A COMFORT LIST for THE ROAD

During the Thanksgiving holiday my friend Meredith explored Patagonia, a meandering territory in the southern tip of South America. This rugged area of spectacular national parks in the Andes mountain range is shared by Chile and Argentina. Forty years ago English author Bruce Chatwin wrote IN PATAGONIA, ‘a masterpiece of travel writing that revolutionized the genre’ and introduced that slice of South America to the world. Game on.

My Anthem Country Club friends and neighbors got together for dinner to welcome me back to Henderson. Laughter and happy memories, that’s for sure.

But, I digress….. As her vacation ended, beginning a lengthy 32-hour trek home, I asked that she check in when safely home in Atlanta. Here’s the text I received: BUS: Natales to Arenas; PLANES: Arenas-Santiago-Dallas-Atlanta; TRAIN: Marta; WALK: Home. Travel is not for sissies. As you know!”

Our Clara is a math whiz which translates to precision and perfection. It’s a strength that Melissa, Emma and I don’t share. She’s the baker in the family and dished up a Cherry Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake. Beyond tasty.

Clara bought fresh cherries, pitted them and stored them in the freezer until Thanksgiving. Her filling was delicious but my, oh my, her crust. The best ever. The cheesecake, her first try, was just so good.

When she walked through the door, Meredith later told me, she headed for the freezer to pull out a stash of her Red Beans and Rice, a Louisiana Creole cuisine classic. While it bubbled on the burner, she unpacked, threw a load of dirty laundry in the washer, probably changed into sweats, and voila……breakfast/lunch/dinner poured into one big bowl of comfort food.

To make Celery Root Soup with Horseradish Cream and Bacon Chips, you start at the source.

While my 1200-mile holiday adventures were not as exotic, my hunger pangs tilted toward comfort after spending Thanksgiving in California with my family. This week’s post highlights some easy eats of mine – a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of piping hot soup. Comfort medicine for the soul.

Full stop. Before leaving Colorado I paused to share the road with two young mountain sheep who’d lost their way. Their herd was a mile down the road.

I’m taking it up a notch but still keeping it simple with Everything Spice Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and CooktheBookFridays recipe, Soupe de Céleri-Rave à la Crème de Raifort et Chips de Jambon. Even after months of immersion study at the Institut de Français, that’s an American mouthful. Translated simply, celery soup, unique and darn tasty.

The American West. Beaver, Utah 11/18/17 (Day 1 of my journey. Love this photo. )

ON-the ROAD-AGAIN

This marks the fourth year of my winter hiatus from Aspen. Surprisingly, my sad pangs tugged stronger this year. Although escaping the High Country’s hearty winters is a great option, it wasn’t until Green River, 250 miles out, that I’d again convinced myself of this. Maybe what feels so right and happy just gets harder to leave.

My last lunch with friends before leaving Aspen. Char McLain( L) and Donna Grauer (R). Their husbands were at work in the kitchen!

In the winter, when my life is more gypsy than residential, it’s pretty important that every day be comfort food, figuratively not literally. Silly as it sounds, when traveling alone my world spins better if surrounded by my comfort cache. A bag of tricks? A security blanket in disguise? If stranded on a desert island, I could amuse myself. Here’s what I pack…..

1. Books and Kindle Paperwhite. Current Favorite: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson;
2. Four Boxes of Nabisco’s Honey Maid Graham Crackers;
3. Memberships in Hulu, Netflix, CBS Access, MHZ Choice and Acorn.
Current Favorites: Mannon and The Great British Baking Show;
4. Five Jigsaw Puzzles;
5. Lumosity, daily on-line brain games Membership;
6. Computer and iPhone – lifeline to family and friends;
7. 4 Spiral Notebooks, 3 Packages of Pens;
8. Educational Courses: Mythology, Spanish and French;
9. 2 Boxes of Nestle’s Coffee Nips;
10.Yoga Mat and Tapes.

This is the same Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Frosting that I baked for my previous post. By changing up the bundt pan and the frosting decoration, it showed off differently for Thanksgiving. (Recipe in my last post.)

WHAT’S YOUR COMFORT FOOD?

RECIPES

EVERYTHING SPICE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH
adapted from Tieghan Gerard, halfbakedharvest.com

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

Although parmesan and cheddar are the cheeses of choice, use whatever hard cheese you have available for the rest of the mixture.

4 slices thickly cut country bread (I prefer sourdough)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 combo cup of shredded havarti, fontina cheese and/or gruyere
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough butter to coat pan. Cook one sandwich at a time.

2. Spread the outside of each slice of bread with butter and arrange the grated cheeses on one inside slice of each sandwich. Sprinkle the spice over both buttered outsides of the bread, pressing the spice mix gently into the bread to adhere. Sprinkle half the parmesan on top of each sandwich’s outside slice as you grill the sandwich.

