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Healthy comfort foods / quarantine cuisine

 
pollinator
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A lot of the Italians are coping with the Lockdown situation by making jummy comfort foods. Nothing like mama’s meatballs to forget all sorrows.
Personally I’m suspecting our whole village to be making pizza on the weekend, as there is a constant shortage of the necessary ingredients on any Saturday.
I must say I’m guilty as well. I love me a slice homemade pizza on Saturday (or any day really!)
Being stuck at home is also a great excuse to spend more time in the kitchen anyway!
However, as much as I want to drown my worries out with delicious food, I also want to stay healthy! So I’m looking for recipes for (reasonably) healthy comfort foods. Bonus points if you can make it with in-season products!

I’ll attach some pictures of my current (reasonably healthy) comfort foods with products that are available in spring. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Other ideas that I haven’t gotten pictures of:
-hop shoots with a soft boiled egg (tastes like asparagus, jum!!)
-popcorn with cayenne pepper, garlic and a drizzle of honey
-whole wheat homemade pizza with red onions, thyme and mozzarella

What do you like to eat that is great as a comfort food without the accompanying guilt that comes with eating too much of it?
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Homemade spelt bread with sundried tomatoes, seeds and dried herbs (thyme, origano, basil, rosemary, sage) from last summer. It’s like pizza bread!
Homemade spelt bread with sundried tomatoes, seeds and dried herbs (thyme, origano, basil, rosemary, sage) from last summer. It’s like pizza bread!
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Stinging nettle homemade pasta (eat it with fresh ricotta and a drizzle of lemon)
Stinging nettle homemade pasta (eat it with fresh ricotta and a drizzle of lemon)
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Homemade ravioli with stinging nettle pesto filling
Homemade ravioli with stinging nettle pesto filling
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Carrot cake with low sugar content and yoghurt and lemon zest topping
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Fresh dandelion!
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Dandelion carbonara your basic creamless carbonara, but adding chopped dandelion to your bacon to stir fry briefly with some cumin seed. Super tasty and the dandelion packs a ton of good stuff.
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My favourite: elderberry flower ricotta fritters (balls of fresh sheep ricotta with breadcrumbs, honey, elderberry flowers, and then fried), this is too addictive!!
 
S. Bard
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I found a short article today in The Local about cooking as a way of coping. You can read it Here

Here’s a quote from the article:

Food helps. Not just eating it; more so, preparing it.
An overwhelming majority of people mentioned cooking or baking as either a coping strategy and/or a silver lining. Several studies suggest mindfulness-based practices can play a role in the treatment of anxiety.
Because cooking engages multiple senses, it can be a form of mindfulness. The focus and rhythm of chopping or stirring can help soothe anxiety and the mental energy required to follow a recipe can help keep our minds off the bad news on social media. And then there is the smell of vegetables sautèeing along with the snap of hot oil jumping from the pan. It all combines into a wonderful distraction.
To help encourage culinary coping, one of my colleagues started a Facebook group called Quarantine Cuisine where members post pictures of meals they have created, often including the recipe. It keeps us inspired, connected... and hungry.



I liked how they named their Facebook group ‘quarantine cuisine’ so I’ve added that to the thread title as well.
Maybe we can start our own list of quarantine recipes here? Share your meals and recipes here to keep each other inspired!

Here’s the recipe for my all time favourite spring sweet treat. Elderflower fritters! Very easy and fun to make with kids as well!
The recipe comes from one of my favourite cooking blogs by Emiko Davis, Lots of free recipes here, and this specific recipe is based on a recipe from a renaissance cookbook, which makes me love it even more.

Frittelle di fiori di sambuco — Elderflower and ricotta fritters
Inspired by a recipe from Renaissance cookbook, Opera, by Bartolomeo Scappi
Makes about a dozen fritters
30 grams fresh elderflowers (about a bunch)
180 grams firm ricotta
30 grams fine dry breadcrumbs
50 grams fine white sugar, plus more for rolling
1 whole egg
pinch of saffron
flour for dusting
vegetable oil for frying
Rinse the elderflower heads in plenty of fresh water then leave to dry on a tea towel. In the meantime, combine the ricotta, breadcrumbs, 50 grams of sugar, egg and saffron in a bowl.
Pick off the flowers from their large stems (some little stems are fine) and carefully fold them in to the ricotta mixture. Taking two teaspoons, drop heaping teaspoons of the mixture (about the size of walnuts, no bigger) into a bowl of flour and coat. Set aside on a plate while you continue with the mixture.
Heat a small saucepan with enough vegetable oil for the fritters to be able to float in. You want a stable medium heat. Test the heat by dropping a cube of bread into the oil. You should immediately see plenty of tiny bubbles appearing around it. Carefully drop a few of the fritters into the hot oil and fry until evenly golden brown, about 90 seconds. Turn and roll them during this time and try not to be tempted to overcrowd the pan – fry about 4 or 5 at a time. If you find it’s taking less time for them to brown, the oil is probably too hot. Take it off the heat or turn down the heat for a while. The last thing you want is for the fritters to be raw in the middle.
Remove the fritters from the oil, place on absorbent kitchen paper to drain slightly, then roll in sugar and serve warm.

