comfort food

Slow Cooking Saves the Day

Over winter break, we rented a sweet little ski cabin. On top of the ski pants and snow boats and snow coats and groceries, I stacked my slow cooker. This was completely against my best-practice packing instincts, but I had a feeling it would make my after-slope life much easier. Truly, I had no idea.

That first snowy evening, I put on a pot to boil water for pasta, the light went on, the water started to steam, I heaped a salad into a bowl, and ten minutes later, the coils were ice cold.

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Comfort Food

On a dark weekend like this, it was impossible to tell whether my persistent stomach ache was physical or emotional. It doesn’t matter. We hunkered down at home, needing to be within arms’ reach of each other. And when I could finally eat, I ate brown rice and an egg poached in Tony’s hot and sour soup.

It doesn’t make everything better, but it’s a tiny step in the right direction.

The bottomless pot

A few weeks ago, I made a very large pot of red sauce, the kind of red sauce that you can ladle over spaghetti, or spoon lovingly over baked ziti, or lace in between layers of noodles for lasagna. I did many of the things you can do with red sauce, and I still had some left over.  It came to the point where one more dish of pasta just wasn’t going to cut it, not even with my pasta-loving offspring, and it just seemed too little and too late to freeze the remainder. I had pizza dough, though, and it was a cold, damp night.  Something tiny inside me whispered calzone, and I had a vision of a brick oven, and golden mound of dough stuffed with melted cheese and savory red sauce, and  a leafy green salad, a fire, a glass of wine, and I got to work.

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Transitions

by Lisa

We must have eaten this summer, and I must have cooked, but I can’t remember doing either.  What I remember is a dark smudge of days, in which I often seemed engaged in a protracted struggle to not cry. Somewhere in there, we had meals, but I did not make ice cream, or roast peppers, or pack my freezer with pesto or roasted Early Girls. There were very few early evening cocktails.

It’s only in the past month, with the kids settled in school, the carpools worked out, the games firmly anchored in our weekends, that things have begun to feel normal again.  The return to health–physical, psychic, emotional–was stealthy. But it must have been steady, too, because last week, as I stood over the kitchen counter eating ice cream straight from the freezer bowl I felt a twinge of joy:  I had made something new. Things must be better. That the thing was ice cream, in September, and not in June, July, or August, slayed me a bit, reminding me of just how much summer we’d missed, and how much of that sweet, bright period was stolen from our family.  But life is like this sometimes. Families, sons, daughters, parents, spouses…we take the bitter right along with the sweet. And we are lucky. We’ve healed. We’ve moved on.

So the ice cream was also providential, a kind of transition, a sweet thing welcoming our family back to itself.  And I realized I’d been cooking other transitional things, too, meals to usher us from sickness to health, from instability to stability, from summer into fall.  I cooked the bright  Brandywines and Pineapples and Purple Cherokees that we always eat raw into a light but comforting heirloom tomato sauce.  I barbecued tofu instead of sauteeing it.  I turned the salmon backs into cakes.  And I made this pizza, loaded with the last of summer’s fresh pesto, the final crop of sweet 100s, and the bitter bite of grilled raddichio. A little sweet, a little bitter, completely ravishing.

Pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, grilled radicchio, and sweet 100s

Grilled Pesto Pizza with Radicchio and Sweet 100s

  • 1 recipe pizza dough
  • grated,fresh mozzarella
  • 1 small head radicchio
  • 1 cup small cherry tomatoes (sliced if you’re not lazy like me)
  • pesto
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  1. Quarter the radicchio and coat with salt, olive oil, and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Grill until tender, or alternately, roast in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Let cool and coarsely chop. Set aside.
  2. Roll out a piece of homemade or store bought pizza dough.
  3. Turn on your grill to HIGH and close the lid to preheat.
  4. When the grill is hot, brush the grates with olive oil and immediately lay the pizza dough across the grill.
  5. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until the dough begins to bubble and dry out. Using tongs, flip the dough immediately and cook until the dough puffs, another minute or 2.
  6. Remove dough from grill and onto cutting board. Close grill and lower the heat to MEDIUM.
  7. Quickly spread a layer of homemade or store-bought pesto over half-grilled dough.
  8. Top pesto with fresh grated mozzarella, the radicchio, and a sprinkle of sweet 100s. Be judicious with the cheese and don’t overload your pie.
  9. Return the pizza to grill and lower the lid. Cook until cheese is melted and bubbly. Check heat occasionally to make sure the crust isn’t burning on the bottom.