3. Place the sandwiches, one at a time, parmesan cheese side up, in the skillet. (When you flip it, sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on the top.) Cook until golden on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side.

TIPS: 1. Use any combination of available cheeses in your fridge for your filling mixture.
2. I am making these again but will mix my own bagel spice, eliminating the garlic.

EVERYTHING BAGEL SPICE

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons toasted white or black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons dried onion
2 teaspoons dried garlic (Optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

DIRECTIONS Combine everything in a small bowl or glass jar. Keep stored in a cool, dry place. If needed, season to taste with more salt.

CELERY ROOT SOUP with HORSERADISH CREAM and BACON CHIPS, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

If you’ve never used celery root before, make this soup. Think of it being a neglected vegetable giving goodness. Save some steps by purchasing the horseradish cream and using bacon chips (instead of ham chips). Or simply drizzle with olive or nut oil.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
21/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
11/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cubed
6 cups (750ml) water
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs of thyme
minced fresh chives for garnish

DIRECTIONS

1. Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Saute for 7-10 minutes or until the leeks have started to turn translucent and a bit of color has started to develop on the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally.

2. Add the cubed celery root to the pot along with the bay leaf, thyme and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the celery root is tender, about 30-40 minutes. (A sharp paring knife should easily pierce a cube.)

3. Pluck out the bay leaf and thyme and let the soup cool to tepid. Add the white pepper. Puree with an immersion blender or remove the pot from the heat and carefully transfer, in small batches, to a regular blender and puree until smooth. Always be careful pureeing hot liquids. If the consistency of the soup is too thick, add water, a little at a time, as needed. Add white pepper or salt, to taste.

4. To serve the soup, reheat the soup and ladle into serving bowls. Add a generous dollop of horseradish cream, available at your local market, and crumble crispy bacon over the top, finishing each bowl with a sprinkling of chives.

OR, drizzle hazelnut, walnut or plain olive oil in the soup for garnish. Finish each bowl with a pinch of fleur de sel, or smoked sea salt.

Comments

  1. says

    I am now craving a grilled cheese! Yup, one of my top comfort foods, too. No gourmet fare in my freezer (at least nothing healthy enough for dinner!). I love reading your posts—you do make the best of your time with friends, education, family. I hope to grow up to be exactly like you!!! xoxo

  2. Donna Grauer says

    Mary this is so coincidental … last night After two back to back wonderful evening events (English in Action immigrant stories and a Basalt library concert), I made a grilled cheese sandwich for myself. I loved it but I wish I used your recipe.
    I was pleased with my bread choice: thin sliced Pepperidge farm white.
    And 4 boxes of graham crackers! I am going to
    Get some coffee nips . So proud of Clara the mathlete Baker
    Miss you

  3. says

    Hi Mary, I’m always fascinated with your posts, not only because they are so interesting, but because you are always moving so fast, I’m often never sure precisely where you are at the moment. Clara’s desserts look sensational and I’ve always found that math and science people tend to be excellent precision bakers. That Utah photo is fun and it takes me back to photos in my mind of Arizona and New Mexico. Your Bundt looks delicious, as does your David Lebovitz soup and the grilled cheese, lovely comfort foods. Enjoy your journey. Wait. Of course, you already always do. #Admiration.

  4. says

    I had grilled cheese for lunch today!!!! With the celery root salad, soup is long gone.
    My favorite comfort food includes grilled cheese, mac-and-cheese, linguini with clam sauce and popcorn.
    I always enjoy the updates on your travels. Comfort food is a great way to stay grounded as you wander. I hope your winter is filled with adventure. I know you’ll make the most of it, as always.

  5. Nancy Ferrillo says

    Another interesting read, Mary ! Love Love grilled cheese sandwiches!
    Carry on, you Traveler, you ! Fun times ahead.

  6. Rita Bernardi says

    Happy Travels Mary…
    I am in awe of your adventuresome spirit. Risotto has to be my favorite comfort food. Oh, and leftover pizza for breakfast.
    May your holidays be merry,
    Rita

  7. Chez Nana says

    If the celery root sold at my supermarket looked like those in the photo, I would call them unique instead of ugly too. Those are really gorgeous. Clara did a wonderful job with the baking, everything looks so good. I enjoyed your post, I hope you have safe travels wherever you are going.

  8. says

    Love all the edible items listed in your blog post!! Especially those of your next generation! I am getting used to the ‘stately’ root vegetable that we at CtBF are doing wonderful stuff with! Bacon is a nice touch, ‘grated’ will be the best thing to do with the ‘stately’ root vegetable the next time I eat it raw, for hubby’s sake. He kept asking what was he eating, again x 3! Rice vinegar was the only bottle of ‘vinegar’ within reach of my short frame… the other bottles are all high up in the cabinets! LOL!

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