Puttanesca, the healing pasta sauce

It’s called puttanesca, which means the sauce of the ladies of the night. It’s spicy, sharp, intensely flavorful, and very, very good for you. Ingredients include olive oil, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, hot chile peppers, capers, anchovies and olives. In addition to packing a powerful taste punch, it’s exceptionally beneficial, proving the notion that food can also be medicine.

puttanescaLet’s run through this marvel of culinary pharmacology. First of all, you start with olive oil, extra virgin. This is heart-healthy oil, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the primary killer of adults worldwide. Rich in mono-unsaturated fats, olive oil is a key part of a heart-healthy diet.

Tomato sauce provides the base for a good puttanesca, and it also provides lycopene, a red antioxidant pigment that helps to protect cells overall, and has specific protective benefits for the prostate gland, helping to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Onions seem common, and often people don’t think about them much. But they are exceptionally good for reducing serum triglycerides, for thinning blood, and for reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Onions are highest in the super-antioxidant quercetin, which not only inhibits the aging process, but has anti-cancer properties as well.

Garlic is legendary for keeping vampires away, but its best role is in fighting bacteria. Used as an antibiotic, garlic kills almost every bacteria that can contaminate food. Studies show that garlic also helps to reduce high blood pressure, acting in a manner similar to that of blood pressure medications, by decreasing peripheral vascular resistance.

Hot chile peppers do more than add some zip to a dish. They also act as vasodilators, improving the rate and volume of blood flow, thereby improving nourishment to all parts of the body. Additionally, hot chiles are thermogenic, which means that they burn calories. In fact, hot chiles can help you to burn an average of 20 percent more calories after eating. On top of that, hot chiles cause the brain to produce feel-good endorphins, thus enhancing mood.

Capers, which come from a Mediterranean bush, not only add a bit of salty flavor to the sauce, but also possess anti-cancer properties. Capers help to reduce the risk of ulcers by inhibiting the ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria, and they additionally improve blood sugar by reducing high blood sugar after a meal. As if that weren’t enough, capers are a traditional remedy for the relief of rheumatic pain, due to their anti-inflammatory action.

Anchovies add a bit of fish flavor and protein to puttanesca sauce, and are also rich in heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s help the body to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, improve skin and metabolism, enhance mental health and cognitive function, and are anti-inflammatory, thus reducing the risk of most major chronic degenerative diseases. Mashed up in puttanesca, anchovies add a special tang.

Lastly olives round out puttanesca, providing many of the same cardio benefits as olive oil, in addition to adding flavor and texture.

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When life gives you onions, no need to cry

Karen Makowski wrote in a few months ago, looking for salad recipes to use up a bumper crop of onions from the garden. Clearly, it’s not gardening season right now, but we can dream. In the meantime, these recipes also work as refreshing winter salads.
Thanks to Linda Snider for her recipe for onion and orange salad. I also found a version that combines onions with tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

Onion and Orange Salad

onion16 large oranges
45 ml (3 tbsp) red wine vinegar
90 ml (6 tbsp) olive oil
5 ml (1 tsp) dried oregano
Salad greens
1 red onion, thinly sliced in rings
250 ml (1 cup) black olives (see note)
Black pepper, to taste
60 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh chives
Peel oranges and then cut each into 4 or 5 crosswise slices. Transfer to shallow dish and drizzle with vinegar and oil and sprinkle with oregano. Toss gently, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Arrange salad greens in a shallow serving dish. Toss oranges again, arrange on greens. Arrange onion and black olives on top. Add pepper to taste and garnish with chives.

Tester’s notes: I like the crunch and the combination of intense flavours in this easy salad. Linda continues the fruit theme by replacing the olives with blueberries. I did use olives — I like the mix of hot, sweet and salty tastes — but I cut the amount to about 60 ml (1/4 cup), using them as an accent rather than a main ingredient.

Onion, Tomato and Cucumber Salad

onion24 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place tomatoes, onions and cucumbers in a serving bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Let flavours blend for 30 minutes, then serve.

Tester’s notes: Another easy chopped salad. Some crumbled feta cheese would be a good addition.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2015 C5

(Source: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com)

Eataly Chicago Hosts a Celebration of Italian Flavors

By LUCIANA SQUADRILLI on November 7, 2014 | Filed in Olive Oil World |

Olives – beside olive oil – are a staple of the Mediterranean diet and appear in many traditional Italian recipes, but they are not often considered as a real “ingredient” and are often ignored by modern, creative cuisine.

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Focusing on culinary traditions and innovations was the aim of the lessons recently held at Identità Golose Chicago, the roaming Italian culinary congress hosted for the first time at Eataly’s La Scuola. Italian and American chefs were called in to interpret different Italian ingredients chosen by the event organizers. As founder of Identità Golose, Paolo Marchi pointed out “Italy progresses — it is not only made of pasta and pizza, and it continues to think over its own gastronomic culture. This is why it is important to show the contemporary face of our tradition.” So, after a lesson dedicated to truffles, the Italian chef Davide Oldani (known for his “pop” cuisine at D’O in Cornaredo near Milan) and Cleveland-born Lee Wolen (chef and partner at Boka restaurant in North Halsted Street, Chicago) had to find a way to include olives in their recipes. And they did it gloriously.

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