Puttanesca is a dish I learned about while attending the natural foods cooking intensive with Christina Pirello a couple weekends ago. Before the weekend, I had heard of puttanesca, but the word didn’t mean that much to me. There are so many Italian food descriptors – caprese, cacciatore, piccata, and carbonara, to name just a few – and when I hear them, I know they’re Italian, but that’s about it.
Now I’ll always remember puttanesca. It comes from the Italian word puttana which means, shall we say, “lady of the night.” Those ladies would throw quick meals together with what they had on hand, which included fresh tomatoes, olives, and capers. As a bonus, olives are considered an aphrodesiac.
Fresh tomatoes are abundant at the markets here now. We get what are called creole tomatoes, which are tomatoes grown in the Mississippi Delta soil. They’re so red and flavorful. So I thought I’d cook up a puttanesca. To do so, I adapted this recipe from Christina. Among a couple other tweaks, I added chickpeas to add protein to the dish and topped it with fresh herbs. It’s a simple yet tasty summer dish that I’ll be making repeatedly over the coming months, I’m sure.
Inspired by a recipe found at Christina Cooks
Time: 30 minutes
I enjoyed the puttanesca with polenta, although you could pair it with pasta as an alternative. The puttanesca sauce is great to make with fresh in-season tomatoes, but if they aren’t available you could use diced tomatoes instead (about 2 cups). If you like your sauce extra spicy, double up on the red pepper flakes.
1 cup cornmeal (I use medium-ground yellow cornmeal from Bob’s Red Mill, or their polenta mix)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk (optional)
Put 4 cups of water in a medium pot to boil. When it boils, add the salt and olive oil and whisk in the cornmeal. Turn the heat down to low and whisk the mixture a bit more. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes to prevent the cornmeal from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the soymilk (optional).
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, diced small
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
about 15 kalamata olives, chopped (1/3 cup chopped)
2 tablespoons capers
1 (14-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
Bring a pot of water to boil and immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water for about one minute. Remove the tomatoes from the pot, run them under cold water to cool them off, and peel the skin. Remove the cores, cut the tomatoes in half across their “waist,” and squeeze out the seeds as best you can. Chop the tomatoes and set them aside.
Place the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic while the oil is still at room temperature and swirl it around a bit in the oil. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the shallot, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt and saute for about 2 minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas, season with salt (about 1/4 teaspoon if not more), and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
Serve the chickpea puttanesca over the polenta and top with fresh herbs if desired.
© 2011 BistroKatie.com
What’s your favorite way to use those fresh in-season tomatoes? Do you have a favorite sauce you like to make? I would love to know.