Warming Comfort Foods by Susan Guillory

When the weather turns cold and one starts to turn “inward” to think of ways to cope, I love to take this time to reflect and mindfully create “warming” foods for my family. These are two of my quick and easy favorite recipes that have energizing, power packed nutrients:

Roasted Root Vegetables
Closed off from the outside elements during the winter, the aromas in a home particularly touch the mind and senses. There is nothing more comforting than the scent of oven-roasting seasonal vegetables like carrots, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, and celery root. The sweetness of the flavors are enhanced by this very easy method of slow cooking—a concept that is bringing together mindful cooking and eating through a worldwide organization appropriately named “Slowfood.”

Recipe

  • Choose any of your favorite vegetables mentioned above and/or add unique options like sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), celeriac (celery root), Japanese turnips, or golden beets.
  • Cut vegetables into 2-inch chunks, being mindful of the ones that have different cooking times (i.e., sunchokes take half the time of carrots so they should remain larger whereas beets take more than twice the time so they should be cut much smaller).
  • Place them in a large roasting pan, sized according to amount of food being cooked. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with desired amount of salt and add herbs, fresh or dried. Rosemary, thyme and sage are classics. Cover with a lid or tightly wrapped foil.
  • Place in cold oven and turn on at 350 degrees. Cook for approximately one hour or until desired softness. Serve hot with kasha and be sure reserve juices for other uses such as a stock or gravy.

Buckwheat or “Kasha”

Due to its name, Buckwheat has an erroneous reputation as being a member of the wheat family. However, it is actually a fruit seed and is related to the dock family of sorrel and rhubarb. This gluten-free food cooks in about 15 minutes and is popular in cultures around the world because it has a short growing season and can be cultivated as a second crop in cooler temperatures. Buckwheat has also been associated with a few health benefits, as some research suggests positive effects on blood glucose and blood pressure. Buckwheat is the main ‘grain’ of Russia where Russian and Eastern European Jews roast it prior to cooking and call it “Kasha.” Popular recipes include a simple dish of adding cooked kasha to bow tie pasta and onions (“kasha varnishka”) or enclosing it within a simple turnover (“kasha knishes”). In Asia you will find it served in the form of “soba” or buckwheat noodles. The French in Brittany have developed a specialty crepe made with the flour called “galettes des Sarassin.”

Recipe
Serves eight

2 cups buckwheat or kasha
3 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup finely chopped onion (optional)
½ cup finely chopped carrot (optional)
1 T olive oil (if adding the vegetables)
2 bay leaves (optional)
Salt to taste

  • Buckwheat groats are sold plain and kasha is just the roasted version. If you can only fine the plain groats, I recommend that you lightly pan roast them for five minutes for better flavor. Note that should you prefer, washing the buckwheat beforehand will create a more mushy texture.
  • Saute onions and carrots with olive oil in medium saucepan for three minutes. Add all other ingredients, then let the mixture come to a boil at high heat. Lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Leave covered and rest for 10 minutes before serving. A Russian-Jewish friend taught me that her family always used stock and bay leaves, and they add a nice flavor. I use the onion and carrot for color and sweetness.

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