Comfort – and yes, there is a recipe

Posted by | October 30, 2012 | Cooking, Recipe, Uncategorized | No Comments

It was my intention to write about my weekend in SoCal, but in light of Sandy and all the people I know affected, I thought I would change tactics. All my good thoughts to those of you affected by Sandy.

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve. If that is true, what calms a quaking soul? When we are sick, afraid, nervous, depressed, or stressed, we often turn to “comfort food”. When the weather has you locked in or hunkered down, what makes you feel safe? What constitutes “comfort” is different for everyone, but for me it depends on the emotions or situations. If I feel under the weather (no pun intended, re: Sandy), I want soup. If I am down in the dumps or stressed out I want a carb load (can you say pasta?) which usually leads to a nap. Friend Dani turns to pot pies or scrambled eggs and tortillas. Friend Lynn wants grilled cheese and soup. Weekly Reader (thanks!) Clarica wants pot roast. I have never heard anyone say that a salad was comforting to them.

I have heard everything from mac & cheese, to pancakes to chocolate as a “comfort food”. But why is it that those foods actually COMFORT you? Is it the sense of well being from eating something hearty? Is it remembrances of Mom (or Grandma) making you feel better as a kid? Is it the chemical euphoria from carb overload? Are all of your “comforts” high calorie? Things you don’t normally eat? Things that are saved for just such an occasion?

I can only speak for myself, but when I think of “comfort food” I want the warm cozy feeling I get when I am eating said food.  As if I have been hugged from the inside. I always want something warm, but Friend Lynn says when she is down in the dumps she wants ice cream. I think the one thing in common for all of these foods is a particular “mouth feel”. Smooth, creamy, succulent, etc. And almost all of them are RICH in one fashion or another.

I know you want to know how to make tomato soup, so here is an EASY recipe for my Cheater Tomato Basil Soup. I call it “cheater” because you start with canned goods, perfect for those weathering the storm.

1 stick of butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cans – 28 oz each – crushed tomatoes
1 can – 46 oz vegetable juice (like V8)
2 Cups Chicken stock (you can substitute vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup)
3 Tbsp dried basil
1 Cup fresh Basil leaves cut chiffonade –divided
Heavy cream or ½ & ½
Parmesan Cheese for garnish (optional)

Special equipment needed: hand or stick blender. This is the one I use:

In a large heavy stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring frequently. Do not let garlic brown, about 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, vegetable juice, dried basil and chicken stock. Heat to a slow boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Using a hand blender, puree the soup until very smooth. It could take several minutes depending on the blender and the brand of tomatoes you used.

Stir in most of the chiffonade basil and reserve some for a garnish.

Immediately before serving, mix in the cream to desired consistency. Do not reboil the soup or the cream will curdle. You may also use the cream as a swirled garnish on the soup and allow the diner to mix it in. Garnish with cheese and reserved chiffonade basil.

Food Memories this week include French Onion Soup with Friends Chris and Lynn, a damn near perfect burger at a gastropub, meat pies at the Ren Faire and missing my kid at the table.

Friend and Juggler Adam Reid and I at the Ren Faire

Mac & Cheese – or as Sister Nancy likes to call it, Crack & Cheese

Potato Leek Soup

I want to thank all of you for reading and SHARING this blog. Each week I am astounded at the ever growing readership and that is mostly thanks to all of you!

Next week, drinking my way through breweries is SoCal. Until next time, go out and make your OWN Food Memories.