Category Archives: comfort food

On the Wonders of Fresh Pasta

I am generally a rather frugal person (some might have other, not-so-friendly descriptors for it), but if one has ever once be extremely strapped for money, it can be challenging to change that, once things are a bit easier. Anyway, I would either buy dried pasta from the box or make my own pasta, which is OK but I can’t say I really like to do that. When I am tired from doing other things all day,  I really don’t want to stand around waiting for water to boil or rolling out pasta and then cutting and drying it. Sorry, purists, nope. So, this week, twice, I succumbed to the temptation of using fresh noodles and oh my goodness, am I glad I did.  Both days I knew I was on a timetable and had limited time to prepare dinner. Both nights I was making Asian noodle dishes and thought these two recipes would be good with fresh pasta as opposed to taking another 40 minutes to hike over to the Asian market to get the real thing.

Wow….what a joy! and the time it saved me was remarkable. The fresh noodles needed to cook only two minutes, which meant that both dishes came together in record time. I do recommend you head over to New York Times Cooking and try both of these dishes.  I made Spicy Sichuan Noodles by FLORENCE FABRICANT and Longevity Noodles With Chicken, Ginger and Mushrooms by JULIA MOSKIN. Absolutely fabulous! I could have eaten the entire pot of Longevity Noodles and it probably would not then have enhanced my longevity. Both of the recipes are delicious and quick. Of course, those of you who know me know that I am not great at following directions exactly, so I didn’t in these either. I added significant amount of chopped garlic to the longevity noodles and probably more soy sauce and sesame oil.

I just cannot wait to try these fresh noodles with marinara sauce or with olive oil, garlic, butter and parmesan or asiago or to make a simple meat sauce. If I weren’t allergic to shellfish, these would be perfect with clam sauce, either white or red.

So easy, so quick, so tasty.  Using the fresh made a big difference in the quality of the finished dish.


Delish Quick Main dish with Tri-Color Veggie Rotini

I have tried enough dishes calling for tri-color pasta to be dubious. I have found the flavors don’t always mix well with other ingredients or I undercook the pasta- it seems to take a bit longer to cook than non-veggie pasta. I don’t know, it just has not been a very positive taste experience. This one, however, is. It is an adaptation of a recipe in my cookbook, Turkish Family Favorites, which is available from (hint, hint). It sounds like a ho-hum recipe, but trust me: follow the directions exactly and be sure to use the yogurt sauce. That makes the dish.

  • 1 6 oz. package tri-color veggie rotini
  • Salt for cooking pasta and for seasoning meat
  • 2 generous soupspoonfuls of tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably lean*
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 tsp. (or more or less to taste) hot pepper
  • water if needed for meat and for cooking pasta

Yogurt sauce:

  • 1 cup plain, low-fat or whole yogurt (do NOT use fat-free)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed

Mix the salt, yogurt, and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside to use when serving. This is one of the most delicious combinations ever, although when I first heard of it, I thought it sounded vile. But it is so yummy and elevates this simple dish to hard-core comfort food.

Cook the rotini in a generous amount of salted water until done. It will take about 11 minutes, but test it and be sure. Drain and set aside. In a medium skillet, heat the oil and saute the chopped onion until it softens and starts to brown. Stir in the ground beef, break up, and continue cooking until there is no more pink left. Drain the oil from the skillet. Stir in the tomato paste, hot pepper (I like Indian chile pepper but cayenne is also fine. Red pepper flakes are also good.) Add salt to taste. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup of water, but this part of the dish will be fairly dry, not soupy like spaghetti sauce.

When rotini is done and has been drained, empty into a serving bowl. Top off with the meat mixture and stir well. Serve and pass the yogurt sauce around so each person can put a dollop of yogurt sauce on their rotini. Excellent. 4-6 servings. Takes all of about 15-20 minutes and you control what’s in there. Beats takeout or packaged macaroni any time.

* There are several possible substitutions here. I think this would work well with soy protein, ground chicken, or ground turkey. I personally prefer the ground beef, but the others would work and would be very tasty.