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Elderflower fritters, intoxicatingly good
Elderflower fritters, intoxicatingly good
 
author & pollinator
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S. Bard, gosh, everything looks so yummy.

Of my childhood comfort foods, one of the hardest to find a healthy version for has been Campbell's tomato soup. I've tried lots of recipes and organic brands, but they just don't hit the spot. I finally found several homemade variations around the internet, and with some experimenting, settled on this one. It's actually a canning recipe, with one extra preparation step to serve.

Better-Than-Campbell's Tomato Soup

To make:

  • 2 gallons of tomatoes (fresh or thawed)
  • half a dozen or so small onions, chopped
  • bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unbleached sugar (or sugar of your choice)

  • Cook vegetables until tender. Strain with a food mill. Add sugar and reheat to simmering.

    To can:

    Wash and sterilize canning jars. Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Add canning salt (1/2 tsp per pint, 1 tsp per quart). Adjust lids. Process in pressure canner as per Ball Blue Book's recommendation for tomatoes and celery: 30 minutes per pint, 35 minutes per quart.

    Yield: 13 pints.

    To serve:

    Make a cream sauce (roux). The measurements below are for 1 pint jar of soup, double for quarts.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp unbleached flour

  • Melt the butter in sauce pan. Slowly mix in flour until smooth. At this point you can brown the flour if desired of just heat until bubbly (white sauce). Gradually stir in
  • 1 jar of soup, whisking to smooth out lumps.
  • 1 jar of your choice of liquid. I use bone broth or milk.

  • Heat and serve.

    Yield: 4 cups per pint jar of canned soup.

    For the best of comfort, serve with a grilled cheese sandwich.
     
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    I guess it's not as weird as I thought. I have always found comfort in planning and preparing good food. The abundance of fresh produce redeems our unbearably hot SC summers. A warm bowl of soup on a rainy grey winter day, well, I ALMOST enjoy prepping as much as eating it. Thanks so much for sharing.
     
    gardener
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    Dandelion carbonara! what a great idea! I love me some dandelions, and yours are gorgeous.

    We have plenty of access to good produce still, but I was isolating here after being ill and decided to just use what I had for 2 weeks. We made banana bread twice (we always freeze elderly bananas instead of feeding them to the birds), and LOTS of homemade bread. Heavy reliance on the collard greens, green beans, and okra I'm getting out of the garden right now. And many quick pickles and lacto-ferments to eat alongside our meals.

    My husband has also asked for pizza, so I bought 5kg of tomatoes yesterday and made passata, sauce will be next and then pizza this weekend, along with a meatball thing that we love (https://www.thekitchn.com/slow-cooker-chicken-parmesan-meatballs-256193).
     
    gardener
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    I made home made Pizza just a few nights ago!    Home made sauce , home made hot Italian sausage, of course pepperoni and mushrooms, all on homemade crust ,HMMM good!
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    Sauce cooking down for 4 hrs... ahh the smell...
    Sauce cooking down for 4 hrs... ahh the smell...
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    Ready and waiting to pop in the oven!
    Ready and waiting to pop in the oven!
     
    pollinator
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    A couple of nights ago we pressed homemade tortillas, made salsa, and ate off of it for two days.  We're eating more rough-cut oats and less dairy.

    I've been making bread, kind of what I'm stuck on right now.  I plan on amping up my mead making and we are eating less meat, using it more as a seasoning.



    IMG_4894-(1).JPG
    Julia Child's white bread recipe
    Julia Child's white bread recipe
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    Fresh Baked
    Fresh Baked
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    Experiment with unleavened johnnycakes
    Experiment with unleavened johnnycakes
     
    S. Bard
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    thomas rubino wrote:I made home made Pizza just a few nights ago!    Home made sauce , home made hot Italian sausage, of course pepperoni and mushrooms, all on homemade crust ,HMMM good!



