Seasonal Recipe Favorites: Comfort Food for Days of Confinement

I hope this finds you healthy and strong as we continue to hunker down in our homes and, more aptly, our home kitchens during this unprecedented time of home confinement and social distancing. For this spring season’s recipe roundup, I’ve been collecting recipes for you that I hope will provide fresh cooking ideas and bright flavors to share with your loved ones—and offer some comfort for you all.

The recipes are adaptable so don’t fret if you don’t have the exact ingredients at hand. Just make do with what you have available or check this handy food substitution list. Above all, cooking shouldn’t be stressful—ideally, it’s the opposite! Cooking is a great way to focus on the moment: Leave the news behind (turn on some music instead!) and concentrate on chopping, stirring and enjoying the good smells emanating from your stove.

If you’re like me, you now seem to have an abundant supply of canned or dried beans in the larder and you’re looking for ways to use them. This Chard and White Bean Stew is just as yummy with broccoli rabe, broccolini or spinach if that’s what you’ve got on hand. If you want to include a meat protein and add a little spice to the meal, try this recipe for Chorizo and White Bean Stew—and note that hot or sweet Italian chicken or pork sausage would work just fine here, too. This recipe for Brothy Garlicky Beans uses dried beans and a few other pantry staples for a comforting dish. And any type of bean would suffice in this recipe for Black Beans and Sausage.

Chicken Soup with Lemon and Ginger is another comfort staple and the recipe here provides some great suggestions for livening up an otherwise simple soup. Try with noodles, grains or rice—toss some fresh herbs on top and pinch of cayenne pepper. And this recipe for Jane Grigson’s Celery Soup is a personal favorite that requires just three main ingredients—potatoes, celery and onion. It calls for dill too, and while dried is totally fine, it’s even better if you can get your hands on some fresh dill. If you find fresh dill, whizz any leftovers in the food processor, place the chopped herbs in a container and into the freezer. The same goes for fresh flat-leaf parsley. Unlike, say, fresh basil, both fresh parsley and dill keep well in the freezer and are good to have on hand.

Keep healthy with a burst of vitamin C in your diet with this Citrus, Mixed Grains and Kale Salad—a nice departure from sandwiches for lunch or serve it up as a side for dinner. Or try this One Pot Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad with nutrition packed sweet potatoes.

A Dutch baby is usually thought of as a breakfast treat using milk, eggs and flour, but here it is in a savory adaptation—a Whole Wheat Dutch Baby with Sautéed Spring Vegetables. It’s a wondrous thing to behold when it comes out of the oven, puffed up in all its glory—and the recipe toppings are infinitely adaptable.

Here is some ultimate mac ’n’ cheese comfort food: Sheet Pan Pasta Gratin with healthy kale tossed in for good measure. Or try Spinach and Artichoke Pasta.

One thing about all the cooking you’re doing is the dishwashing that goes along with it. Here’s a genius One Pan Pasta recipe to reduce the cleanup load.

For another one-pot meal and a nice change in flavors, try this One Pot Thai Chicken Curry. Or go for sheet pan cooking with Zuni Sheet Pan Chicken, a riff on a delicious chicken dish from heralded San Francisco restaurant, Zuni Café. Here is a simple fish dish with bright citrus and spice that really could be made with any type of fish: Salmon a L’Orange. And the same goes for this Piccata recipe. While the recipe calls for skate wing you could easily adapt it for any white fish, scallops (or even chicken) to go with the lemony caper sauce.

Feed the craving for Tex-Mex with vegan Cauliflower Tacos or these vegan Mexican Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Sauce. I also found this very simple recipe for Five Minute Enchilada Sauce made with pantry staples. You could fill your enchiladas with just about anything, including sautéed veggies, beans, diced sautéed chicken or cooked ground beef. Add some chili powder to whatever you put inside the rolled tortillas, plus some canned green chilis if you have them on hand.

Here is a comforting Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew that’s even better the next day—or stash leftovers in the freezer for a meal that’s ready to eat next week or the following.

My family loves this recipe for Tomato Glazed Meatloaves. Everyone gets their own individual flavorful and tender meatloaf in big meatball form. It’s a good recipe to double, divide and freeze.

And here is a recipe for Pork Medallions with Whisky Marmalade Sauce—a little whisky for the pan and a little whisky for the cook in times like these.

There has been a lot of baking going on in my house between “remote learning” sessions. While I’m not so sure it’s good for the waistline, it’s definitely good for the collective household mental health! Try these Chocolate Chip Kitchen Sink Cookies. If you’re gluten-free, you’ll want to add this recipe for Almond Flour Brownies to your collection. Here’s a recipe that makes me smile because it’s so retro—an icebox “pie” that belongs in the 1950s but tastes just as good or maybe better in 2020. The recipe for Ten Minute Lime Cracker Pie has a fun video to watch as does this recipe for Coconut Custard Macaroons—both from Genius Recipes at Food 52.

One recipe that has gone absolutely viral during these days of COVID-19 is Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread. It takes some time since the dough needs to rise twice, but the result of patient waiting is a delicious crusty round loaf of fragrant homemade bread with little overall effort.

I’m heading to my kitchen now to make one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever seen for homemade granola—I make it on a regular basis and it never gets old. Neither does the delicious smell of cinnamon that permeates the house while it bakes. Enjoy this recipe for Sweet Pecan Granola.

A last thought: Don’t give up on your cookbooks during this time of self-confinement. There’s a wonderfully helpful website called Eat Your Books where you can log in, add the titles of your cookbooks to your profile (they make it easy for you) and then enjoy access to a complete index for every recipe you have on your bookshelf, all in one place.

Hang in there, friends. We’re going to make it through this crisis… one recipe at a time!

Genie McPherson Trevor is the founding editor of Edible Rhody magazine, a quarterly food journal that celebrates the local, seasonal bounty of Rhode Island. Edible Rhody is a member of Edible Communities, the James Beard award-winning publishing group with over 80 local Edible magazines in print across the United States and Canada.

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