I have been in need of comfort of late. Just when you think everything is going fabulously, a bump (or two or three) arises in the road, throwing your best laid plans asunder. Already preoccupied by a couple of nagging health issues of my own, last weekend I awoke to Maddie’s screams in the middle of the night, something she hadn’t done in weeks. In the past we had tried to give her a few minutes to settle herself, but this time there was an urgency to it and Dylan and I both quickly got up to find her in her crib with a high fever and her little body in periodic spasms. No, they weren’t febrile seizures (thankfully) and yes, we have had her checked out by a doctor. She’s fine, but fever in kids can do funny neurological things, and make new parents batty with anxiety.
While home from work and nursing her back to health on Monday, I was hit with more bad news in the form of a surprisingly, shockingly lowball salary offer for the otherwise “dream” job I was supposed to be starting this summer. We’re talking so low that I thought perhaps they had accidentally given me a figure for half-time work. To go into the details would be far too long and boring for people who come to this website looking for just a recipe and a bit of a break from the work day. Suffice to say, that taking a large pay cut for a job that has a lot more responsibility just doesn’t seem right. Yes, I know we’ll be moving to a smaller market (upstate NY as opposed to our current home in LA), and I certainly know there are many out there with far worse situations. We will be just fine, no matter how this works out. It is, after all, only money. But in the thick of it right now, it’s very hard to find perspective and my only glimpse of clarity so far was brought on last night after a few sips of a gin and tonic and a deep sigh. I’m hoping I can bring myself back to that calming moment (sans gin) throughout the day today.
So between a sick baby and visions of an empty wallet, I’ve been craving comfort food. Truly, what I most wanted in the midst of all of it was to run out and have a gargantuan piece of chocolate cake in the middle of the day, well-balanced diet be damned. I’ve managed to resist that urge so far, though, and drowning my sorrows in a big bowl of pasta seems like nearly the next best thing.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, let me recommend that you embrace your comfort food- this is not, I’m afraid, the time for whole wheat fusilli. I would also suggest that you use your favorite tomato sauce (be it homemade or jarred), a generous sprinkling of parmesan, and a handful of fresh mozzarella chunks. Then mix it all together until the cheese goes gooey. Heaven.
You will be sorely disappointed should you instead try to self-medicate with healthy comfort food, like this recipe from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley. Whole wheat pasta is okay, but I’ve yet to try one I really like. The texture always seems just a little bit off and the taste too powerfully cardboardy. And while the onions were nice and I always like a little bit of greens, I missed having a real sauce. This was just sort of dry and balsamic-y. I almost imagine it might be better as a room temperature pasta salad one day for lunch. So mental note, next time just go for the full-on classic bowl of pasta when feeling down. Or better yet, skip the pasta and run straight for the chocolate cake.
Whole wheat fusilli with swiss chard and balsamic-roasted onions (serves 4)
2 red onions, sliced lengthwise into thin wedges
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more later for serving
Coarse sea (or kosher) salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dry thyme
1 pound Swiss chard, trimmed
1 pound whole wheat fusilli
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the onion slices with the thyme, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
2. Spread the onions on a baking pan and roast them for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re soft and caramelized. Stir them after 20 minutes of roasting.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt. When the water returns to a boil add the chard and cook for 2 minutes, or until wilted and tender. Using tongs, remove the chard from the water and drain in a colander. Bring the water to a boil again and cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
4. While the pasta cooks, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute over medium heat, just until it’s fragrant. Add the pine nuts and cook for 1 more minute. Add the swiss chard and 1/4 cup of the pasta water, then cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the roasted onion slices and cook until they are heated through.
5. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a large serving bowl. Add the vegetable mixture and toss. Season with extra balsamic vinegar, if you like. Serve immediately.