Image Source: Woman Eating Pasta results on Shutterstock
Before we begin, I’m going to preface this by saying that stock photo websites are one of the best 10-minute internet distractions, because of the treasure trove of weird combinations, poses, & facial expressions. For example, I was recently doing an assignment for a job application and had to find a stock photo of a woman eating – the second image that popped up in my search was the nekkid torso of a woman, with two hands holding each of her nipples with a chopstick. Huh?! There have been a few curations of stock photos such as Women Laughing Alone with Salad, which I found strange because really, what woman laughs alone with salad? And that brought me to the idea of comfort food…
The phrase “comfort food” often brings to mind the indulgently simple recipes from childhood, such as pancakes & waffles with ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, meatloaf, etc. Comfort food is awesome because, well, you eat it when you need comfort. Bad day? Tired? Break-up? Lonely? These foods wrap their cheesy, sugary, carb-y arms around you and tell you everything is going to be alright, or at least until you put the spoon down. Or, one bite of that gooey lasagna will remind you of Mom. Mom’s not here. This lasagna is.
I’d like to call this one branch of comfort food. Personally, it’s the type of comfort food that I can whip up in a hurry, and enjoy blissfully. It’s the eating-your-feelings-style food. I know that this brand of comfort pasta is white noodles smothered in warm sauce from a can (preferably with sausage) and doused in cheap parmesean. It’s awesome.
But there’s another type of comfort food, where the comfort is found in the making as well as the eating. It’s a more sustainable comfort food, healthier than its counterpart, and it involves a self-love rather than self-pity. I can’t quite think of a name for it. All I know is that I begin not with a microwave, but with a knife. I wash my cutting board, and set out ripe, colorful vegetables. I bring the pasta water to a boil carefully, adding a pinch of salt and dash of olive oil. When I add the pasta, I am patient. As I slice the vegetables, I am contemplative. It’s likely I got these ingredients from some sort of farmer’s market. I think of how happy I am when I’m outdoors, and I am calm. I take the time to plate my meal, to marvel at the bright greens and yellows and reds. I eat until I am full, and afterwards I feel restored, not satiated.
Comfort food type one is yummy and necessary, but only every once in a while. Comfort food type two is something to try to make more often, if you have a little extra time here and there. This pasta is similar to a light salad; it doesn’t have a sauce, but rather, a lemon dressing. The fresh vegetables benefit from minimal cooking, and be sure to use a delicious cheese. I used a blueberry cheddar I found at a local market.
Comfort Food: Light Lemon Veggie Pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
15 green beans, ends snapped, chopped into pieces
3 oz whole-wheat pasta
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
1 yellow zucchini, washed & grated
small amount of a good cheese
Fill a medium saucepan 3/4 of the way with water. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, olive oil, lemon juice, green beans, & pasta. Reduce to medium heat, letting it simmer for 11 minutes.
In the meantime, cut up all of your vegetables. Put the yellow zucchini in a small bowl and microwave for 1 minute; this will reduce the excess water and cook it slightly.
Remove sauce pan from heat when pasta is desired consistency. Beans might not be completely soft but this is okay! Strain pasta.
In sauce pan, combine 1/2 tomatoes and 1/2 zucchini with the pasta/bean mixture. Mix well and pour dressing (recipe below) on top. Plate pasta and top with the remaining tomatoes & zucchini, as well as the avocado. Grate a generous amount of cheese on top. Serve on a pretty plate.
Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp oregano.