Wednesday, January 27, 2010

celebrating a recovery by revelling in some scrumptuous dishes - recipe: spaghetti puttanesca in 11 minutes

If you read my last column, you might recall that earlier this month I had my wisdom teeth removed. During my recovery, I spent many of my waking hours considering what I’d prepare once I was finally able to chew again.

Let’s just say that my husband has been a happy camper of late. We both love Italian food, so that’s what I’ve been focusing my efforts on. Our first meal was a hearty and comforting polenta served with 2 sauces: a meaty Bolognese and a tomato basil. For the tomato basil sauce, I took a tip from a client and reduced (by half) our tomato basil soup over high heat. It only took about 10 minutes and was delicious.

I also made one of David’s favourite pasta’s – spaghetti with aglio, oilo e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and pepper). It’s as good as its ingredients are simple and its preparation easy.

Another favourite, and a new recipe for me, was pork chops with vinegar & peppers. David put a copy of Cooks Illustrated magazine, their Italian Favourites special issue (hint, hint, wink, wink…) in my Christmas stocking this year, which is where I found the recipe. I loved this dish – and I knew that David would too, as he has a full-blown obsession with vinegar.

Lastly, I prepared spaghetti puttanesca in 11 minutes, (said to have been created by the Neapolitan ladies of the night) also from the same special issue of Cooks Illustrated. We quite enjoyed the flavours but found that the pasta tasted even better the next day.

Cook’s Illustrated Spaghetti Puttanesca in 11 Minutes

serves: 4 to 6


  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • table salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons minced anchovies (I used anchovy paste)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained, ½ (one half) cup juice reserved
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • ½ cup good quality black olives, pitted and chopped coarse
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves


  • Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot. Meanwhile, mix garlic with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; set aside. When water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate pasta.
  • Immediately heat oil, garlic mixture, red pepper flakes and anchovies in a large skillet over medium heat, cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.
  • Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, then return pasta to pot; add ¼ cup reserved tomato juice and toss to combine.
  • Stir capers, olives and parsley into sauce. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine, adding more tomato juice to moisten if necessary. Adjust seasonings with salt; serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

dreaming of eating solid foods again - recipe: meatballs stuffed with applewood smoked bacon & bocconcini mozzarella

For the past several days, I’ve been dreaming about the quintessential steak meal: a rib eye, grilled medium rare, served up with a side of crispy fried shallots, sautéed garlic mushrooms and baked potatoes with butter, chives and sour cream.

I suppose it’s not so unusual for a foodie to have dreams with an epicurean focus. However, I think it’s because I’m not really eating much right now. No, no, I’m not on a diet. It’s because I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed last week.

It had to be done, and I’m so glad that it’s over. For a scaredy-cat like me, the anticipation of the surgery was almost as difficult as the recovery.

I’ve been downing soup and shakes, shakes and soup, for several days while watching my husband eat seemingly everything under the sun.

To make matters worse, I’ve been teasing myself by watching the Food Network. Last night, “Big Daddy” Aaron McCargo Jr. made a mouthwatering Italianesque feast — spaghetti with bacon and bocconcini meatballs, cheesy garlic bread and antipasto salad with Parmesan cheese and fried eggplant “croutons”.

The amount of cheese, olive oil, butter, bacon and deep frying that went on in this episode would normally disturb me, but not so much as I listened to my stomach rumble. In addition to watching more Food Network programming, I’m flipping through cookbooks trying to narrow down which dishes I’ll make once I recover.

As I write this, I have yet to decide what those dishes will be, but I will definitely be making these meatballs before spring arrives.

I haven’t tested the recipe yet but the recipe has been rated five stars (the highest) by many of the 47 cooks who have tried it.

"Big Daddy" Aaron McCargo Jr.'s meatballs stuffed with applewood smoked bacon & bocconcini mozzarella

Serve the meatballs with spaghetti and your favourite marinara sauce, or use them to make meatball subs.


  • 8 slices applewood smoked bacon (or use regular bacon)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package onion soup mix
    (note: this can be reduced to a half-package if you are concerned about sodium/saltiness)
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon beef stock or water
  • 8 to 10 mini bocconcini mozzarella balls


  • Preheat the oven to 400º F.
  • Arrange the bacon slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put in the oven and bake until bacon is crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan to a cutting board and chop. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the beef, Worcestershire sauce, onion soup mix, bread crumbs, black pepper, stock or water and the chopped bacon.
  • Form portions of the meat around the bocconcini to make smooth balls. Arrange the meatballs on a sheet pan with a rack and bake until thoroughly cooked and browned, about 12 to 20 minutes.

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