Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

It was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on April 12. I didn’t know about it until the morning, however I was fortunate enough to have bread and cheese in my house.

I wasn’t even looking for any inspiration for my Grilled Cheese, because butter, bread and cheese are like getting three stars in Candy Crush Soda Saga. Anything is just extra.

However I stumbled upon this video in my facebook feed, How to Make a New Jersey Grilled Cheese, from I was serendipitously inspired for I had scrapple at home.

This isn’t going to be a recipe but just a story about making a wee labor of love.

I came home from work and took down my iron skillet, turned on the burner to high and let it heat up. I returned to the refrigerator and took out butter, extra sharp cheddar, Colman's mustard and scrapple. After returning to the stove with my cold goodies, I lowered the heat to medium-high and added a pat of butter to the skillet to watch it melt. I snuck back to the pantry and grabbed my loaf of whole wheat bread.

I prepared the cheese, shaving off thick slices for the sandwich. I ended up with two pieces of cheese per slice of bread. This was going to be cheesy. I continued slicing as I worked off two pieces of scrapple about an 1/8th of an inch thick. I added them to the skillet and let them cook, wanting them to crisp up as crunchy as possible.

I distracted myself from the cooking scrapple and in turn letting it come close to charring by taking my last remaining of yellow cherry tomatoes from some salads earlier in the week. I knew they would make a wonderful addition to the sandwich. I checked on the scrapple after washing the tomatoes and flipped the slices once. I went ahead and cut the tomatoes into four mini slices to sprinkle in the middle of my sandwich.

Finally the scrapple was a warm brown hue and stiff as a board when I lifted it out of the skillet. I turned the heat of the skillet down to medium. I sat my pieces on paper towel to collect the butter oil.

I opened the store bought bread and I took each slice and buttered them on one side, while adding an additional pat of butter to the skillet. When all four slices were buttered, I placed them butter side down and slathered mustard on the exposed sides of the bread. Immediately, I topped the mustard with the cheese – again two slices of cheddar for slide of bread. There was a lot of waiting involved in making these sandwiches. I covered the skillet with a lid to encourage the cheese to melt. I had to wait two to three minutes until the cheese transformed from an immovable solid to a gooey liquid about to lose its form. At that moment, I added the tomatoes to two slices of bread and the remaining scrapple to the other two pieces.

I reached for the spatula and flipped the tomato-topped bread slice onto the scrapple-topped slice and pressed them together with the back of my kitchen tool. I flipped them once to see the other side and reveled at the darkening brown of the toast. I was still on this side of burning it.

I removed the sandwiches from the skillet and paused for a beat before slicing into the them diagonally. The cheese melted and slowly dripped out of the bread. I could not wait anymore.

I lifted a piece up to my mouth and enjoyed National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. 

Then I thought, how in God's name in my 43 years on earth did it never occur to me to fry up some scrapple and put it in my grilled cheese?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

End Dry January in Chicago

I went to Chicago on a whim to get out of Philadelphia.  I was thinking about going to New York, but I realized that Chicago was going to be cheaper. (FYI, there’s a 3-day sale on Amtrak for Philly to New York or to Boston; I'm buying a ticket.)

I've never traveled to Chicago solo before. I was always traveling with others or to visit friends; for rugby or once for work. However, I took advantage of my familiarity with the city and explored some of the great places that Chicago has. 

Tripe, Chorizo and Tongue tacos
I flew into Midway on Southwest and immediately headed to my hotel, Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago. The hotel was only a 3 1/2 block walk from the Loop. While Loop tends to shut down for the weekend, there was a 24-hours Dunkin Donuts two blocks away should you need it. There was a Walgreen open until midnight, five blocks away. 

I hopped on line and researched bars for the evening. I ended up chatting with a local who suggested the SoFo Tap to me. I called for an über and went up to Andersonville for the night. I entered the bar and it seemed familiar, like I may have been there for a rugby drink up years ago. I wasn't sure. It was a fun bar - I liked the music, as soon as I walked in there was Taylor Swift and the next song was Miles Cyrus - but the beer selection was mundane.

It was about 12:30 am and the crowd thinned out and I explored two more Andersonville bars, having only a drink at each, before calling it a night.  However, while waiting for the 22 bus to take me back to the Loop, I noticed the Taqueria El Chorrito at the corner. The minor buzz of customers coming out of the restaurant caught my attention and drew me in. There were several types of offal meat available as taco. At 1 something in the morning after drinking for the first time in 29 days (My Dry January), offal tacos sounded wonderful. In fact, they were superb and that wasn't the beer talking! 

