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Comfort Food

Thu Nov 22, 2007

crisp

Ben’s Apple Crisp

I’ve moved a lot over the past dozen years—California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, New York and back to California—so I’ve spent a lot of time longing for things comforting and familiar. When I’m stressed out I crave Khi Mao, a spicy Thai noodle dish spiked with chilies and basil, from the Lucky Noodle in Eugene, Oregon. When I’m tipsy and tired after a fun night out, raiding the fridge is rarely as satisfying as the salty sweetness of a culatello panino with mozzarella and noci from ‘inoteca in New York.

Our individual comfort foods have origins as unique as we are. They can be part of habit, like the noodles or panino, or cultural, like my grandmothers cinnamon and sugar-dusted rugulach, and they’re always a bit nostalgic. The fall and winter holidays are an ideal time for comfort foods, they’re part of our traditions—as human as breathing—gathering friends and family together like ingredients for a recipe.

As I’ve been planning my Thanksgiving menu, the first where I am the lead cook, I’ve been thinking a lot about food traditions and the ones I’ve picked up along the way. I’m still not sure what will make it into the meal, but the cold snap in the weather and the cornucopia of apples stacked high at the farmer’s market make me think of the amazing apple crisp my roommate Ben used to make in New York. Cinnamon spice, brown sugar and tart apples all warm and caramelized in the oven make me think of leaves turning colors, wood smoke, the New York Times on a Saturday morning. Last week I sent an instant message begging for the recipe, which he sent yesterday. While I made just a couple of tweaks to make it my own, this recipe is still Ben’s, and I find that comforting.

Ben’s Apple Crisp
7-9 tart apples, peeled and sliced thin
Cinnamon
¾ cup brown sugar, separated
1 ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
3 whole cloves
Dash of flour
Dash of salt
2 ½ cups steel cut oats or Trader Joe’s multi-grain hot cereal
1 stick of butter, cold, cut into pats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place thinly sliced apples in the bottom of a 7×9 baking dish, coat with a layer of brown sugar (about ½ cup), dashes of cinnamon to taste and orange zest. In a separate bowl, mix about 2 ½ cups of oats, a dash of flour, a dash of salt and ¼ cup of brown sugar. Knead in cold butter pats until the oats hold together loosely in clumps. Pour oat crumble over apples. Bake, uncovered for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

As good as I remembered and a great way to launch into the family and friend filled fracas that’s about to ensue.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

(Coming soon, my first Turkey feast…)

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2 Responses to “Comfort Food”

 
  1. swirlingnotions Says:

    I like your Thai and Italian-inspired comfort cravings, Leah. Any chance you’ll post the recipes to those?

    Like the friend filled fracas too ;-). It just rolls off your tongue . . .

  2. leah greenstein Says:

    I’ve been trying to nail down the Khi Mao recipie for years and am still experimenting with the recipe. Jariya, the Thai chef from the Lucky Noodle whose recipe it is, is about as forthcoming on how to make the dish as an overprotective nonna.

    In the meantime, you can read my take on the culatello panino recipe from ‘inoteca here: http://www.sierrasun.com/article/20060117/ACTION/101170004&SearchID=73246436406222. I’ll repost on the blog soon.

    Thanks for reading!

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