What exactly makes certain dishes ‘comfort food’? Have you ever wondered? I mean, we’ve certainly heard it applied to unhealthful snacks, like a bag of potato chips, or a big vat of mac and cheese, but underneath the health content of the food, there is something more.
I’m not sure what it is really, and maybe it varies from person to person. For me, its definitely something warm, and although its hard to explain fully, its also earthy to me. So, as in the dish above, the mushrooms gave this meal a warm earthy savory flavor that just made me feel good, cozy, held… snuggled in. Interesting no?
I suppose that this might fall under the category of emotional eating, but that usually comes with a level of unconscious compulsive eating and this meal didn’t have that element for me. I very consciously made a meal that was healthy and nourishing to my body and that matched the tone of my day. It tasted good and I savored every last bite while sitting on the deck and watching the world around me.
I definitely think that the idea of comfort food is rooted in our society’s need to self soothe with food, so that what we eat isn’t just nourishing to our physical beings, but also has an emotionally comforting quality. The only problem with this is that the food we tend to go to for emotional comfort is fat laden and unhealthy along with the fact that we tend to eat way too much of it. Of course the other issue with eating food for emotional comfort is the unconsciousness that goes along with it. Rather then being emotionally aware enough to deal with the feelings that are going on, we tend to stuff the emotions with the food. So the soothing and comfort really isn’t doing any good. Its almost like a drug.
I think we need to reclaim the kind of comfort eating we do. Bring it back to a very awake understanding of exactly what type of nutritional, textural and flavorful nourishment is needed on a particular day or for a meal and make it for ourselves. A practice in checking in with the moment if you will. Food practice.
I made this dish on a day I was feeling good, serene, and so grateful for the slow casual day I was having. I felt enveloped by the entire day as if I was wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. So my food reflected that for me. Perhaps then it wasn’t comfort food as much as it was the right mood food. Who knows? But this dish is easy, healthy and something I like to make when I’m deeply involved in my craft and don’t want to tear myself away for too long to make an elaborate meal. Oh… and it always needs to be served in a deep dish. This adds to the soothing/comfort/mood factor as well.
Hearty dash of sea salt
1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups of pure water
1. I use a rice cooker. It just makes my life easier and truth be told I am pretty hit and miss when making rice on the stove. So I place all the above ingredients in the rice cooker, plug it in, click the button and in 15-20 minutes I have amazing rice! While the rice is cooking, make the mushrooms.
::Thyme Shitake Ragout::
1/4 stick of butter
1 lb of shitake mushrooms de-stemmed and sliced
2 Tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
3 large shallots diced
3 large cloves of garlic minced
1. Melt butter in large skillet and coat the bottom of the pan.
2. Add shallots and garlic, saute until they begin to soften at full heat. Should take 2 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and saute until they release their juices and begin to turn a darker shade of brown.
4. Season with salt and pepper and then add the fresh thyme. Continue to cook in the pan for another minute and then take off the burner.
This is a super simple mushroom ragout. There are countless variations to this, but this one is quick, easy and thyme and mushrooms are simply heavenly together. You can experiment with adding more or less thyme to this dish. I love the taste of this herb and tend to actually put much more then 2 Tbsp in it. But I would start with this amount first.
Once mushrooms are done, fill a medium bowl with the basmati rice and then ladel the mushrooms on top. Simple, easy, no nonsense and healthful.