The view, South
103 stories above Wacker Drive.

I returned to my hotel and prepared some Pedialyte before bed. The next thing I know is that it's about 8:30 am. I'm determined to get to the Willis Tower when it opens. All the reviews I've read suggested getting there, first thing, before the rest of the tourists crowds arrive. 

It's the best piece of advice that I got for this trip. I was there at 9:50 am and they were letting people up just before the 10:00 am opening. I pre-purchased my ticket and already had it printed out at the hotel. I bypassed a few curves of the stanchioned line and rose to the 103rd floor.

Others in the Ledge
The view was wonderful. The day was sunny, yet there were clouds in the sky. It didn't hinder the visibility. I quickly headed over to the Ledge, a glass balcony extending four feet outside Willis Tower directly above Wacker Drive and the Chicago River. This addition provides a glimpse below, unobstructed. 

I took an über from where I was staying in the Loop up to the Mag Mile, to The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile. I recall the Magnificent Mile as the location of the Omni Hotel, where “guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show stay.” It’s so much more than that. I’m sure that Second City may shrug at this comparison, but Michigan Avenue feels like New York’s Fifth Avenue with a lot more breathing room. A wide boulevard with high end shopping – the Burberry store, for example, is clad with an onyx cage interpretation of its hallmark tartan – and tourists and Chicagoan bustling alike. The area was always busy and the Tremont is so close to many Chicago landmarks and points of interest. 

My room and the John Hancock Center through the window
I get settled in my room and there are two windows, one facing north and the other east. I threw the roman shades up to get some light in. The north-facing window over looked a parking out. I drew up the shade of the east-facing window and I felt like I was on “Let’s Make a Deal” picking door number 3 which was the new car, I had a view of the Mag Mile and the John Hancock Center in front of me. Winner, winner! 

I figure out my plans for the rest of my day into evening, in no particular order: lunch, nap, dinner and drinks. I head out and leisurely stroll and window shop along Michigan Avenue and I found an Armenia restaurant, Sayat Nova. I ordered three mezes: jajic, tourshee and lamajoun. The jajic is a fresh cucumber salad with yogurt, dill and mint with a little bit of olive oil. The tourshee is a combination of vegetables: onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower and hot peppers pickled with with malt vinegar. The lamajoun is a flat bread with topped minced beef, herbs, onions and parsley which is then baked like a pizza. It was a delicious treat for a day of tourists attractions and shopping.

Jajic and tourshee
Sai oua and larb gai

I returned to the Tremont, took a bath and settled in for a nap, a disco nap. After some more recon, I mapped out my path: Silver Spoon Thai Restaurant for dinner, Second Story Bar and either Sidetrack in Boystown or Big Chicks in Andersonville - or both.

I feasted on sai oua - a grilled pork sausage from northern Thailand containing minced pork meat, herbs, spices and red curry paste - and larb gai - a Lao minced meat salad also popular in Northern Thailand served with fish sauce, lime juice, chili, mint, shaved carrots, shredded cabbage and sprouts. (For those playing at home, larb is what I tried to make the day I went into the hospital for my appendix.) 

A view of the Second Story Bar
I can't explain it - a T. Rex with a diamond choker collar

Between dinner and the bars, I sought out a drink at the Second Story Bar, so named because it is the only business on the second floor of its building, which so happens to be where my Armenia restaurant is.  I ordered a local brew, Anti-Hero IPA by Revolution Brewing Company, and took in the eclectic scene. This is a bar that I would come back to, again and again.

I nursed my two drinks to take in the atmosphere. It was a mash up of styles and eras. Christmas decorations were still up and I would bet that they had been up there for years. An assortment of gay flags and symbols adorn the walls as well as advertisements for national beer chains and local sports teams paraphernalia. It was edgy but warm. Yet it was getting later in the evening and I wanted to get out of Near North Side.

Chicago River
Crown Fountain

I took the bus up to Big Chicks and found an equally but differently eclectic bar for me to stay awhile. I ordered the Goose Island 312, which I remember having at a rugby drink up many years ago. I had drank enough of the them that I started to call the beer a 215. The alcohol impaired my memory - I knew it was named after an area code, but I couldn't remember which one. Again, I took in the crowd. The TV were playing videos until someone turned on the Mighty Boosh, an British comedy television show eponymously named for the British comedy troupe who created it. It was wacky. Needless to say, I finished my night here. 

