When You Have Lemons

12th February, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in easy

Why not make puttanesca?

The family was stricken by full-blown, under-the-weatherness in the form of nasty head-colds. Fortunately, I’ve managed to avoid taking this one on. So far. I attribute my state of provisional well-being to my evening dram of single-malt, or maybe to the gallons of tea I’ve been drinking daily, or perhaps to my own intensely stubborn nature combined with the fact that I truly hate colds.

But, what to feed them? Chicken soup is the prototypical prescription for colds, and it has been shown to exhibit seemingly miraculous healing properties, but I didn’t have a pile-o-chicken wings handy, and no one wanted to wait the hours for really good chicken soup, anyway. I needed a fallback plan. Spaghetti a la Puttanesca! Much loved, huge flavors, and with a little spice, not bad for what ails.

In its more traditional robe, sugo alla puttanesca is a quick sauce with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, capers, and red chili flakes, typically served tossed with spaghetti and sprinkled with chopped parsley and sometimes a little freshly grated Parmesan. It’s absolutely delicious in its classic form, but, why not play with it, give it some vibrant flavors that work well with the intensity of the standard ingredients, and turn it into something new?

Citron confit, preserved lemons, are fantastic with anchovies and capers. I always have a jar handy. They bring bright, fresh notes to the party; lemon and fish are a natural pairing. (I also find thinly sliced lemon fantastic on pizza with anchovies, but that’s another column.)

As I was reaching for a tin of anchovies in the pantry, I came across a jar of preserved fire-roasted peppers. These would make a fantastic addition to the sauce. I decided to add some oil-packed sun dried tomatoes for a little extra depth and body, and some wonderful little Calabrian chilies, preserved sott’olio, for some heat. Finally, a round of chevre and some fresh herbs on top would make a great finish.

Substitute salt-packed anchovies and capers if you have them, being sure to rinse them first. In place of the Calabrian chilies, use red chili flakes, or, if you really want to heat things up, some chopped habanero. If the oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes are unavailable, use dried, steeping them in boiling water first, and add a little extra olive oil to the recipe. It’s puttanesca, not a formal dish. It’s okay if it’s different every time. Play with it!

Here’s where I ended up:

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 flat tin, about 8 anchovy fillets, soaked in milk for at least 20 minutes and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 4 Calabrian chilies, chopped
  • About 20 Kalamata or Greek olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fire-roasted peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped (recipe)

Method – about 30 minutes

While preparing the ingredients, have 4 quarts of water in a large pot over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add 1T salt, and the pasta, giving it a good stir. Cook according to al dente, about 9-10 minutes.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat to shimmering. Add garlic, anchovies and chilies, cooking until fragrant, and the garlic is just beginning to turn golden, about 7-8 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, adding a little extra olive oil if necessary, and heat through.

When pasta is cooked al dente, drain, and toss with the sugo. Serve topped with a round of nice chevre, and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

I don’t know if it helped the family’s colds, but they loved it, so “It couldn’t hurt.”

Buon appetito!

Comments Off

Comments are closed.