Comfort food, anyone?

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m kind of tired tonight, but last night I hit the bed early and actually got some sleep. Not all night, woke up a couple of times, and I really appreciated Jezebel the step-kitty’s insistence that I do some laundry today. Especially the duvet. Especially after her early-morning retching.

So I’m a bit tired. But I thought I’d offer some comfort to you this evening.

Today on The Food Network was quite a bit of what’s called “comfort foods.” The Barefoot Contessa had things like “Midnight Spaghetti” and “Sunday Morning Oatmeal,” as well as from another chef, “Kimchi Fried Rice,” which included the Korean delicacy, rice, and a fried egg on top. Trisha Yearwood brought husband Garth Brooks into the kitchen, making very sophisticated and un-countrified food. The Pioneer Woman had a great looking beef stew and some creamy, cheesey grits. I haven’t had grits in years because of the high carb content, but that was enough to make me think about some. And, bless her heart, Giada de Laurentiis did some ravioli with pesto and a combo meatloaf/eggplant thingy that made me yell at the TV–because that stupid eggplant ruins the meatloaf, Dawlin’.

What else did Giada make? Let’s put it this way–if someone brought this cake to an activity, and Giada was there, I’d move her (and anyone else) out of the way to get to it. Anything with chocolate and raspberry in the same place risks that outcome. Chocolate and raspberry together is just my absolute favorite thing. Except maybe in chili. Nigella Lawson also has a Chocolate-Raspberry Heart cake in her book Feast. Fortunately, I haven’t had either one, and I likely won’t, because I won’t be able to resist making it way too often. (I get chocolate-raspberry decaf coffee beans, though.)

So to offer some of my less dangerous comfort foods, let’s start with Bacon Tomato Hash from the lovely Nigella Lawson. Simple to make, and satisfies, even without the bread (which is how I eat it, naturally.) When she did this recipe on her show, she’s coming in from a night out, pads up the stairs in heels, and tosses her purse and very long pearlesque clip earrings on the kitchen counter before starting. I’d made this many times before, but a few years ago, I had a long Friday night and did the same thing, except I didn’t take off my very high-heeled shoes in the kitchen.

It was my birthday, and although I’d gone out to dinner with friends, it was nearly 1 am, it was chilly, and I was hungry. I thought, what’s open at 1 am? Whataburger and Wal-Mart, right in the same spot. Didn’t want a burger, because, after all, I’d had tortellini, my birthday indulgence. So I went into Wal-Mart and got bacon, tomatoes and fresh parsley, Unfortunately, I was dressed in a little black dress, high heels, and a fabulous evening poncho, so I garnered some very odd looks from a big, burly dude on a Harley. He never said a word, just watched me walk in, and watched me walk out to my car. I made it home safely, and had some of that hash and read the paper until about 3 am.

Three summers ago, I contracted some kind of funky flu bug that, I’m told, came back from Russia with some of the Shuttle people. Ugh. Two weeks I was sidelined, and *tried* to work from home. Thankfully, my boss was on travel and mostly gone, and I took care of stuff by phone. But I mean it, I had the whole bit–fever, fatigue, coughing, congestion. I had a boyfriend at the time, and wouldn’t let him come around because I didn’t want him getting sick, either. I’d just started growing basil, and kept telling myself I’d make pesto with it one day soon. Lucky me, Nigella came to the rescue again with this Pea Pesto Soup.. Now, I had a reason to make that pesto, and I’ve been making it ever since–just to make this soup all winter long. The picky boyfriend thought I was nuts, and then he got a taste of it and started asking for it. Naturally, I use the home made pesto, but if you want to buy it, get the stuff in the refrigerated case. It freezes well, and you can make four batches of soup with it.

That was also the week I also fell in love with Def Leppard all over again. Hey–if you were flat on your back with fever, to weak to move much and 45 pounds of cat sleeping on top of you in the middle of summer watching VH-1 Classic, you would too. But that’s another story.

I actually gave a jar of pesto as a last-minute birthday gift for a coworker when I got caught short one day. She loved it, and the soup recipe, too.

Yet another easy Nigella recipe (sorry, these are my favorites) is Pollo alla Cacciatora, which is a quick-and-dirty version of Chicken Cacciatore. I fell in love with Cannellini beans making this and a few other recipes, too. Speaking of which. . .yet another Nigella recipe–Steak with White Bean Mash! Had it just last night, and it too is from Nigella Express.

Ok, so what if you’re not a Food Network junkie? Well, this Yeast-Free Cupcake is good enough to satisfy anyone who likes cake, without the usual white-sugar-and-flour rush. I have a preference for Suzanne Somers’ Somersweet, but if you mess with the sweetener, you’ll have to try it and see how it works. I don’t know if agave syrup will work. This Yeast Free CoffeeCake is also good, but you’ll have to have garbanzo bean flour around. (Which, of course, I have–I think.) Haven’t made it in a while because I keep going to the cupcake recipe. Needless to  say, it’s good. And I’ve told you about the yummy, rich Yeast Free Brownies, which I have yet to get around to making again.

Lately I’ve taken to using my mandolin to thinly slice sweet potatoes, put them in a dish in the fridge and let them dry out, then put them in the small oven with some olive oil and salt and let them cook til they’re drier and crispy. That’s good, too. Since I have the convection setting on it, I like to speed things up a bit.

Now if you like salad, when I was working, my favorite Single Girl Payday Meal was a big steak salad. By that I mean I would get some salad things (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, sugar snap peas and whatever else looked good in produce that day) and a flat-iron steak. Kroger sells them in big long steaks, so that’s what I would get. Of course I wouldn’t eat the entire steak in one sitting, but I would cook the whole thing. So I get one of my big Tupperware eatin’ trays, arrange my salad, then make the dressing from one of Suzanne Somers’ books:

6 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T lemon or lime juice

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Put that in a blender (I like the immersion type) and emulsify it. Just that easy.

Now deal with the steak: I also use one of those hand-held mechanical tenderizers to go over it on both sides, then salt/pepper the beast. (If it doesn’t fit in your pan, cut it to size, or just cut it into your favorite size, pack and freeze the rest.) Get that pan screaming hot and throw some olive oil in it. Once it’s hot, put the steak in  and IMMEDIATELY turn down the heat to about medium, and let it cook, long as you like. When it’s no longer adhered to the pan, turn it. When it’s cooked where you want it, take it out and let it rest for five minutes or so. Then slice it up against the grain and top your salad with it. Salad dressing completes this masterpiece.

No, I do NOT use bottled dressing. Yuck. Make your own. You have a blender, don’t you? Just wash it really good when you’re done with it. Start with that recipe.

I have to say that flat iron steaks are my favorite, but I like other cuts, too. Yes, NY Strip steak, but also sirloin and chuck. I don’t know that I have a “least favorite cut of beef.”

Wait–yes I do. Beef tongue.

On that note, I’m going to bed.

Happy Dining!

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