Sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, capers, red peppers…spell “Heaven”

In Recipies on July 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Phyne Dyners will recall that the home of the Phyne Dyner recently completed a month-long shugyo (Japanese: “austere training”) consisting of meatless dining.  The close of the month inspired us and made our palates more appreciative of the flavors so many of our fellow Americans take for granted.

Our Independence Day steaks were pure ecstasy!

Today’s recipe hails from our latest shugyo experience.

This is a recipe destined for a great future.  The ingredients are healthy beyond belief.  There are sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, garlic, sweet-red peppers, bold olives, and strong tones of capers, garden fresh basil, and oregano.

The sun-dried tomato is one of my favorite ingredients.  Anyone who has experienced dried “anything” will attest to knowing that the flavors of dried (raw) foods is exactly like that of fresh…magnified many, many times.  Consequently, the “berriest” berries are dried berries.  A sun-dried tomato will give you all of its flavors in one, compact package.

They are pungent-sweet and the sunshine within them explodes on the tongue like a Roman candle.  Ahhhhhh!

Next on the flavor parade…fresh red-sweet peppers.  When combined with the flavors of tomato…pure Heaven!  We often serve roasted or sautéd red peppers with pasta.  They taste like…Summer!

Remember, these are the foods of our human ancestors!

The recipe also uses bold, kalamata olives.  They have a “meaty” flavor and texture.  Please do not substitute those horrid black, California olives!  When using kalamata olives in any dish, always be sure to feel each slice for pits and pit fragments.  Blowing out dental work with an olive pit…is the pits.

The spinach adds a third, bitter, dimension to the dish.  “Bitter” has bitter connotations.  However, when presented alongside the very sweet sun-dried tomatoes and the “camphor-esque” flavors of fresh basil…the “bitterness” of the spinach recedes to a mild undertone or “foil”.  It also adds a delightful green freshness to an otherwise “red” plate.


…the herbs!

Fresh basil and fresh oregano are essential to this dish!  It is possible to prepare this dish using dried herbs (use 1/3 of the amount specified), but using fresh herbs will make it BEYOND spectacular.  I beg you not to substitute dried herbs (unless it means forgoing the dish).  Many supermarket mass food retailers sell fresh basil and oregano.  Try them and vow to grow your own herb garden next year!

And, to top it off…


Capers are immature peppercorns preserved in brine.  They are a staple in many Mediterranean and North African dishes.  On (infrequent) lazy Sunday mornings, we love capers with kippers (or salmon) and eggs.  Just be sure to rinse them carefully, lest your sodium intake explode.  By the way…serve your kippers, capers, and eggs with carefully crafted “mimosas” of mediocre champagnes and OJ.  Experience a decadent “rich man’s brunch” for less than $5 per person!  (This is Mrs. Phyne Dyner’s favorite “breakfast in bed”.)

I digress!

Here is the recipe.  A (*) indicates that a substitution is possible.  In my opinion, this recipe is best prepared using the ingredients specified.  However, a minimally passable representation of the dish can be made using substitutes.  The substitution list is included.  After all, Phyne Dyning is about making “do” with what we have and the Phyne Dyning lifestyle disdains all things pretentious.  I beg you to try the dish in whatever form you can…THEN go for perfection!

Here we go!

8 oz (by weight) mostaccioli pasta*

2 TBS olive oil (from oil-packed tomatoes)

1 large sweet red pepper thinly sliced

2 C oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped**

2 C spinach leaves, finely chopped***

4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 C kalamata (or any bold, dark olive), chopped

½ C (packed) fresh basil, minced

1 TBS (packed) fresh oregano, minced

¼ C capers, well rinsed

½ C “Phyne Dyning Romano Blend” (below)****


* rotini or penne pasta

** or simple vacuum-packed sun-dried tomatoes with 2 TBS olive oil added

*** equal volume of frozen, chopped spinach

****store-brand Romano cheese

Phyne Dyning Romano Blend:  To one cup of finely grated pecorino Romano cheese add… ¼ C Panko breadcrumbs, 1 tsp sea salt, ½ tsp freshly ground pepper.

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions.  I prefer mine to be slightly al dente and undercook it by a minute or two.  Drain and rinse the pasta and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and red pepper to the oil and sauté for three minutes.  Stir in the garlic and sauté an additional two minutes…being careful not to allow the garlic to brown.  Reduce heat to low-medium. Add in the tomatoes, olives, spinach, capers and herbs.  Cook, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes.  Toss in pasta.  Remove from heat.  Fold in the Phyne Dyning blend or store-bought Romano cheese.  Toss well to blend.

Serve with crusty bread, a stout (!) red wine, and a fresh garden salad (lots of fresh feta!).

I absolutely guarantee that you will forget that you are eating something “healthy” when you sit down to a plate of the above.

It is a flavorful and satisfying food…decadent enough for a Roman emperor…but humble enough for a Spartan warrior.

Enjoy! (All rights reserved 2011)


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