Simple Supper

As I have said, on numerous occasions, I have a need to cook.  Cooking relaxes me, it centers me, it makes me calm.  I badly sprained my foot on Saturday.  My husband was having his fifth root canal.  I knew we would need to eat tonight, but also knew I would need to do something simple and easy to eat.

I went with an old stand by: Pasta Puttanesca.  I often will serve it with grilled salmon or chicken, but the original recipes just calls for the sauce and the pasta.  It is vegetarian, but not vegan as it has anchovies.  I have to say, if you are not vegan, don’t cut the anchovies, they add a “umami” flavor.  Truly, unless you use too many, you will not know they are in the sauce.

Anyway, back to the pasta puttanesca.  It is a recipe, probably from the mid-twentieth century, but the “myth” around it is far more interesting.  “Puttanesca” comes from the word “whore” in Italian.  The myth is that prostitutes could cook this quickly and leave it on the stove to eat between customers.  A similar word “puttanata” means “of no worth.”  Probably closer to the truth, was a meal thrown quickly together of ingredients that were of “no worth.”  Regardless, it is simple, quick and oh so good!

The ingredients:


Almost all pantry ingredients.  The parsley grows on my front porch; olive oil is always available, kalamata olive, capers, anchovies from the refrigerator and the garlic, onion and fire roasted tomatoes and penne pasta out of the pantry.  Easy!  I put water on to boil for the pasta, heated up the skillet and added olive oil.  Diced the onion, popped it into the hot olive oil.  Finely diced two garlic cloves, rinsed two tablespoons of capers, diced up two anchovies and 1/3 cup of kalamata olives.  

Once the onions were cooked, I added the garlic, cooked it a couple of minutes and added the olives, the can of fire roasted tomatoes, the capers and the anchovies. Added some fresh ground black pepper. At the same time I added the penne to the boiling water and cooked for 11 minutes.

Then I added my secret ingredient:



I added about 1/8 teaspoon of hot smoked Spanish paprika.  Traditionally, it calls for red pepper flakes.  I am not overly found of red pepper flakes.  Hot smoked paprika….on the other hand….I love!  I use it for all kinds of recipes.  It adds heat, a little smoke and a lovely flavor.

While the pasta was cooking and the sauce was working, I diced up some fresh parsley, tossed a salad with fresh spinach, mesclun mix with a apple/honey cider vinegar with olive oil.  Once the pasta was cooked and drained, I tossed the pasta with sauce, parsley, topped with parmesan cheese and served it with the tossed green salad.


It was simple, it was tasty and allowed me to cook and enjoy a very simple supper with my husband.

Spring is in the air

I am so ready for spring!  I am not the only one.  This winter has been particularly long and bitter cold.  Of course, Kansas’ winter has not been as brutal at those in the north and north east.  Nonetheless, I am over winter and ready for warmer, longer days with time for walks and sitting on the deck and eating the produce that spring and summer bring.

Today, there was actually a thunderstorm.  I heard the rumbling of the thunder, but missed the hail at home.  I was in a minor emergency clinic attached to my doctors office praying that I only “sprained” my ankle/foot and that I did not have a break.  I did not.  However, feeling like an idiot, it makes me sad not to be out on a beautiful day, the rain just makes it easier.

I was ready to begin planting.  Seed potatoes are cut and drying and I have some seeds ready to sow.  



Don’t they look awesome!  I wanted to get the radishes and spinach out.  I actually have lettuce growing on my front porch, but the spinach just isn’t working for me.  So, I planned to get some in the garden for harvesting in about 6 weeks.  It is a month too early for the beans and a couple of weeks too early for the carrots.  I am ready to start some tomatoes and peppers as well on the front porch for planting in a couple of months.

With the rain, it is probably just as well that I didn’t get the pansies outside in pots, nor the seeds planted, but I am so ready to begin to see the seedlings start.  The warmer days the nights where the light is lingering finds me itching to see spring flowers, green buds on the trees and to anticipate the wonderful goodness of fresh vegetables.

I love food.  I know you are not supposed to say that, but I do love food.  I, have particularly come to love the freshest food I can find, whether from the garden or the farmer’s market.  That food is nothing like what comes from the grocery store.  It is the bounty of the earth at its best.

So, resting up my foot, I am making plans for a marvelous spring and summer full of the freshest, tastiest home grown or farmer grown fruits and vegetables.  Food like that is a gift, of life, of home and of God.

Book Review

I was in the library a couple of weeks ago doing study work for a new sermon series.  I picked out eight books, but decided to peruse the “newest” books in the library.  I was, of course, drawn to the cook books, I found one that I allowed myself to check out.  I really enjoy Mark Bittman.  I own his How to Cook Everything and often reach for it among others when working with a new ingredient or recipe.  His newest book VB6, Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to lose weight and restore your health for good  was published late last year.



Let me begin by saying I am not looking to lose weight and not looking to begin a vegan lifestyle.  Mark Bittman has been touting this book and lifestyle long before he wrote this book.  To make a long story short, he was overweight, his “numbers” were bad, was pre-diabetic and he needed to do something.  Honestly anyone who has done the research knows that changing one’s eating habits is essential.  Less meat, less dairy, more plants and whole grains are necessary.  

