Sunday, November 28, 2010


I made pasta puttanesca today, a winter's day when there were lots of things to do, and no time for leisurely cooking. The word puttanesca in Italian means "something that pertains to whores," therefore pasta puttanesca is "the pasta preferred by ladies of the evening." These hardworking women, members of the oldest profession in the world, have had the honor to have this delightful dish named after them. Why it is named after them I do not know. There are many versions which tell why, and as far as I am concerned one version is as convincing as the next.  One version says that the recipe was used to lure customers with its aroma. Another says that it was a dish that could be thrown together in a moment's notice, with items found in any "busy lady's" pantry. There is a version which says that it was a go to recipe for housewives who wanted to serve a quick meal in order to move on to other things. Well, all those explanations will do for me. Pasta puttanesca is an aromatic dish, easy and quick to prepare, full of the flavors of the Mediterranean. It contains an excellent sauce to mix up with pasta.  This sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta. No need to use any salt whatsoever. The saltiness of this dish will come from the olives, the capers and the anchovies.


  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • a few green olives, pitted
  • about a tablespoon capers
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • some basil, oregano, and hot pepper flakes (optional)

  • Directions:

    • Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
    • Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, the pepper flakes and half of the parsley, and cook for another minute. Add the anchovies and stir, pressing them with a cooking spoon to break them up. Add the olives and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
    • Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, then stir in the capers.
    • The sauce can also be flavored with some basil and a bit of oregano, but that's optional. Most versions of pasta puttanesca include hot pepper flakes, but I usually omit or limit the amount I use, as most of us at home are not partial to spicy foods.

    • Add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix with the sauce. Add the rest of the parsley, olive oil and basil if using. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

    • Serve right away, and enjoy it. It's soo good.

    Friday, November 26, 2010


    It's around 11:30, Thanksgiving eve, and I am taking some time off from cooking. Just enough time to write down my recipe for fasolakia. You see, I decided that there should be very little cooking left to do tomorrow, Thanksgiving day. This way I can mingle with family, and as most of the cooking will have already be done, Thanksgiving day will unfold smoother and less hurried for us all. I'm going for simple and delicious this year. Uncomplicated recipes, easy to make, tasty to eat. OK, now I have to trot into the kitchen, do one final thing (finish cooking the fasolakia), and then I'll be ready for tomorrow. Be right back.

    This is a popular Greek recipe, very easy to make and most often enjoyed in summer when green beans come fresh from the farm. Our Thanksgiving dinner is comprised of all the traditional fare, but it also contains this recipe, to remind us of our roots! I make it with flat Italian green beans, which taste great and are similar to the varieties found in Greece. This time of year I buy the frozen kind because these green beans are not found fresh in November.


    5 tablespoons olive oil
    1 cup chopped onions
    2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    2 pounds flat Italian green beans, frozen
    1 can (28-ounces/800gr) San Marzano whole tomatoes
    salt to taste 
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    1 cup vegetable broth or water (plus more as needed)


    Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and saute until soft, but not burned. Halfway through cooking the onions add the garlic. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well.

    The liquid should almost cover the green beans. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for about one hour, until the green beans are soft and fork - tender.

    If the liquid evaporates before cooking is finished, you will need to add just a little bit more to the pan. You can use vegetable broth or water. The end result should be to have the green beans look juicy but not floating in liquid. Serve them with the pan juices, and enjoy them. This recipe can be used as a side dish and makes enough to feed a crowd but it can be cut in half and served as a main meal for about four people. 

    I didn't make it back to my computer Thanksgiving Eve, so this entry was left to be finished and posted today, late at night, long after Thanksgiving was over. What can I say? The green beans came out really tasty. However, I can't write that all went well Thanksgiving Day. 

    My father, 86 years old and suffering from dementia, was having a difficult time of it and that sent the whole house into an uproar. So much for a smooth and unhurried Thanksgiving. It turned out to be very stressful. 

    Over and over in my mind, I think of the famous words the poet Robert Burns set down in 1785. How true they still ring today, in 2010:

    "The best laid schemes of mice and men
    Go often askew,
    And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
    For promised joy!
    Still you are blest, compared with me!

    The present only touches you:
    But oh! I backward cast my eye,
    On prospects dreary!
    And forward, though I cannot see,
    I guess and fear!"

    (excerpt from "To a Mouse," by Robert Burns, Standard English Translation)

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010


    The very first time I had a tuna sandwich I was hooked. It became my favorite lunch, favorite sandwich, favorite snack, favorite thing to order at a luncheonette... I loved it! I was in my teens, and I quickly learned how to make it: Mix canned tuna fish with mayonnaise, chopped celery, chopped onions, throw it between two slices of white bread and you're in business. Being Greek, I soon started adding lemon juice, an ingredient Greeks try their best to use in every recipe, even if it's a dessert. I experimented with different breads, sometimes I added garlic powder (don't try it), sometimes I added herbs, but I never strayed too far from the original. Until I ran into a version of this recipe on the Simply Recipes web site. It's a little different from your basic tuna salad recipe, but it's full of good tasting ingredients. I still eat the original, especially when my mother makes it, but this version of tuna salad has won me over as well. To make it, I always buy Bumble Bee tuna packed in water. Then, I add a bit of good olive oil which helps all the ingredients fuse together better. If you make it, have it on a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes, or eat it plain with out the bread. However, if you do choose to turn it into a sandwich, use a hearty, solid kind of bread. And please, enjoy it. It is really good!  I made this for dinner today, Wednesday, November 3, 2010. It's the day after Election Day. The candidate I supported, Joe Sestak for US Senate, who was the best man for the job, lost in a close race. I was very disappointed, especially since the winner, a man known as Darth Vadar Toomey, is more right wing than Metternich ever was. So I needed the comfort of a tuna salad sandwich for dinner. This nation that I love needs some comfort too. May we somehow come out of this mess, winners all.


    2 cans (7 ounce), of tuna fish, packed in water
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1/2 cup ricotta cheese
    3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
    1/4 or maybe even half of a purple onion, chopped finely
    3 celery stalks, chopped finely
    2 tablespoons of capers
    Juice of one lemon
    1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
    1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
    1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
    lettuce and sliced tomatoes, optional
    sliced bread, your favorite, lightly toasted


    Drain the tuna fish and mix all of the ingredients. Serve on toast, with lettuce or tomatoes. You can also have it plain, open faced, or in lettuce cups if you would rather forgo the bread.