Comforting Recipes That Aren’t Casseroles

October 13, 2023
Dining & Wine
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In meal-train cooking — be it for an ailing friend, a weary new-parent neighbor or a grief-stricken co-worker — the cheesy casserole often prevails. Few things can comfort like, say, a tray of easy-to-freeze lasagna at the onset of difficult times.

But the reality of hard times is that they can outlast even the biggest of casseroles and the most voracious of appetites for rich, heavy foods. Sophia, a reader, recently wrote to me about this very dilemma. Supported by a community of friends who’ve gifted her handwritten coupons for home-cooked meals, she’s struggling with how to cash them in as she weathers unexpected grief.

“Truth is, my brain cannot make simple decisions like this right now. I don’t know what I’m craving, but it’s been two weeks of bread and oranges and cheese and cookies and I can no longer ignore the faint voice from somewhere in my body saying please, please give me a vegetable. … Maybe something comforting that freezes well, some type of raw hearty veg salad that can be assembled easily and doesn’t go bad quickly, and something with cooked veg that holds up after sitting in the fridge for three days and being microwaved at 1 a.m.?”

Her requirements include: nourishing, bright or acidic, requiring minimal containers, and being easy to prepare for the provider and easy to reheat for the recipient.

Vegetable stews, curries and soups are all friends of your freezer. This especially comforting coconut saag, which Priya Krishna spent months tinkering with for the most luxuriously emerald outcome, comes to mind. Kindly request that a friend prepare one big batch, then portion it out into smaller containers for easy freezing and thawing. It can be made with paneer or tofu, and both hold up beautifully when reheated. Servings can be thawed first in the fridge, or popped directly in the microwave from frozen.

Also, this needs little introduction or explanation: a freezer stash of roasted vegetable burritos.

Sohla El-Waylly’s spoon salad calls for raw broccoli, quinoa, nuts, hard cheese and both fresh and dried fruit, so it’s a breeze to assemble, fun to eat and sturdy enough to survive three days in the fridge. And while Naz Deravian’s recipe for artichoke and olive farro salad doesn’t call for raw vegetables, it makes smart use of jarred ones for a quick, tangy lunch. (It was developed to withstand a day at the beach, so it will fare just as well at home.)

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