Mark Bittman is a food critic and a restaurant critic.  He is a columnist for the New York Times.  Food, obviously is his life.  Food, for all the joy and delight it brings, is nourishing, but can be deadly, particularly in the United States.  Mark Bittman calls it the “SAD” diet; the Standard American diet.  Too much fat, too much salt, too much sugar, too much processing so that the food most people eat is stripped of nutrients.

None of this is new, nor a surprise to anyone who attempts to be healthy.  VB6, is Mark Bittman’s way of addressing the horrible way most people eat and a way to change his life.  It is not a magic “diet” there are no points or calories or special foods.  It is simply a way of changing the way one eats that is more healthy, promotes the planet through the eating of less animal products and can help one lose weight.

It is an interesting read.  I shared earlier that I am not interested in becoming vegan, however, what this book did, was affirm in many ways how I am already living.  Twenty years ago, when my husband and I began dating, we ate much differently.  When we would go out to dinner, he would eat a 16 ounce steak and finish mine 8 or 10 ounce steak.  We would have a baked potato, loaded of course with sour cream and butter and maybe a salad.  Now, when we go out to eat, we will split a 6 to 8 ounce steak, the sides and both have a salad.  At home, our meat portions are quite small with lots of vegetables and often a salad.  Instead of splitting 12-16 ounces of salmon, we will each have 3-4 ounces each.

My point is, that this book is pretty common sense.  Eat only plant based foods before 6:00 or 5:00 or whatever your supper time might be, then eat what you want.  It takes away that fear  of “I’ll never be able to eat my favorite_________(you fill in the blank) again.”  It encourages a healthier balance and moves people away from a diet that often leads to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a myriad of other health concerns.  Mark also encourages cooking.  Processed food, even vegan processed food is not as good as eating fresh food one has prepared for one’s self.  He has a 28 day plan, a way of personalizing one’s eating pattern, pantry staples and restaurant recommendations.

The plans are not difficult and have plenty of options.  There are not a huge amount of recipes, in that sense, his other books are better.  What this book will do, is offer a blueprint, a plan for those who want to eat better, more healthy, and one that is better for the planet.  

It was an enjoyable read for me, I do love cook books.  There were no surprises, but I appreciate his personable writing style and invitational approach.  You can visit his website for more information.



Playing with recipes

Back when the food network actually showed cooking shows, I loved to watch them.  I guess I “get” the competition shows, but mostly I find them disrespectful to food.  I am sure all cooking shows end up wasting food, but some of the competitions seem mean spirited.  Like most “reality” tv, the money becomes more important than the tasks at hand.  

I won’t belabor my point, needless to say, I miss the real cooking shows.  Some are still shown during the day, when I, of course, do not have time to watch.  When I do, I find myself watching, thinking and wondering about how certain recipes work.

So the other day, I had time to watch Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  I enjoy her ability to put together a relatively simple meal.  She, of course, has shops I can only dream of in Wichita, Kansas, nonetheless I enjoy her style.

The other day, she shared a recipe she had gotten from another chef for Asian Salmon.  Watching her create the marinade I had a gut feeling this would not work.  It looked interesting, but I just thought WAY too much soy and other ingredients.  When I went to look up the recipe, my hunch was played out in the comments under the recipe.  Too salty.

So, I was still fascinated by the concept.  So I decided to experiment.  I had tried a recipe that I loved using a wasabi pea crust over salmon.  So I took 1/4 cup wasabi peas and put them in my mini food processor.


Truthfully, I had forgotten how much I love wasabi peas.  Not too hot, but so crunchy!  I did eat some, I admit.  I pulsed these until they were the consistency of bread crumbs.  



I then added 1/4 cup panko.  Which would create the crust later.



Then I used some of the ingredients for the marinade.  Soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, lemon, ginger and added: hot mongolian oil (just a couple of drops) and hoisin sauce and a little bit of olive oil.



1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar, 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 Tablespoon Sesame oil, 1 garlic clove minced and 1 Tablespoon grated ginger, a couple of drops of Hot mongolian oil and 1 tablespoon olive oil.



I had 2 5 ounce Faroe Island salmon filets.  One of the joys of living in Wichita is having a marvelous fish monger in the Seafood Shop.  I poured half the marinade over them.



Added the panko/wasabi pea mixture over the top.


Poured the rest over of the marinade over the top and let it sit 15 minutes. I heated up the oven to 450 degrees



I put the salmon in the oven for 10 minutes.  After 8 minutes I turned the oven off and left the salmon in until the timer went off at 10 minutes.

I served it with black rice I had cooked in the oven (an Alton Brown recipe)  and sauteed baby bok choy and red cabbage.



It was good.  Still, a bit more salty than I would have liked.  Next time I will use the lower sodium soy, and add more wasabi peas to the crust.  My husband made all kinds of encouraging noises as he snarfed, I mean ate dinner.  

I  have to admit, I play with recipes all the time.  I can not remember the last time I made something exactly the way the recipe written.  Sometimes I just do not have all the ingredients listed so substitutions are in order.  In almost every case, the food is good and life is good.