Cloud Gate
 I took my time on Sunday to enjoy the time that I had remaining in Chicago, relaxing in bed. Eventually, I needed to check out. Thanks to the Starwood Preferred Guest, I didn't have to check out until 4pm.  My flight home wasn’t until 9pm.

I finally strolled down to the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park and spent an hour taking in the city.  In my back pocket was my last visit of the trip - to head up to Clark and Division to go to Chicago q. In everything thing I read – yelp, travelzoo, gaycities –  Chicago q always had 5 star reviews. 

I love barbecue and the day had turned grey and rainy, so some barbecue would take the edge off. I enter the quiet spot and was greeted with a smile and question, “One, today?” I affirmed her inquiry. After striking up a rapport with the bartender, Pat, I order a BBq Flight: brisket, pulled pork and brisket meatballs and a whiskey from Utah. Pat also set me up with the house bread and butter pickles and potato chips with their St. Louis ribs dry rub. The brisket was good, but the brisket meatballs were better. However, the barbecued pork was amazing. I thanked Pat for his suggestions and paid my tab. I slowly walked back to the L to start my trek to O’Hare, full as a tick. 
My Dinner at Chicago q

Finally, I arrive at the airport, pleased to have had such a fun weekend. I had prepared this entire trip on the premise that I was taking Spirit Airlines home. I was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Casey’s Vegan Chili

It's Lent and chili is one of my favorite food.  I have been working on a vegan version to have for meatless Fridays and other reasons.  I've tried about five or six versus until I settled in on this one. In the end I wanted a chili that felt as filling as one con carne versus having the same exact texture. Chili, for me, must "stick to the ribs." That is the source of comfort for me.

In my quest for a vegan chili, I made sure that I never started it with a mirepoix. I'm not a champion for carrots in my chili; it's my personal pet peeve.  You may find it odd that that is what drives me. However, I searched for the appropriate base for this meal and centered in on a vegetable base of onion, garlic and peppers which is more of a Spanish nod. While I know kale isn't really a Mexican ingredient, the baby blue squash is. Yet if you can't find that squash, any zucchini or summer squash will do. I wanted to stick with more authentic vegetables, so I added the jalapeño to the mix since that pepper is a chili. Be warned, this recipe has some residual heat from the jalapeño.

Also I'm serious about chopping the kale as finely as possible; the smaller the pieces the more dense the chili feels.


Serving suggestion
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1½ cps onions, chopped (one large onion)
  • 3 cps peppers, chopped (2 large peppers)
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped 
  • 8 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 lbs kale, chopped as small as possible
  • 2 cps baby blue squash, cubed (one large squash)
  • 5 T chili powder 
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 t dried basil
  • ½ t dried oregano
  • ½ t dried thyme
  • ½ t salt, or to taste 
  • ½ t black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1 14½ -oz vegetable broth
  • 1 12 oz beer 
  • 3 15.5 oz cans of beans, drained if desired
  1. Heat a large sauce pan, dutch oven, etc. over medium heat; add the oil and heat through. Stir in the onion, garlic, peppers and jalapeño; cook until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Sauté the kale, about 1/3 of the kale a time, until about 1/3 of the original volume, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Add the cubed squash and continue to sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Add chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and black pepper, and cook until the aroma is released, about 1-2 minutes more.
  5. Mix in tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, broth and beer. (Start with the paste first, mixing well into the kale – it helps to get the paste distributed into the other liquids.)
  6. Bring to a boil, then add the beans.
  7. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, about 1 hour 15 minutes or longer.
  8. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
So I played around with this recipes and I like to use a variety of beans in my chili. Another helpful hint is to buy a 12 oz can of tomato paste, then use half and freeze the remaining. I tend to make chili and butter chicken in close proximity in time so the remaining paste is never in the freeze for too long.

Lastly, like the sugo alla puttanesca, this is a great braising liquid - especially for pork - which is such a Tex-Mex protein. I brown the pork on all sides and top with 1/2 cup of chili per 1/4 pound of meat - adding additional water, wine or broth to thin the sauce out if needed, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for at least an hour.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Butter Chicken

Butter chicken or murgh makhani is an Indian chicken dish in a mild curry sauce, whose roots lay in Punjabi cuisine.

