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Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

My Mother has been eating these for so long that I remember turning my nose up at them in favour of Kraft Dinner.  I`m not entirely sure what I was thinking as a teenager at the best of times – in this case I don`t have the foggiest.

I assure you that this is the most wonderful taste of fall I know.

Sandwich base (assemble from of list to bottom):
Fresh pumpernickel bread
Feta cheese
Cucumbers
Thick tomato slices (heirlooms optional)
Salt, Pepper

Dressing (a standard oil and vinegar will do, here`s a sample):
3-Parts Oil
1-Part Balsamic
Minced Garlic (I use a rasp to pulp it)
All the fresh herbs you have – chives, basil, oregano, parsley are all great in abundance
Honey (if you want)
Dijon (if you want)
I add salt, pepper, chili flakes.

Drizzle dressing on sandwich and wait for it to seep through to the bread.  Give the flavours time to introduce themselves.  Eat with knife and fork.

I know of nothing better than this awesome taste in the summer.  What are your harvest favourites?

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The smell of melting cheese, warming bread and the process that turns a pasty layer of hardened butter into a crisp golden sheen on the outside of a grilled cheese makes me salivate instantly.

What is it about certain foods that opens warm sensations in our hearts, souls and tummies and transport us to places of comfort, excitement and relaxation?  I am powerless to resist the charm of the simple grilled cheese and its many variations.  Wonderbread with a cheese slice can actually get me emotionally excited when it is grilled with butter-  yet the thought of either by itself would not coax me to walk 3 feet.  Onion soup, spaghetti in tomato sauce, Sheppard’s Pie and a few other magical combination transform me into the same Pavlovian Dog time and time again.

I can’t remember the first time I got to try a grilled cheese sandwich – it’s always been a part of my life.  I don’t remember not knowing of it’s existence.  I do remember my first oyster, first sushi, and first martini.  The sandwich is a sort of universal truth, something that has always been a part of me.

Hot, golden bread with melted cheese dipped into cold ketchup.  Of course warm ketchup is better than no ketchup but the collision of opposing temperatures takes the experience to an entirely different level.

I have a theory that I was served these when I was sick (i.e. had a flu) and mending as a child.  They meant that I was being cared for, looked after and loved.  These emotional ties during stressful periods of my life created an emotional bond between comfort and the sandwich which now transfers to me even if I’ve made it for myself and even if I am not ill.

I’ve tried variations of the grilled cheese – adding onions, tomato, bacon, herbs and even another layer of bread.  The addition of bacon is my second-place favourite (the rationale is that while bacon is tasty it can be difficult to bite off cleanly and a single bit can steal a whole rasher of yummy pork fat).  Cheese, bread and butter (cut in half, on an angle if possible) is my sure fire favourite .  I suppose I am a traditionalist in some ways!

As an adult, my take on the classic has evolved slightly.  A baguette (with its top and bottom trimmed with a knife for flatter, better grilling) is cut in half, buttered on the outside and filled with cheese in the middle.  The cheese of choice has been a combination of 5-year old white cheddar and 5-year old orange cheddar.  Cheese should be shredded, not sliced.  I drizzle a little olive oil on the bread (after the buttering so that it does not seep in to the dough) so that I can cook it at a higher temperature and bring it to the ultimate in colour and texture.

What is your favourite version of the grilled cheese?  Do you have other favorite comfort foods or theories on why they hold such a special place in your heart?  We’d love for you to share them in the comments!n

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My mother told me that she learned this from her mother and that it was food from the Great Depression – I’m not sure it dates that far back but it is certainly in the spirit of affordable comfort food that warms the soul and can be made on a shoestring.  I made it for Dana this week to comfort her as her back is rather sore:

Tomato Soup Macaroni - mm mm good

Tomato Soup Macaroni - mm mm good

It’s an easy dish.  Melt some butter, cook down some onions.  Add salt, a bit of pepper.  Add anything else at your own risk (I used panko, herbs and chilli’s above).  Stir in 1 (or several) cans of Campbell’s tomato soup (or equivelent).  Add a small bit of milk if you’d like – don’t add more than a tablespoon or two per can.  Cook noodles, al dente or less.  Mix them all together in an oven proof pan and bake for a while (comfort food is arbitrary – this can be a few minutes or up to 30).  If you topped with cheese or bread, brown under broiler.

You can use spgahetti or macaroni – if you use macaroni make sure to give a really good stir to get the sauce to fill the pockets in the noodles.   I leave my onions cut thin and left in whole rings – the more onions the better (when people grew their own this was a cheaper filling than pasta or the canned soup).  I eat it with hot sauce and generous glass(es) of milk.

This is one of a very few of my absolute favorite comfort foods and it reminds me so much of my parents and grandparents – we still eat it together from time to time.

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Always found that the term Great Depression was somewhat of an oxymoron.  It’s kind of like a really long, really awful Wonderful Hangover.

Oddly we have had several people arrive at the site after searching for food from this era in recent days and, ever wanting to please, we are happy to accommodate your requests!  After all, the food of the era is a wonderful part of my family history however – wonderful, often simple food passed from one generation to another.  Creamed Peas on Toast is such a dish and provides many wonderful memories of my Mother and I (sometimes with Dad there, others while he worked evenings at the Firehall) having an early dinner as she would tell me how her mother would make it, how she ate it as a child (6 kids, 2 bedrooms, an outhouse).

At the essence, here is the essence:

1.  Add butter to a sauce pan.  A few tablespoons will do.  This is best if you don’t measure.
2.  Add about the same amount of flour – again best if not measured.  Cook down  with a medium-high heat to form a roux.  It will start as a paste on a medium-high heat and begin to bubble and thin out.  Stir and brown lightly.  Ensure it has thinned out and is forming bubbles like it is boiling.
3.  Remove from heat.  Add a little milk at a time, stirring in as you go.  Patience is the key – too much will result in a chunky paste that simply won’t do.
4.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Add peas (frozen was our preference – especially if the package had been used previously to help sooth a twisted ankle!).  Add this and gently heat.  Don’t over cook – the idea is to warm the peas without turning their texture to guck.  Blanched asparagus will also work as we found out last Tuesday.
6.  Make toast, add butter.
7.  Put creamy peas on toast.  Hot sauce was my departure from the ordinary.

Eat with a knife and fork – this is better with someone you love.

You can add flare to this if you are not a purist – Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, dill, a bit of cheese, bacon, dried Parmesan, roasted garlic (or rasped garlic added raw to the butter in step 1), tuna or pancetta on the toast are all good companions.

Update: The post above is from February of 2009 – we made our own canned peas from scratch the following July – read about how to do that here.

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