Fast and Delicious Tomato Soup

 I have been making quite a bit of lentil soup lately. People I know have been sick or hospitalized and one of the things I can do is bring them soup. It can be frozen so it doesn’t force them to eat right away. Soup is easy to make and nutritious. But I have made three of four batches of lentil soup lately. I was craving soup for lunch yesterday. I normally would just make a double batch of whatever the soup was that I was taking to a friend, but this time I wanted something different!

I try to limit the times I go to a grocery store in a given week, so I was determined to make do with whatever I had on hand. So I made a creamy tomato soup. It was so delicious and here’s how I did it.

  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 generous tablespoon chicken soup base
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup cream (could substitute water)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed hot pepper
  • 1 generous spoonful of dried basil (if you have the fresh, add to taste)
  • salt as needed
  • 1-2 T. oil
  • 1 smallish onion, diced
  • 3 T. orzo

Heat the oil in a stockpot. Throw in the onion and saute lightly for about five minutes. Add in the tomatoes, the soup base, the water, the orzo and the spices. Stir well and let simmer 10 minutes or so. Turn off or leave on very, very low heat. Add a few spoonfuls of the soup mixture to the cream, and stir well. Then add to the soup. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Make sure it is heated through and serve. Delish!!!!!

Simple Salmon Chowder: Comfort Food at its Best

This is incredibly good. I’m a big fan of Mark Bittman’s Salmon Roasted in Butter recipe as it is delicious and very easy to do. It is a perfect company dish. But I really do not like wasting the leftover salmon. Mark Bittman’s Salmon Burgers are good too, made with leftover salmon. But this chowder is truly comfort food.

I couldn’t find the exact recipe I wanted but put it together as I went along. Here’s the basic outline:

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 T. oil, if needed
  • 2 cups leftover roasted salmon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 4 cups low fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • flour or cornstarch and water to thicken mix (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill and/or parsley

Saute the bacon in the soup pot. When bacon is about done, if needed, add the vegetable oil and toss in the onions and potatoes. When nicely browned, add in the corn, stir and add in the milk, broth, and half and half. Then stir in the salmon. Heat gently over medium to low heat for about 30 minutes. Stir in the herbs. Taste the seasoning. If you want the chowder a little thicker, stir a tablespoon or so of cornstarch and/or flour together with a little bit of water and stir into the soup. This makes about 4 lunch or supper servings.

Comfort Food: Tomato Basil Soup

I came up with this a few days ago when I really, really did not feel like cooking. I wanted to eat meatless and light so we did not want to go out. Since I make sourdough bread quite a bit, we usually have a loaf on hand. Glancing over some recipes, I took ideas from several but put it together on my own. I was going to add in some cream or sour cream or evaporated milk, but I didn’t have any on hand. Since all I had was almond/coconut milk I wasn’t feeling that adventurous although it might be fine. Turns out, no extra creaminess was needed. This is really outstanding. This is really fast if you are fortunate enough to have roasted cherry tomatoes in your freezer. If not, no worries, it is still very quick.

  • 1 pint pkg of frozen cherry tomatoes, roasted in olive oil (alternatives listed below*)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 T. italian spice
  • 1/2 tsp powdered garlic or 1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 healthy tablespoon of chicken broth concentrate
  • 1 carton of strained tomatoes (I think they are about 14 ounces)
  • small amount of oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup orzo pasta

* You can make your own pint pkg of frozen roasted tomatoes by roasting about TWO pints of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, on a cookie sheet with a rim and drizzled with olive oil…freeze in a freezer bag OR I think you could sub a can of diced tomatoes….

Heat the oil in a soup pan while you chop the onion. Toss it in, and add the fresh garlic now if you are using. Throw in the defrosted tomatoes, stir a bit. Add the water, chicken concentrate, basil or italian spice and seasonings. Let it all come to a boil. Add the orzo, let it boil a minute and then turn down the heat and cover with the lid slightly ajar, and let it simmer about 45 minutes. This is unbelievably good.