    That looks heavenly, Thomas! Care to share the recipe for your sauce and homemade sausage? I love me a good sausage mix!
     
    S. Bard
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    Scott Foster wrote:A couple of nights ago we pressed homemade tortillas, made salsa, and ate off of it for two days.  We're eating more rough-cut oats and less dairy.

    I've been making bread, kind of what I'm stuck on right now.  I plan on amping up my mead making and we are eating less meat, using it more as a seasoning.



    Those breads look top-shelf! We’ve been doing a lot of breadmaking these days, but that’s just as much out of necessity as it is out of hobby. No fresh bread available anymore right now!
    I’d love to try my hand at tortilla making for a change, though. Any good recipe you can recommend on them?
     
    Scott Foster
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    Hi S. Bard

    I just use the recipe on the back of the Masa/Corn Flour Package.  I think each brand is a little different.    It's really, really simple.  The hardest part is actually getting the tortillas thin enough, but not too thin.  We mix the cornflour with water, mix it, knead it, pull golfball sized chunks of dough off and press it.  The first couple of times we made them we did it without a press.  

    We cook them in a hot cast iron pan using olive oil.

    Here is a link to give you a general idea.

    Making Corn Tortillas

    If you plan on making tortillas regularly I suggest getting a tortilla press.  Making them by hand is a real work out.

    IMG_4932.JPG
    Our Cast Iron Tortilla Press
    Our Cast Iron Tortilla Press
     
    S. Bard
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    Oh now I really want to make tortillas!
    But I’ll have to find a way to get my hands on the masa flour first. Even without the quarantine, exotic food supplies are really hard to come by in rural Italy. I’ll have to check if I can order it online somewhere without paying a ton for the shipping.

    What do you usually eat on your tortillas?
     
    thomas rubino
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    Hi S;  Happy to share.
    I grew up on the east coast in an Italian family/neighborhood.  
    I never really gave much thought to just how good the sausage was from the deli down the street.
    Flash forward 15 years...  living in Montana now .... Awesome place , super people... they would not know "real" Italian sausage from "super market sausage".
    For years I got a frozen care package fast shipped to me from home. (handy having a relative in the Fedex upper management)
    Then I discovered I could make my own!  Helps if you raise your own organic piggys!

    Hot Italian sausage)   1# fresh ground pork. 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp powdered garlic ,1 tsp course ground blk pepper, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp anise, 1 tbsp powdered fennel, 1 tbsp crushed whole fennel,
    2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 2 tbsp olive oil.  Mix well , cover, place in fridge overnight.  I mainly use this on pizza so the next morning I roll up small meat balls , fry them up and then freeze until its pizza time!   The best days I make sauce and sausage on the same morning and its pizza for dinner that night!   HMMMM GOOD!
    Sweet Italian sausage)1# fresh ground pork, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp blk pepper, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp whole fennel, 1 tsp ground fennel, 1 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp garlic powder,1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp anise,
    Mix well , cover place in fridge overnight.
    New York style pizza sauce) 28oz stewed tomatoes, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp butter, 2 med clove garlic crushed , 1 tsp oregano, pinch red pepper flakes, pinch salt, some fresh basil over top if yu have any or dry if not, 1 med onion cut in half, 1 tsp sugar
    Combine butter olive oil in pan heat slow,add garlic ,oregano, pepper flakes and salt. cook 3-5 minutes stiring constantly.  Add tomatoes and sugar  , bring to a boil,  place onion face down on top , cook very slowly for hrs , discard onion's , cool and store in fridge.  This makes more than one pizza's worth but not quite enough for two. I freeze the extra and make a new batch for the next pizza . Then I add the left over to the previous batch and we are all set again!
    Mangia, enjoy!
     
    Scott Foster
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    S. Bard wrote:Oh now I really want to make tortillas!
    But I’ll have to find a way to get my hands on the masa flour first. Even without the quarantine, exotic food supplies are really hard to come by in rural Italy. I’ll have to check if I can order it online somewhere without paying a ton for the shipping.

    What do you usually eat on your tortillas?



    Grass-fed beef, beans, lettuce, salsa, hot sauce, refried beans, cheese quesadillas and always Tabasco.  You can use them as a side bread for just about any meal, slather with butter, use as a chili scoop and etc.
     
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    Was recently given some frozen halibut, we thawed it and made some fish and chips. Fried, not-so-good for you but it sure is delicious!



    I’ve also been making a lot of Salisbury steak but made with elk, with a mushroom and onion gravy. So good.
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    pollinator
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    Thanks for sharing the pictures and recipes!
    Fried elderberry fritters are popular here in Bavaria as well (eaten with icing sugar) but the season starts in June.

