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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Rafting repast is quick enough to make in camp

Thursday, July 27, 2000

Tested by Nancy Anderson

Today's recipe for Hells Canyon Pasta has its origins in the Pacific Northwest of the 1950s.

Bob Sule, an adventurous teen-ager then living in Clarkston, Wash., liked to go white water rafting down Idaho's Salmon River, which shoots into the Snake River, separating Washington and Oregon from Idaho.

Hells Canyon was the dinner stop.

"The guides would pull the rafts out of the water, build a campfire out of driftwood and make this pasta with slabs of grilled Ellensburg beef on the side," he said.

"They always rinsed out their tomato cans with a little red wine, and poured that solution into the pan, too."

We picked up on this tip, not only because wine lends itself to spaghetti sauce but because the recipe calls for anchovies -- and we've never met an anchovy we liked.

But our fears were unfounded. As promised, the anchovies liquefied in the sauce, leaving behind only a husky, salty taste that added intrigue to the overall flavor.

We also had misgivings about the hot pepper, but, as it turned out, just one hot banana pepper didn't have much impact -- as far as heat goes -- on the dish.

But some like it hot and Bob's one of them.

"The number of peppers I put into the dish is directly related to the amount of heat I'm looking for," he said. "Banana peppers vary in the amount of heat they produce."

He advises first-time cooks to taste a small piece of pepper while they're chopping so they know the amount of heat they're dealing with.

"Hot peppers are somewhat like martinis," he said. "Sometimes one is not enough but three could be too many."

Now living in Cranberry and no longer white water rafting, Bob has made Hells Canyon Pasta a staple in his cooking repertoire, passing the recipe on to his children.

"I taught my daughter and son how to prepare this dish before they went to college," he said, " and it became a fast, inexpensive and filling weekend supper when they lived off campus."

Both are now out of school. Kerstin, 29, is with Buchanan Ingersoll in Pittsburgh, and Michael, 26, teaches English as a second language in Bangkok, Thailand.

He's the kitchen wizard in the Sule home.

"My wife, Suzanne, [she's a manager at Talbot's, Downtown] is the big grand event cook," he said. "She does Thanksgiving. I'm the day-to-day, weekend cook."

But Bob isn't always slaving over a hot stove. He's senior vice president for C.B. Richard Ellis, a commercial real estate broker, and has offices Downtown and in Morgantown, W.Va.

As for Hells Canyon Pasta, Bob urges cooks to be creative with the recipe.

"Don't use anchovies if you don't want to," he said. "Throw in some onions or diced chicken, some oregano or black olives. Have fun with it."

Hells Canyon Pasta

16-ounce box linguine or other pasta (we used Contadina Buitoni fresh linguine)
2-ounce can flat anchovies in olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 large fresh banana pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
42.5 ounces canned, diced tomatoes with juice (combine a 28-ounce can with a 14.5-ounce can )
1 tablespoon drained capers
Salt and pepper to taste

Put pasta water on to heat. When boiling, add pasta and cook according to directions.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil from anchovies over medium heat. Add garlic, pepper and anchovies. Stir, mashing anchovies, until peppers are just tender and anchovies are liquefied. Add tomatoes with juice and capers. Season to taste and stir to combine well. When thoroughly heated, add mixture to cooked pasta, toss and serve. (See note.) Serves 6 generously.

Note: The sauce was done before the pasta, so we let it gently simmer until the pasta was ready. Total cooking time was 25 minutes.


Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.



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