Two years ago I went home to visit my father who was ill with colon cancer (he has since passed away). I was hesitant to stay with him and my stepmother because I did not want to invade their privacy, but my father insisted that I stay at his house. I’m glad he insisted because I had some of the best homemade meals cooked by my stepmother.
I loved everything she cooked, just the way I loved everything my own mother cooked. When I left, my notebook must have been filled with a dozen recipes, including how to pickle green mangoes. Did you know that raw mangoes soaked in vinegar, sugar and spices make great appetizers?
There was one dish that I liked especially – elbow pasta which she mixed in with capers, sun-dried tomatoes and basil. You can make this dish with any kind of pasta. The first time I made it I used penne, and other times I used macaroni or fusilli. Last week when I made it again, I tried bowties.
My stepmother told me that she hardly makes pasta because my father wasn’t particularly fond of it. So when I visited she said it would give her a good excuse to stop catering to the whims of my father. I remember those days when we’d beg my mother for spaghetti. She always hesitated but gave in anyway, because she herself was craving it. When the spaghetti was served, my father flinched, not making an effort to conceal his frown. I asked him why he had such a reaction to spaghetti. I still couldn’t get over what he said. "They look like a pile of worms." Then he gave me that look as if to say, "why do you ask a question the answer of which is so obvious"?
Oh golly, what a way to spoil one’s appetite. Dad was such a party-pooper sometimes. His food preferences were the law. He adored Chinese food (the best food in the world, he’d say). When we’d go to a French restaurant back home, he’d say, "you go and enjoy yourselves. Me? I’d rather eat at home."
For all of my dad’s quirky tastes in food, I loved him dearly. Fact is, I miss eating at his table. And he could be right – Chinese food is hard to beat. But once in awhile, Italian food is just as tempting!
My step mother’s recipe for pasta with capers and sun-dried tomatoes:
Half a box of elbow macaroni (or any kind of pasta you want – for this recipe I used bowties)
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (preferably the ones bottled in oil), cut into thin strips
1/2 cup of capers
salt and pepper
2 tbsp of basil pesto
a dash of extra virgin olive oil and raspberry vinegar
a dash of oregano
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Run cold water over it and set it aside to completely drain. Put drained pasta into large bowl and sprinkle oil and vinegar over it. Add remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Keep tasting as you’re mixing, until you’re satisfied that the taste "bites". Refrigerate for a couple of hours so the ingredients have time to blend. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread.
Maybe a chilled glass of sangria with that?