    The other Italian dishes are all healthy in my eyes (I like the ravioli most! Not enough nettle so early in the year for me) so I would not feel one bit guilty for indulging in these! One could always throw in a bit of wholegrain flour but as there is so much veggie goodness around it would not be necessary in my eyes.

    In April here there are not so many veggies yet. Some salad greens and frozen things (beans, spinach etc.), sprouts and microgreens. I always cook from scratch, and the only difference to pre-Corona times is that the meals are even more yummy as I take more time and the family is united (at other times, the kids come home at different times from school or have dance classes etc.).
    To make it more healthy, I am often adding a plate of crudites (or the kids do it), a salad with pulses, home fermented food like Kimchi, yoghurt and kefir.
    The bread and pizza is always homemade, with very very little yeast and a nice stable sourdough.

    We don't eat much meat or fish, so there is only the occasional organic turkey, minced meat dishes or salmon (all very pricey, but I prefer quality over quantity). Now off to think of today's mealplan!

     
    Anita Martin
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    I had to keep on thinking of Italian food after your post!

    Although we live rather rural/suburban, we have two excellent family-run Italian restaurants within 15 minutes drive. One is the restaurant at the sports club where my daughter plays tennis, the other is in a really small village and we went there in January for my birthday.
    The dish I had was one of the most tasty things I have eaten in an Italian restaurant, Fregola con cime di rapa e vongole (a dish from Sardegna with vongole clams and a brassica https://www.sicilianicreativiincucina.it/minestra-fregola-cime-rapa-vongole/).
    It made me look up cime di rapa and I have ordered seeds.
    Right now they are looking like in the pic (we are having frosts for a week now and luckily they survived in the greenhouse).
    This week we also had spaghetti with pesto. Last year I had read about freezing basic pesto puree (basil and olive oil) in little jars. I had lots of basil so that I could freeze half a dozen jars. I defrost one, mix in the remaining ingredients like garlic, parmesan, a little bit of lemon, sunflower seeds or other nuts, salt and I have a pesto that tastes like freshly made!

    We are eating another brassica that overwintered, the sprouting broccoli. I make a stirfry Asian style with some rice, but actually I could try it as a substitute for cime di rapa in a pasta dish.

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    Cima di rapa seedlings
    Cima di rapa seedlings
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    sprouting broccoli
    sprouting broccoli
     
    S. Bard
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    Oh Anita! Cima di Rapa and Vongole are some of my favourite ingredients in a pasta. Now you’ve got me drooling remembering them!
    Vongole are quite expensive here in the mountains, but whenever I visit friends in Venice or Padova I have to get me a plate of fresh Vongole (just a squeeze of lemon, tossed with white wine, garlic and olive oil, and if you want to be really generous some cherry tomatoes). Food of the gods, really!

    Cima di rapa is also scrumptious! I actually prefer it over broccoli, as it is slightly more bitter and better tasting (but could also be because I always get my cime from our friends who are really great bio farmers.)

    Cima di rapa is also great in a carbonara. Just like the dandelion, I just toss them in with them in with the pancetta after blanching them just a bit in with the cooking water for the pasta.

    Such a delight!

    Your broccoli stir fry looks great by the way!!
     
    Anita Martin
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    I have to share a recipe that is quick, tasty and healthy and does not require lots of exotic ingredients: Shakshuka!
    I only remembered to take a picture when I had started eating as I was so hungry.

    Shakshuka is an Israeli/Oriental dish with tomato sauce including peppers and onions where you add whole eggs to be poached in the pan.
    I went a bit freestyle and also added some green beans I had in the freezer plus half a jar of homemade spicy zucchini chutney. I sprinkled it with spring onions, parsley and cilantro (from the garden).
    I served it with fresh sourdough bread (made with potatoes and different flours like spelt as I could not get regular bread flour). So fingerlicking yummy!

    Here is a recipe, but you can add what you have on hand (e.g. no fresh tomatoes so tomato cans):
    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/16/yotam-ottolenghi-shakshuka-recipe

    I am a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi, but many of his recipes are not really sustainable for me as not all those fruits and veggies grow here. From time to time, I use one of his recipes or at least get myself inspiration.
    This is another one of my favourites, chickpeas with spinach, carrots and yoghurt drizzle: https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-chickpea-saute-with-greek-yogurt-recipes-from-the-kitchn-217983
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    Abundance on Dry Land, documentary, streaming
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