I first remember having butter chicken when I was in Australia over ten years ago. I was visiting a boyfriend at the time and we were coming home from a night out and we were famished. There was a curry shop on Oxford Street en route between the bars and the QVB, where we would pick up our late night bus. There were about five to seven curries available. Butter chicken didn't look like what I thought butter chicken would, but I thought that it smells fantastic.  I ordered it and the server ladled a healthy portion over fresh, hot jasmine rice.  I remember it wasn't just the alcohol or the hunger talking; this dish tasted amazing. 

The final portion from my Pre-Christmas batch, see below
When I see it on Indian buffets (though it's not really a common buffet dish), I am excited and I always sample it. About a year ago, I noticed that a friend over in the UK would make off-hand comments about having butter chicken when we would catch up, because it's a very popular dish over there. Through this power of suggestion, I started to crave butter chicken. Meanwhile across the pond, one can readily get frozen entrees of butter chicken in a local supermarket. Due to the empire, Indian foods aren't exotic to the Brits. It's ubiquitous there. Here in the States, there are only two opinions: go to an Indian restaurant or learn to make.

And I love to make it. I do it a little more complicated than my original source recipe.  How I mostly complicate the dish is that I don’t use boneless, skinless chicken thighs like the source recipe calls for.  I love chicken meat on the bone because the flavor is that more rich.  If I had a cleaver, I would just skin the thighs and then hack them into pieces – bones and all. However what I do, is remove as much meat as possible but leave some on the bone and add all the pieces in.  I try to serve each serving with one of the thigh bones to enjoy how flavorful the on-the-bone meat is. It's a little trying, messy and slick, but it's, in the end, worth it. 

Finally, remember to warn people about the cardamom pods if you don't remove them.  I always forget that they are there at least once a batch. I bite into it and, damn, those things bit back.


  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 large chicken thighs, skin removed and cut into bite-sized pieces from the bone.
  • 2 t curry powder
  • 1 T curry paste (I’ve used anything from a cube of S&B GoldenCurry, to Patak’s, to some red, green and panang curries from Thailand)
  • 2 t tandoori masala (I have a local Indian and Pakistani market where I can get them for $2 each, but if you can't find them, I'd bet would have both masalas available.)
  • 1 t garam masala
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 14 oz coconut milk (1 can)
  • 15 green cardamom pods
  • salt to taste


  1. Melt the butter and vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the onion, garlic and chicken; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the curry powder, curry paste, tandoori masala, garam masala and tomato paste until the tomato paste is well incorporated.
  4. Add in coconut milk and yogurt, and mix well
  5. Stir in the cardamom pods and season to taste with salt.
  6. Bring to a boil and immediate reduce to a simmer and let cook for at least 1 hour; cook for longer to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency.
  7. Try your best to remove the cardamom pods before serving.

This year, I added this dish to my parents' Christmas food gifts. For about a decade, I started to give the gift of chili to my parents. (I was poor and didn't have money for a lot of Christmas gifts; so I made some of my chili that would last me for a while and I scoped up and froze two big portions to give to mom and dad. Voilà, a Christmas tradition.) Before my trek to San Francisco, I made a big batch of butter chicken since I was craving it. Yet I needed to portion it out and freeze it since I wouldn't have finished it in time before my trip. I love my parents; I love my butter chicken. I figured no better way to show them I care and gift them another of my most favorite dishes.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

So I flew Spirit Airlines

I had a blast in Chicago this weekend, but I'll save that for another entry.
Cloud Gate by Anish Kupoor
Back to Spirit, I prepared for the worst and I worked diligently not to be charged any extra fees.  I flew out on Southwest, the luxury brand of low-cost carriers. I had a lovely experience and all my Spirit prep helped me deplane in a jiffy to walk miles and miles and miles to the CTA orange line. I got my 10,000 steps in both days in Chicago, I'll have you know.

