full week back at school, having been delayed a week due to Hurricane Irene passing through. It’s been quite an adjustment so far as my oldest son is off to college this fall, and he was a huge help driving one of my other sons home everyday from school last year. I used to have dinner ready the minute they walked in the door. Now, every day, I am picking my son up right around dinner time (with over an hour commute) and often shuttling him or his other two brothers around in between, so getting dinner on the table has become a lot trickier. There are days when I start driving at 2PM and don’t get settled at home until near 10PM (as I’m sure many of you are as well!). So, quick and easy dinners are essential for those busy nights.
I attribute this disparity in eating preferences to the fact that I was working full time when my oldest was born. He was raised primarily on chicken nuggets and fish sticks (yikes, I know, processed foods!). Although our sitter was phenomenal with kids, she did not know how to cook, but she was great with the microwave and toaster oven. After the twins were born, I cut my work schedule back, and hired a part-time sitter who happened to be a good cook and more health conscious. When I had my fourth son, I finally decided to stay home, and took over all the cooking.
Over the years, I introduced my kids to a wider variety of vegetables beyond carrot sticks and frozen peas, including sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. I also added whole grains to my kids meals like oatmeal at breakfast, whole grain flours in muffins and quick breads, sandwiches on whole grain bread, brown rice and whole grain pasta. These changes did not come easy, and I still get the occasional wise comments, but over time, my kids have learned the importance of good nutrition, which I hope they’ll take with them once they leave home.
One of the meals I made this past week was Pasta Puttanesca, a dish my oldest son would not touch, but the other boys love. Made from pantry items, I know I can throw this dish together in 15 minutes and everyone will be happy and their tummies will be satisfied. Puttanesca is a spicy tomato based sauce, with sharp flavors, the perfect foil for enjoying over whole grain pasta. Over the past several years, as I transitioned my kids from white pasta to whole grain pasta, I have found that darker, more robust sauces pair nicely with some of the heartier whole grain pastas.
This week, we tried Puttanesca Sauce with spelt pasta. Spelt pasta is new to us, and I was surprised by how mild it tasted compared to some of the whole wheat pastas. For those of you not familiar with spelt, it is an ancient grain, a cousin to wheat, high in manganese and a good source of fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B3, magnesium and protein. Although spelt is not gluten-free, some people who are sensitive to wheat have been able to tolerate spelt. This may be because the gluten in spelt is highly soluble, and breaks down during the cooking and baking process, which makes it easier to digest. People with celiac disease cannot eat spelt because it does contain gluten, but I am curious whether or not my little guy who is allergic to wheat can tolerate spelt.
I’ve been making Pasta Puttanesca for years based on a recipe I tried from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, so when I found out that Ms. Rosso and Lukins were this week’s honorees of the 50 Women Game-Changers in food recently recognized by Gourmet Live, I decided to go back to the original recipe and make it. We’ve been cooking our way through this list of 50 influential women in food, selecting a recipe from each of them to try each week. If you’re interested in joining in on the fun, just ask Mary from One Perfect Bite.
The Silver Palate Cookbook was one of the very first cookbooks I owned. I was working as a summer intern in a laboratory (back in the days when I was pre-med), and the scientist I worked for happened to be a foodie. I still have the note he inserted in the book when he gave it to me…”Jeanette, wouldn’t want you malnourished at school….” Needless to say, I went through this cookbook page by page. Over the years, I have probably made more recipes from this single cookbook than from any other in my collection of cookbooks. If you’ve had Chicken Marbella, then you probably have heard of The Silver Palate Cookbook.
Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins were business partners and revolutionized the way America thought about take-out food. They opened a small gourmet food shop in New York City called the Silver Palate, selling high-end take-out food. Together, they wrote three cookbooks, The Silver Palate, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook and The New Basics cookbook before they parted ways (I have all three, but The Silver Palate is still my favorite). Both women went on to publish several more cookbooks on their own, but reunited in 2007 to publish a 25th anniversary edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Sadly, Sheila Lukins died in 2009, at the age of 66 from brain cancer. Today, Julee Rosso and her husband own a small inn called Wickwood in Saugatuck, Michigan, a weekend resort town.
Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Over the years, I have substituted chopped tomatoes for the whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes. However, after making this dish again recently using the original recipe, I would recommend using the whole plum tomatoes over chopped tomatoes – it’s definitely more flavorful. Although this pasta is best served immediately, it can be reheated successfully, perfect for school nights. For a meatless sauce, leave out the anchovies.
- 1 pound spaghetti, linguine or other thin dried pasta (I use whole grain pasta)
- 2 cans (2 pounds, 3 ounces each) peeled Italian plum tomatoes
- 1/4 cup best-quality olive oil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1/2 cup tiny black Nicoise olives (I used Kalamata olives), pitted
- 1/4 cup drained capers
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 8 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, plus additional for garnish
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Stir in the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain immediately when done and transfer to 4 heated plates.
- While spaghetti is cooking, drain tomatoes, cut them crosswise into halves, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
- Combine tomatoes and olive oil in a skillet and bring to a boil. Keep the sauce at a full boil and add remaining ingredients except pasta, one at a time, stirring frequently.
- Reduce heat slightly and continue to cook for a few minutes, or until sauce has thickened to your liking.
- Serve immediately over hot pasta and garnish with additional chopped parsley.
Viola from The Life is Good Kitchen
Barbara from Movable Feasts
Kathleen from Gonna Want Seconds