I have mixed feelings about the Food Network. I would certainly be lying if I said that I never watch it and that I get all of my cooking information and entertainment from Larousse Gastronomique. While I’m dubious of many of the cooking show hosts, I like Ina Garten’s show and her simple but elegant recipes, and I think “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” is fun. In recent years though, I’ve seen a decline in programming that piques my interest. Commercialization has brought quantity over quality and showmanship over culinary chops.
Over the summer, I happened upon a new show (which will remain nameless) hosted by a woman who is semi-famous for advocating super low-calorie eating. From her cartoon-like kitchen, she uses words like “ginormous” and “deliciousness” to describe a cioppino made of canned clams and tomato soup and skewers made of fat-free hot dog chunks (um, what?) and canned pineapple. Too often, I think “healthy” food and “diet” food are used interchangeably, and this show takes it to a dangerous level for impressionable viewers. Her recipes, if you can call them that, are nothing but an amalgamation of already prepped and very unhealthy ingredients. I guess that’s why the people behind the Food Network came up with the Cooking Channel, because they probably actually do some of it on those shows.
This recipe for Pasta Puttanesca comes from a much less showy personality who used to grace the Food Network, Ellie Krieger. For Ellie, nuts, salmon and olive oil were good because of their nutritional benefits. For this new gal, they’re bad, because they’re high in calories and fat. Instead, she advocates sautéeing veggies in a light coating of PAM and measuring kernels of corn for salads by the teaspoon.
I found the recipe a couple of years ago on Smitten Kitchen, and it has become one of my go-to weeknight dinners, not because it’s healthy, which it is, but because it’s good. I will not recount the whorish legends behind it; I’m sure you all know the story. It is incredibly flavorful for barely being simmered, and it packs a little bit of heat. With only one substitution, it uses ingredients I love and always have in my pantry and fridge. The kalamata olives and capers bring their trademark brininess, which contrasts the more-than-subtle nuttiness achieved through the use of whole wheat pasta, a squirt of anchovy paste, and a sprinkle of good parmesan.
I would love to say something corny like, “your friends and family will never know that this is healthy”, but they probably will, and what’s wrong with that? It’s not a sad imposter or a “recipe remake” of a high calorie meal. It’s healthy because it’s fresh, hearty and satisfying, and that’s how I like to eat.
adapted from Ellie Krieger
8 ounces whole-wheat thin spaghetti, vermicelli or angel hair
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably “no salt added”
3/4 cup chopped fresh arugula (I sometimes use spinach, because I usually have it on hand, and it works fine. The arugula, though, adds more peppery kick)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.
When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with grated cheese.
I love quick dinners like this that appear more impressive than they are. I am not a huge pasta fan…correction, I am not a huge marinara fan, so I like it when I find a non-marinara based pasta that’s reliable and quick.
I completely agree on the Food Network thing, too. I still like Ina Garten’s show, even though I never see it since I don’t have cable, but most of the shows don’t really teach you anything. Or get me excited about food. You’d think they should do at least one of the two.
I used to love Ellie’s show and have both of her books. They need to bring her back!! Are you talking about Hungry Girl? I don’t have the Cooking Channel but this show sounds awful. Healthy food doesn’t need to be diet food – it can just be healthy for you…. duh :)
PS – I stumbled this post :)
Yes, she’s actually on the Food Network now. The thing that bothers me is that she has a lot of fans that swear by her way of eating for losing weight when they’re probably doing more damage in the long run from eating too few calories or just consuming all of that junk she calls food. Not that I have a strong opinion on this or anything ;)
I love Ina, too. It’s the only show I can handle on there. Oh, okay, I do like Throwdown with Bobby Flay. I’ll admit it.
This looks yummy. I’ll have to put i on my ever growing list of recipes I need to get to!
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