Most of my favorite comfort food recipes are etched in my memory. I cook them without a second thought. That doesn’t mean I don’t try a variation from time to time. I’m always on the lookout for ways to enhance taste and cut time. There’s nothing like a few red pepper flakes to kick up an old dish.
These seven dishes are ordinary, everyday fare. It’s handy when you can create them quickly when needed.
I don’t make this Southern delicacy very often, but it’s a quick and easy crowd pleaser, when you’re cooking for a group.
I have purged my refrigerator of all store-bought dressings and entertain myself by trying new vinaigrette mixtures with simple ingredients I have on hand. As I whisk up a potion for my evening salad, I often recite the lines from the witches of Macbeth: “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat . . .” Actually, a typical vinaigrette formula is more like: something sweet, something salty, something slick, and a sprinkle of seasonings. Most salad dressings follow that formula with usually a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar.
In small bowl, mix together 1/8 tsp. sea salt; 1 Tbs. sherry or red wine vinegar; and 1 Tbs. minced shallot. Let stand for 10 minutes. Mix in 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard. Slowly add 3 Tbs. olive oil and whisk or shake well. Taste. If too sharp, add more oil. If desired, add more salt or some fresh herbs just before serving. Makes enough for a salad for two.
This is a riff on Marcella Hazan’s classic, all-purpose, quick tomato sauce. The Italian cookbook writer published this simple, but luscious recipe years ago. The amount of butter she calls for has always amazed me, but that might just be the secret ingredient.
Into a pot, put a 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes (or 2-lbs. ripe, blanched tomatoes); 1 onion, halved; 5 Tbs. butter and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 45 minutes, smashing chunks with spoon. Check for salt. Turn off heat and add a handful of fresh basil leaves, if desired. Either discard the onion or chop into sauce. (I also add a smidgen of sugar and a few chopped garlic cloves during the cooking time.)
When I got married, the only thing I knew how to prepare was tuna salad. But you can only live on tuna fish and love for so long. So I started reading cookbooks, questioning my mother, and asking friends for recipes that I liked. In time I was able to make a decent Beef Stroganoff, which became my signature dish in the 60s. But we ate a lot of tuna salad first.
Tune up your Tuna Salad by using some of these ingredients: celery, red onions/green onions, lemon juice, capers, sweet or dill pickles, sliced almonds, apple, parsley. Use real mayo mixed with just a dab of Dijon mustard (too much will make it strong), salt and pepper to taste, and a little pickle juice to get right consistency.
Growing up we had potatoes everyday in some form or another: mashed, scalloped, fried, boiled, baked, or in a soup, stew or salad. Only in recent years has it become popular to rub chopped taters lightly with oil and seasonings and pop them in a hot oven. Easy, delicious and far healthier.
Cut unskinned Russet or Yukon potatoes into 3/4″ chunks. (I’ve added butternut squash in the photo above.) Coat lightly (not excessively) with a garlic salt and olive oil mixture. If desired, add a sprinkle of paprika and/or turmeric to the oil mixture. Turn onto a sheet pan in a single layer and sprinkle with black pepper. Roast in 425 degree oven for 45-50 minutes until tender. Turn vegetable over at least once. Lining the sheet pan with parchment paper eases clean up.
There’s nothing I look forward to more than garden fresh, fully ripe tomatoes. This summer I’ve served a tomato caprese each weekend I’ve been at the farm. I’m particularly fond of a hearty red or pink tomato, that cuts into slices as big as your palm—large enough to cover an entire BLT.
Slice fresh garden tomatoes (red, yellow or mixed) and fresh Mozzarella cheese ball. Overlap in a pretty serving dish, alternately. Combine 1 clove crushed garlic; 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil; 2 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar; 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper. Shake to mix and drizzle lightly over tomatoes and cheese before serving. Chill an hour. Or if you’re really in a hurry, just drizzle with a good balsamic vinegar.
I’ve made a lot of different coleslaw recipes over the years, but have finally settled on this recipe. At last, nirvana.
Shred a small cabbage (about 1.5 lbs) and large carrot on a mandoline or by hand. Or buy a slaw vegetable mix. Either way, add 1/4 cup parsley and half a red onion, slivered or chopped and a seeded jalapeno, if desired. (When you remove the seeds the pepper is not all that hot.) Toss in bowl. Add a dressing mixture of 3/4 cup real mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s); 2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar; 2 Tbs. olive oil; 1 tsp. coarse kosher salt; and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate a few hours before serving.
Hope you’re inspired to cook one, or more, of your favorite comfort foods this weekend.