Allergy Time Calls for Comfort Foods

“M” in May must also stand for miserable, which is how I feel. While I and most of  my friends are suffering from running noses, allergies, bronchitis, horrible coughs, and just plain feeling miserable, we want relief and to feel good.  I turn to comfort through food.  Here are some great recipes to help us through the good times and the bad.

Buttermilk Biscuits

My husband and I have loved watching Pauley on NCIS for years, now we can cook with her.

From NCIS star Pauley Perrette and her two best friends, Darren Greenblatt and Matthew Sandusky, comes “Donna Bell’s Bakeshop: Recipes and Stories of Family, Friends, and Food” (Simon & Schuster). The recipes are from their all-natural, Southern-style bakeshop in Manhattan. Opened in honor of Pauley’s late mother, the beloved inspiration for everything they bake, the book features gorgeous then and now photographs, delicious recipes, and heartwarming stories celebrating love and friendship.   You will definitely want to cook and eat your way through this cookbook.

The friendship started in 1993, when Pauley met Darren in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, just blocks away from where the shop is currently located. The two became inseparable friends and Pauley’s Southern mom would welcome Darren to their home with mouthwatering treats. Darren loved this food and soon left his successful career in fashion to open a food truck that sold Southern desserts at the Jersey Shore. Eventually he wanted to expand and turned to Pauley and their friend Matthew—who worked in the Los Angeles food industry—for help. With recipes for favorites like buttermilk biscuits, chocolate chip-almond scones, and peach streusel muffins, and personal photographs from Pauley, Darren, Matthew, and Donna Bell herself, this is the story of how one fantastic bake shop brings warmth and happiness—one treat at a time—to the urban jungle that is New York City.

Makes 10 – 12 biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons kosher salt

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

Toss the cold butter pieces into the flour mixture and roughly mix with a wooden spoon, making sure not to break up or soften the butter.

Pour 1 cup of the buttermilk into the flour and butter mixture, and gently stir with the wooden spoon. Stir in the remaining ½ cup buttermilk until the dough comes together. Do not overmix.

With a large ice cream scooper, scoop heaping mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, gently pressing down with the scooper while releasing dough onto the baking sheet.

Bake for 7 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake until golden brown, about 10 additional minutes. The melted butter in the pan will be absorbed by the biscuits as they cool.

Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes, and serve hot.

Fromage Frais/Fresh cheese

Fromage frais has a smooth, creamy taste and a subtle acidic note, making it less smelly socks and more freshly washed white linen. Of course, an additional plus is that it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean it’s low in taste.  Great on biscuits!  From: “The Little Paris Kitchen” by Rachel Khoo  (Chronicle Books).

Makes about 14 oz

2 qt 2 percent or skimmed milk, preferably organic but not UHT or homogenized

1/2 cup plain live or probiotic yogurt, preferably organic

juice of 1 lemon (6 tbsp)

a pinch of salt or sugar

2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)

Pour the milk into a large pot. Heat very slowly, stirring gently, until it starts to steam and little bubbles form around the edge (it should not boil at any point). This should take about 20 minutes.

Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring in the yogurt and lemon juice. Leave to sit undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. Return the pot to the heat and bring the milk to a boil.

Once it separates into curds (the solids) and whey (the liquid), remove from the heat.

Line a fine-meshed sieve with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. Place the sieve over a bowl and pour in the separated milk. Scrunch the cloth tightly immediately above the cheese, like making a money bag, and twist to squeeze out any excess liquid. Now tie the corners of the cloth together to form a hanging pouch and thread a wooden spoon through the loop. Hang the cheese over a large bowl or jug (don’t let it sit on the bottom), and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the cheese hangs, the more the liquid will drip away and the drier the cheese will become.

To serve, twist the cloth as before to squeeze out any excess liquid, then remove the cheese from the cloth and season with salt or sugar. Serve as it comes for a firm version, or beat in a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream for a smoother, creamier cheese.

Serving ideas

You can let your imagination and taste buds get creative to sweeten or spice it up. These are some of my favorite flavorings.  Sweet: a drizzle of honey or maple syrup or a sprinkling of sugar can be quite sufficient. Or serve with fresh or stewed fruit (berries are especially good). For a crunch factor, try nuts or granola.  Savory: cracked black pepper, a pinch of chili, or freshly chopped herbs (chives, parsley, etc.).

Editor’s note: For more edible delights by Sheilah Kaufman, go to www.cookingwithsheilah.com.

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