This seems like one of those weeks where the cosmic sh-t is hitting the fan for everyone I know at exactly the same time. I made one friend burst into tears, another called me crying in mid-afternoon, and there was my own aforementioned wine in the bathtub episode. And all of this on the heels of some crazy good forecasting from Susan Miller. Venus, planet of beauty and fun, is coming out of retrograde! Jupiter's sending healing vibrations! (And yes, I actually feel comforted and cheered by this sort of astrological news.) Maybe the cosmic good fortune is taking its sweet time beaming its way down to the New York Metropolitan area. So what do I do when things are rough? I do what you probably do: I go into the kitchen.
First, I invited myself over to the house of Crying Friend #1. I was carrying a whole chicken and some brussels sprouts, ready to be roasted to perfection, and a bouquet of sunflowers. In the grocery store, I was getting kind of hung up on dessert when it hit me like, uh, Venus going direct: banana pudding with Nilla wafers! The entire meal was the kind of simple food I grew up eating and still turn to. And it worked its magic on grown women, even if dessert was the sort of pap I hadn't eaten since I was tall enough to ride a roller coaster.
Fast forward to last night. Another cosmic crisis requires comfort food. I pluck the More-with-Less Cookbook off the shelf and flip, searching for the right thing. There it is on page 121, courtesy of Bonnie Sharp of Lancaster, PA, and Martha Charles of Indiana, PA: Spanish Noodle Skillet.
Who knows what makes this dish Spanish (the green pepper?), but it was just what the doctor ordered. Noodle-y, cheesy, beefy--it seemed to cure what ailed us.
This isn't fine cooking. You might have surmised as much when you first looked at the picture up there. In fact, there may even be something embarrassing about it in this age of fresh-from-the-farm sustainability (for what it's worth, I did use antibiotic- and hormone-free ground beef and organic tomatoes). But I love its simplicity, love how unassuming a dish like this is. Is it because it has some innate properties of healing wholesomeness, or is it just because it reminds me of the sort of meals my family used to eat, all gathered around one kitchen table together with glasses of milk and grace? Who can say, really. I just know that even when the more modern food sensibilities in me are making the grocery list, I am still drawn to this type of food: simple, wholesome, unpretentious.
Then again, you are talking to someone who yipped with delight when she received a pot of truffle salt in the mail this week, so I could totally be full of it.
What do you guys think? Do you still find yourself drawn to the kinds of foods you grew up eating? Will you be making something positively throwback-worthy this week?
Spanish Noodle Skillet
adapted from the More-with-Less Cookbook
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups egg noodles
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Sauté onion, green pepper, and ground beef together until meat is browned. Season with salt and pepper, and add oregano. Stir in tomatoes and water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, and add egg noodles. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 additional minutes. Stir in grated cheese and serve.