So my Spirit Airline prep, I had my Timbuk2 bag, which measures 15.0” x 13.8” x 7.9” (smaller than the 16” x 14” x 12” dimensions for the one personal item is included in the Bare Fare). I crammed it full: 6 tee shirts, 6 boxer briefs, 6 pairs of socks, a pair of sneakers, a rugby style shirt, a light cotton hoodie, gym shorts and tee, toiletries (toothpaste, eczema cream, cologne, deodorant, shaving cream, moisturizer and lotion - I keep my toothbrush and razor separate since they aren't liquid) and an iPad. Plus, I wore a sweater and my chukkas to keep more room in the bag. It was more than enough clothing, and options, for 2 nights in Chicago. I could stretch it for 3 or 4 nights. I proved to myself that I could successfully pack minimally in the winter in order not to need to pay any baggage fees.

Confident that I wasn't going to pay any baggage fees, I vowed not to pay any other fees. I didn't choose my seat. I didn't pay for more legroom, I didn't accrue any extra cost while I was purchasing my ticket or checking in. (I even printed my boarding pass ahead of time at my hotel to avoid Spirit's $10 fee.)

Since I didn't paid for any extras - like $15 to choose a seat, I got seat 17B - a middle seat. After discovering that I would be stuck in the middle, I read up on Spirit's practices. To save money Spirit doesn't have wifi, stock in-flight magazines or even hand out free water. If Spirit pays to transport it, they charge you for it. Since there wouldn't be a magazine, I paid $9 and tax for Bossypants by Tina Fey for airplane - a superb investment.

I paid for soda and a snack. I feel that's a purchase over a fee. I rationalize. So do you. I buried my nose in the book and forgot that I was in a middle seat. It was comfortable enough - I've been less comfortable on Amtrak before. I was getting to the point about Tina's DelCo childhood and her memories at the Summer Showtime (a.k.a. the Upper Darby Summer Stage) when the pilot announced were making our final preparations to land.  The flight went by fast!

We landed a few minutes early. That, plus I only had a personal item, I had time to catch the last Septa train from the airport.

My trip worked out smoothly.

My critiques:
  • The below average legroom, 28", is completely obvious, though it wasn't a nuisance on a two-hour flight. 
  • There is only one flight from Philadelphia and one flight to: 6am-ish to ORD and 9pm-ish from ORD. What happens if that flight doesn't come in? A hidden plus to that is that you can do a full day trip to Chicago for the fare of a Spirit flight.

Not an issue:

  • No free water; everyone should know the life hack of carrying an empty bottle and filling it up after security. 

High points:
  • The flight crew was very outgoing - which is the trend on low-cost carriers. 
  • I had a minor issue with my snack and the flight attendant provide me good costumer service and got me to up-sell on a product.

Long and short of it, I will take Spirit back to Chicago with good planning; $81 is too good of a deal to pass up.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I'm visiting Chicago instead of New York

I was going to go to New York for a weekend – the weekend of January 29-31  – this weekend. I had gotten sick and ended up not going anywhere for New Year’s, so I thought I’d treat myself later. I found a great deal, $116.88 a night, in Midtown, a neighborhood I usually stay in. It was going to be an estimated $275.24 for the two nights with taxes and fees.

In my free time, I plan travel trips, whether or not I take them. It’s a great exercise for me to research new and old places to go as well as estimate the prices for big trips.

I was on goggle flights, playing around with dates and locations, and saw a ticket for $81 to Chicago for the weekend I was planning to go to New York. Now, the ticket was on Spirit Air, an airline I have never taken. I took a step back and thought about whether or not I should rethink my plans.

The Amtrak deal
If I had completely committed to go to New York, I could have purchased a round trip saver ticket on Amtrak for $78. With advanced planning, $78 is the lowest fare for Philadelphia to New York. (Though, just before I published this entry, Amtrak was running a Valentines Day special of $39 one way from Philadelphia to New York).

With that, I made up my mind to go to Chicago. I ended up spending a little more than $81, as to not take a day off and to eek in sometime at the weekly Happy Hour that I frequent since I will be breaking #DryJanuary tonight. I ended up paying $51.98 on Southwest for my flight to Midway and $43.09 to Spirit for my trip home. (I checked on Wednesday for pricing on Amtrak to NYC; there are no saver tickets, only value ticket and the total round trip is now $110).

Hyatt Centric: The Loop
Meanwhile, I was cleaning out my e-mails earlier in my planning process – work, personal, spam and old ones – and only just discovered an e-mail from Hyatt dated May 29, 2015, letting me know that my “account will be closed and all points forfeited if there's no activity by March 31, 2016.” I thought that I should at least keep this account open and booked a room for my arrival night at the Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago. I paid in advance and confirmed the room for $103.59 inclusive of taxes.

