Although I love home-style comfort food, I think that comfort food comes in so many shapes and forms. I’ve always been enamored with comfort food from other countries, whether it’s something as simple as Mjadra (lentils and rice with caramelized onions), rice and beans with fresh salsa, saffron-infused paella, spaghetti with marinara or a Greek tomato and okra stew. Comfort food, to me, is family-style food. It’s the essence of pure love. The meal that you’re served at a big, long wooden table with lots of happy, smiling, hungry faces. The food that our grandmother’s cooked (or that we wished they cooked us in some cases).
I had one of each. My mom’s mom (Bubby), was a wonderful, loving person, but a terrible cook. The dish that immediately comes to mind is a quiche that she made one night for dinner. It was liquid in form, just like a watery soup. After hundreds of guesses about what went wrong with the recipe, we finally surmised that she had forgotten to add eggs to bind it. So it was probably skimmed milk and undrained canned mushrooms. I think we ate salad for dinner that night. I still shudder at the thought. My other grandmother (my dad’s mom) was a bit intimidating, but an incredible cook. Intimidating in that she had a permanently hooked finger (a long story involving a job at a cookie factory in France), that she would occasionally use to hit my dad and uncles with, when they weren’t listening (a quick thwack to the side of their head, ninja-style). They would laugh and get her even more annoyed. She also wouldn’t let anyone breath in the kitchen when she was cooking, especially when she was making her garlic aioli, because she said it would ruin the sauce. She had some serious rules in her kitchen. But, she always cooked up great big pots of fresh, homemade rustic French food, that was so delicious, and redolent of garlic that your lips would literally burn (in the very best way).
My husband’s grandmother made incredible comfort food too. She was Greek and lived to the amazing age of 106. She fed all of her children, grandchildren and great-grand children Sephardic-style Greek/Middle Eastern comfort food. VaVa, as she was affectionately called (grandmother in Greek), was famous for her spinach quajado and potato and caramelized onion burrekas (little pastries, with a very rich olive oil dough). I once accidentally sat on one of her burrekas, and had a permanent half-moon oil stain that I could never get out of my dress.
So what am I getting at with all these stories? Comfort food is the food that feeds our souls. It makes us feel warm and loved. It’s love, pure and simple.
And, in the spirit of delicious comfort food, these Peanut Sesame Noodles should fit the bill. I made them for dinner the other night, just as my kids were packing up to head back to college. I wanted to make sure that they had nice full tummies before they hit the road.
Julie’s Peanut Sesame Noodles
These noodles are always a hit, and are perfect for a potluck, lunch or part of an Asian-style dinner. Feel free to toss in some sautéed tofu cubes (which I often do). If you can’t eat peanut butter, they are equally delicious with almond butter as well. You just may need to tweak the other flavors to taste. You can watch a video of me making them on Everyday Dish too.
1 pound dried pasta (I use dried white rice noodles, such as those for pad Thai)
1/2 cup peanut butter
6 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 to 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
5 tablespoons agave syrup, or organic sugar to taste
2 teaspoons siracha sauce, or to taste
2 cups thinly shredded purple cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti until it is al dente or just tender. Drain and rinse noodles. Set aside to cool.
2. In a blender jar, add peanut butter, soy sauce, water, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave syrup and siracha sauce. Blend sauce until it’s smooth and creamy. This might take a few minutes.
3. Place noodles in a large bowl. Pour peanut sauce over noodles, tossing well so that noodles are well coated with sauce. Add shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro, scallions and sesame seeds, tossing until mixed. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.
Tip: If not serving noodles right away, refrigerate until ready to serve. If the sauce on the noodles gets too thick to serve, add 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water, mixing or tossing well.
Copyright © 2012 Julie Hasson
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