Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pasta Puttanesca

As mentioned in the previous post, this dish is named for hookers—puttana in Italian. It’s a great pasta dish, especially if you like capers (which I do). It has a bit of a kick, but you can adjust the red pepper flakes up or down, as you wish. You may also wish to decorate the finished dish with fresh basil leaves or serve it with grated cheese. Note that the ratio of sauce to pasta is more authentically Italian than most Americans expect—that is, the pasta is still visible and the sauce is more of a flavoring, not the actual meal. But don’t worry, this sauce is powerfully flavorful, and too much of it would be overwhelming. Enjoy.

Pasta Puttanesca

1/4 cup olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lb. plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbs. capers, drained
1 cup pitted black olives, sliced
3/4 cup chicken broth
2-oz. can anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente Continue reading


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The Name Game

What’s in a name? Well, if you’re a food item, it might be anything from a description of your appearance to a regional or historical association to an expected reaction. Below is just a small sampling of some of the fun names associated with foods, but it may just give you an idea of how colorful (and in at least one case, misleading) these names can be.

One example of a food generally known by its appearance is ladyfingers, which look to some like long, female digits—except that in Britain and the U.S. this sobriquet identifies narrow strips of golden cake, while in India it refers to okra. Not so obviously named for appearance is cabbage, the name of which comes from caboche, an Old French word that means “head.” Cappuccino got its name from the fact that coffee with milk is just about the same color as the robes worn by Capuchin monks.

Imam bayildi (“the priest fainted”) suggests an anticipated reaction to a flavorful, oil-soaked eggplant dish. Xnipek, the name of a popular salsa in the Yucatan, means “dog snout,” which supposedly refers to the runny nose this fiery sauce engenders. And the name of the great Italian dish saltimbocca means “jumps in the mouth,” which it certainly always does for me any time I see it on a menu.

Most people are surprised to learn that German chocolate cake is named for one of its major ingredients, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, which was itself named for its creator, an Englishman named Sam German. The cake was invented in Texas in 1957. (As a German friend of mine once noted, when this confused nomenclature was explained, “I wondered why I’d never seen this back home. And I wondered why a German would be using coconut.”) Continue reading

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Filed under culinary history, Culture, Food, History, Language