What's your favorite comfort food? For some people it is creamy noodles, for others it's meat and potatoes, for some a bowl of soup. For me it is anything hearty and rich with flavor. Now that the temp has dropped below freezing, I am hankering for comfort food almost every day.
I found plenty of recipes to soothe my soul in the new book by Academy Award winning producer Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), called The Family Dinner. The Family Dinner is much more than just a cookbook (although it has over 75 recipes!) It's more like a users guide to dinnertime (and what parent doesn't need one of those?) The subtitle of the book Great ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time - is a more meaningful description than cookbook, I believe.
What I love is that The Family Dinner shows us that dinnertime is about more than just the food on the table. Much more! It's about the interactions, the conversations and the connections that happen during a meal. Inside, you'll find a chapter on table talk with creative ideas for keeping the conversation flowing, a discussion of the importance of showing gratitude for a meal, ideas for going green at dinnertime and even a chapter on family dinner after divorce.
And the recipes? Creative (Pea Nutty Noodles - pick your own garnish). Easy (Bang, Bang Chicken Parmesan). Kid-Friendly (Crispy Smashed Potatoes). Healthy (Wheat Berry Salad). And Totally Indulgent (Little Chocolate Pocket Pies)! My copy of the book is full of tabs for recipes I plan to make!!
The recipe that jumped out to me on a recent, winter day was Lentil Stew with Potatoes and Warm Indian Spices. It not only rocks in the comfort food department but it's super healthy and is a meatless meal as well. WIN.WIN.WIN!!! (BTW - the recipe called for Garam Masala spice blend. My local grocery didn't have it and I didn't have time to visit a specialty store to get it, so I made my own blend using this recipe.)
Lentil Stew with Potatoes and Warm Indian Spices
Here is a gentle Indian lentil stew, its flavors soft, fragrant, and comforting. But by all means, stir in some cayenne pepper if you are looking for some excitement.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon good quality garam marsala (see the Cook’s Tip)
1 cup diced carrots
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or light coconut milk)
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup frozen defrosted peas
Salt and pepper to taste
Yogurt, for garnish
TO MAKE 4–6 SERVINGS
In your soup pot, heat a drizzle of oil and fry the onions until wilted and golden, then add the garlic, ginger, and spices and stir for a moment until they are fragrant. Be very careful not to burn the spices, as this will make them bitter.
Take half of this mixture and set it aside for later. Add the carrots, potato, lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk, and stock. Let the stew simmer, without a lid, for about 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes and lentils are tender.
Fold in the remaining onion-and-spice mixture. Add the peas to the stew last to keep their brilliant color. Simmer for another few minutes until the stew is heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a dollop of yogurt, warm naan bread or pita, and perhaps some brown rice, plain or cooked with a cardamom pod.
Garam is the Indian word for “warm” or “hot,” and the blend of dry-roasted, ground spices known as garam marsala (gah-RAHM mah-SAH-lah) adds a sense of “warmth” to both palate and spirit. You can find a blend in the spice aisle of any well-stocked grocery store, or see Resources at the end of this book.
The next day, put the stew into a blender and blend until smooth. Then thin it with a bit of milk, broth, or coconut milk so it becomes a soup and give it a fancy new name, like Princess Jahanara’s Wedding Soup.
Recipe Credit: THE FAMILY DINNER by Laurie David, Kirstin Uhrenholdt, p. 84, Nov. 2010, Grand Central Life & Style, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing.
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of The Family Dinner. The opinions on the book are my own.)
I've linked this post to Real Food Wednesday over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop. Check it out for lots of great real, healthy food ideas!