Never fear, I am a Starwood boy through and through. I love the W and Luxury Collection brands and there are usually a Sheraton, Westin or a Four Points close by for work travel. I found another deal on the site, The Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificent Mile for the estimated total of $93.99.

To compare apples to apples, I will assume that all transportation costs in the respective cities would cancel each other out and should not factor in the price comparison.

Trolley: $2.25 ($1.80 for token)
Trolley and train to Airport:
$8.00 ($6.50 in advance) +
$2.25 ($1.80 for token)
Amtrak: $78.00
Southwest, PHL to MDW:
Spirit Air, ORD to PHL: 
New York hotel, 2 nights: $275.24
Hyatt Centric - Loop, 1 night:
Tremont, 1 night:
Trolley: $2.25 ($1.80 for token)
Trolley and train from Airport:
$8.00 ($6.50 in advance) +
$2.25 ($1.80 for token)
Cost for NYC: $357.74
Cost for CHI:
The Tremont
So it may take me more time to get from Center City Philadelphia to the Loop than it would to get to Midtown, I think that it's all worth it to visit another one of America's great cities. Also, the weather is comparable between the two cities from

Friday: 41°F high, 24°F low 36°F high, 36°F low
Saturday: 40°F high, 31°F low46°F high, 37°F low
Sunday: 45°F high, 35°F low46°F high, 36°F low

Actually I think that I make out with the weather, too.

All in all, this little exercise shows that it's worth checking out the possibilities. You never know when ten days in Mexico can be more affordable than a week in Texas, for example.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sugo alla puttanesca

This is one of my favorite Italian dishes. I am a sucker for complex salty flavors: the slightly floral pickling of capers, the vinegary brine of green olives and the hidden fatty sharp and "fishy" taste of anchovies. There are times when I crave salt and this dish does it for me. 
Apocryphally described as a tomato sauce that was served in a brothel since it was based on the ingredients in their larders, this "in the style of a prostitute" sauce is a tangy, briny creation of the mid-20th century. The salty and fragrant ingredients are typical of Southern Italian cuisine: tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers and garlic.

Wikipedia has a less salacious origin story. More like Buffalo wings, puttanesca came about when hungry people sitting at a popular Italian night spot complained of needing to eat and the restaurant owner not having enough ingredients. "Make any kind of garbage (puttanata)," they retorted and the owner mixed his remaining tomatoes, olive and capers together and served the sauce over spaghetti. The rest, they say, is history.

Serving suggestion
I prefer the Lazian version over the Neapolitan, so my sauce has anchovies. This is traditionally served over spaghetti but any long thin string-like pasta works for this sauce. Also a variation of on this sauce is puttanesca with tuna, which, in turn I have extrapolated into chicken puttanesca, since the sauce is a great liquid for slow cooking meat since it's already delightfully seasoned. (See below.) I haven't tried it yet, but I have some pork chops in the freezer, and I'm going to do that later this week now. 

I craved this sauce this weekend since it's so hearty. Plus it really tasted good this weekend during the blizzard. I filled my plate with pasta and sauce, added freshly cracked pepper and sat on the porch to watch the snow continue to fall after one of my turns to shovel the steps and sidewalk.

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped 
  • 5-8 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste 
  • 1 2oz tin of anchovies, mashed 
  • 4 28oz cans of tomatoes, crushed and/or diced 
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste 
  • 1 6oz can black olives, drained and coarsely chopped 
  • 1 3oz jar green olives, with brine, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 3oz jar capers, with brine
  1. Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat; add the oil and heat through. Stir in the onion and garlic, cook until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. 
  2. Add the salt, black pepper, red pepper and anchovies, and cook until the aroma is released, about 1 minute more. 
  3. Add the tomatoes and paste and bring to a boil. Add the black olives, green olives with brine, capers with brine, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Serve over pasta
Again, I adore this sauce since it is so adaptable into other meals.

For pasta alla puttanesca con tunno: add a can of tuna 5-10 minutes before serving to heat up the tuna and to incorporate the preserving liquid into the sauce.

For pollo alla puttanesca: sear skinless and boneless chicken breast on both sides, cover with 1/2 cup of sauce per 1/4 pound of meat - adding additional water, wine or broth to thin the sauce out if needed, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for at least an hour.