Hurricane Florence was proof we are small and insignificant in our ability to control things. About 4 days before she came ashore, I was both in awe and terrified of the power that was about to descend upon us. There was something in the air. An unfriendly wind that seemed almost conscious grazed my cheeks. I felt a gathering fury, even a looming judgement.
Some have called me an empath. My dad calls me a mystic. Whatever it is, this sense of fragility grounded me to the moment. And reminded me of the absolute blessing of small things and the gift of those around us.
I am drawn to the kitchen during times of stress. It feels safe and it is there I have at least some power. Rushing to choose a favorite apron which was the closest thing I had to a super-hero’s cape, I mused that there is really no scenario in which nourishing can help heal us during life’s tragic moments. What cannot be affected and elevated by a fork and knife! I actually DO BELIEVE THIS. Even in the face of one of the biggest storms EVER.
I worked for what I wanted most: Familiar, known, established comfort food.
What is it that transforms us into smiling children when a steaming plate of familiarity is set before us? Is it the anticipation? Memory? Pleasure? Likely it is all those things. So creating the perfect bite was important. The creamiest potatoes, the most artfully executed vegetables, and the most flavorful and moist meatloaf.
I used some old standbys like Ron’s favorite 10 minute spaghetti, assembling food that was from scratch and some that came together with the help of a can, box, or package. Even using some of our emergency canned food to do a quick soup; my Hurricane Stew. I worked with the same intention as I do when making any dish, which is 'always make it beautiful and full of flavor.'
I think I succeeded. Some of these were made on a portable burner during the power outage. Some on the heels of power coming on. All made with respect and a little flair.
Sit back and be comforted!
Moroccan Meatloaf Meal
Ron's Favorite 10 Minute Spaghetti
There are several rules to follow when converting something that may taste bottled to "boy, is that good!" First, add a few sweet onion slices before browning the meat. Next, just a splash of red wine and some extra garlic when you add the sauce. Finally, make sure you cook the pasta to al dente and then add to the meat sauce. Oh! And that little sprig of fresh basil just makes you want to say, "Florence, who?"
It was 39 degrees F this morning. 39, people. Two days ago the high was 89! I don't know if I should buy sandals or gloves. There is one decision, however, that is easy to make this time of year. And that is that soup fits when autumn comes along in her indecisive, but beautiful way.
Check out the dual bowl poetry below, with recipes at the end of each feature!
Warm, Fast, Fun Food 1: Butternut Squash, Oyster Mushroom, Corn and Wild Rice Soup.
I'm going to share two one-pot meals in this post. One is vegetarian but exceedingly meat friendly. It's that beautiful, golden bowl of fall harvest color you see above. Butternut squash is the star as it floats in a lovely broth surrounded by two kinds of mushrooms and hearty wild rice. I just love when you get your Dutch oven out, prep your ingredients, and the kitchen does not look like you've exploded a shopping cart because it all happens IN ONE PAN. This was fast, bright, fresh and perfect for falling into fall. It took about 30 minutes to make. That means that hungry and confused diners can be eating in no time. And you can be nourishing them without a lot of fuss.
I served it with this a spinach salad adorned with jumbo shrimp, San Marzano tomatoes and a lime, cilantro vinaigrette. But you could just as easily add some chicken to this soup and have it represent the whole meal. Or add veal. Or even hamburger if you have a carnivorous bunch. A dash of bright parsley keep the spoons full and coming back for more.
RECIPE: Butternut Soup / Click here for Printable Version
3 T butter, unsalted
2 T oil
4 C diced butternut squash
1 ½ C oyster mushrooms sliced
3/4 C baby bella mushroom sliced
1/3 C white sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 – 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
1 15 oz can corn, no salt added (or 1 C frozen corn and 1/3 C water)
½ C jasmine rice/wild rice medley*
4 C good chicken stock
1 C water
1/3 C white wine (optional)
1/8 t Duxelles seasoning**
1/8 t dried thyme
1/8 t nutmeg
1/4 t ginger powder
Salt and pepper as needed (see method)
Optional: ¼ C preserved lemon, sliced
¾ C fresh parsley
In a large Dutch oven pan, heat the butter and oil. Add the mushrooms and onions and cook on high until browned, about 3 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the can of corn, the stock, the wine, the seasonings, and stir until bubbling. Add the squash, the lemon, and the rice. Lower heat, cover and let lightly bubble for 20 minutes, or until rice is done and squash is soft. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. (I ended up using probably 1 t at least of kosher salt and ½ t black pepper.) Stir in the parsley, serve!
*I used a jasmine and wild rice medley that said 20 minutes cooking time. But I find that some wild rice medleys take MUCH longer. If your rice package says it takes longer, start the rice and don’t add the squash until you are about 20 minutes away from the soup being ready to serve.
**Duxelles is an herb medley with a mushroom base that can be found at specialty stores. The deep, earthy sweet flavor is what really makes this soup memorable. I bought mine at Savory Spice Shop®. I encourage you to find and use it often! It SINGS in deviled eggs!!!
Warm, Fast, Fun Food 2: Italian Meatball, Vegetable Stew
You see it, don't you. This is REAL food. Potatoes, carrots, onions and yes, Brussel sprouts. All swimming in a deep, dark, savory gravy. And crowned with the greatest comfort of all, Italian sausage meatballs. But when you bite into it, there's another bit of spice that absolutely makes every flavor more real and more exciting. And that is the addition of a bit of Singapore Seasoning from Penzys Spices. Which is a sophisticated blend utilizing the Chinese 5-Spice medley but deeper, more savory, more perfect.
This is why it is warm, fast, fun and perfect!!
RECIPE / Click here for printable version.
1 lb ground Italian sausage
½ medium yellow onion, sliced
2 large carrots
10-12 Brussel sprouts ends removed and halved
5 small new potatoes cut in chunks
1 ½ C beef stock
2 t flour
2 T butter
1 t Penzys Singapore seasoning
½ t dried oregano
1/3 C Italian flavored bread crumbs
3 T heavy cream
2 T oil
Salt and pepper to taste*
In a large glass bowl combine the sausage, egg, cream, dried oregano and about 1 t salt and ¼ t black pepper, and combine. Add the breadcrumbs and combine. Mixture should stick together nicely but not be too dry. Form into small meatballs, set aside. In a large saucepan, heat the 2 T oil. Add the meatballs and cook by browning on both sides for about 3-4 minutes but NOT cooking them all the way through. Remove, cover meatballs.
In the same saucepan, add the onions, carrots, brussel sprouts, potatoes, and Penzy’s seasoning, along with a little salt. Stirfry on medium high until the carrots begin to soften. Then add the stock, and stir until bubbling, reducing slightly. Mix the flour with a little water, whisking to smooth the flour into the water. Remove pan from heat and stir in the flour mixture, using a large spoon to move the roux through the stock until it thickens. It shouldn’t be too thick at this point and it will tighten as it finishes cooking. Now add the meatballs back in, and let it bubble for about another 4 minutes until meat is cooked through.
Serve in bowls with your choice of bread.
*If you buy a pre-made beef stock, the saltiness may vary. Taste often throughout the process for proper seasoning.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.