Despite bemoaning comfort food’s ubiquity or “upscale comfort cuisine” in predominantly shoddy-glossy establishments, I do find these foods to be rather important in a day to day sense. Misery, sickness or fatigue aren’t the only occasions that find me seeking that sort of cozy reassurance though. I work towards comfort immediately upon waking every day — and I find it in a cup of tea, a piece of fruit, a handful of granola, some avocado smushed on toast with chill flakes, whatever’s there… Perhaps my angle on this sought-after feeling is different, but when I think of comfort and an optimal self, I aim for renewal. If there are harsh forces in the world, I won’t bring more of the same violence down onto my body. The food or drink’s abilities to soothe and revitalize must work in tandem.
With that criteria floating in the background, I generally find the most comforting foods to be elemental, aligning with the makings of our magnificent earth. In nature, that force of Goodness or God is all around. The total immersion in colour and textures is evidence of this power. I want that on the plate in front of me in as much as I can manage. The approach to nourishment carries itself out from there rather seamlessly, making its own intuitive connections along the way.
There are poached eggs adorning the top of any dish you could imagine, their gleaming whites evoke drifting clouds and life-moving/affirming breezes. A salty noodle broth splashes, cleanses and renews us from deep down like the sea. Greens and roots arrive with the earth still intact, upfront with their healing power. The deep brown bottoms of heavy sourdough loaves remind us that fire was the original cooking tool of choice, that it really is all we need for sustenance. The flavour and whole-life-satiety of such things are with me long after the food is gone. These are instances of true comfort, one’s self made better by reconnecting with the world for a moment and a meal.
It takes me in with its warmth and, more importantly, the meal brings me outside of my own mind a bit as well. There is an awareness involved that goes beyond automated fork and spoon lifting. In this particular example of simple soup, there are still-toothsome bits of greens, heavy with garlic, that require a small chew. The broth is a bit saline and can be sipped carefully while piping hot. The sweet potatoes are soft and rustic, bringing a very felt fullness. I add lentils to contribute even more hearty qualities, which I find necessary on these cool and damp early spring evenings. The chickpea flatbread has a bit of a socca vibe, but it’s more of a low maintenance affair, doing its thing in the oven while you simmer the soup and what have you.
So with that, I’ll cut it short and sweet right here — hopefully leaving you all in thoughts of comfort, vibrance and the many other good things that we have going.
I almost forgot to mention that I have a guest post at the wonderful Golubka blog this week. Anya’s cuisine and photographs speak of life lived well and vibrantly, so I’m more than happy to be sharing some little (gluten free and vegan) lemon tarts over there for you. You can check them out by clicking here.
simple garlic + greens soup with sweet potatoes
notes: Use regular potatoes if you like and any kind of greens that strike your fancy. This soup is rather easy going.
1 tbsp grapeseed or coconut oil
1 small onion, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/3 cup french/brown lentils, rinsed + picked over
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2-1 inch dice (peeling is optional)
5 cups vegetable stock (or 1 veggie bouillon cube + 5 cups water)
4-5 cups of roughly cut, sturdy greens (mustard greens, kale, cabbage, collards)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt + pepper
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are quite soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and diced sweet potato and stir them about to coat in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the stock to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring the pot here and there. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes/lentils are just soft, about 15 minutes. Add the greens and give the pot a stir. Allow them to wilt just slightly. Add the lemon juice, taste for seasoning and serve the greens soup hot with chili flakes, drizzles of extra virgin olive oil and whatever else you like.
smoky chickpea flatbread
notes: You can mix this up with any spices/herbs/citrus zests etc that you like. Also I mixed this batter up, covered it, and left it in the fridge for 3 days. All worked out fine and it baked while my soup was happening.
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
salt + pepper (I was liberal with both)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (I used bittersweet)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups filtered water (approx)
In a medium bowl, combine the chickpea flour, salt and pepper, smoked paprika and olive oil. Stir that up a bit. Add the water, starting with about 1 1/4 cups. Stir the batter with a spatula until combined. The consistency should be like thin pancake batter. Add more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with saran wrap, pressing the wrap onto the top of the batter. Let it sit for 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease it with more olive oil.
Scrape the batter onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it out to 1/4 inch thickness or so, shaking the pan and banging it on the counter to do so. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden in spots and lifting off of the pan with ease. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and serve warm in torn pieces. Optional: drizzle with more olive oil and black pepper.