Those who like to cook, and especially those who express their feelings through food, always have “go to” recipes for when the going gets tough for somebody else.
These folks are the angels in our midst who make the time and effort to prepare a casserole, bake a cake or put together a salad and bring it to a family bound up in sickness or death.
In these times, the gift of food not only nourishes the body but consoles, comforts and eases burdens. And it has another important function: bringing people together.
Mary Miller of Summerville asked readers to share their best “go to” recipes for these situations (or just to say thanks for any reason). And then she shared her own.
Is this tradition fading? I hope not, but the initial response might indicate otherwise. I think this is a great request that deserves enthusiasm and should be extended another week. So if you have a good “go to” recipe or two, please don’t delay in sending them my way.
Meanwhile, here is a dish that Mary often turns to:
Chile Relleno Squares
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spray nonstick spray on a 9x13-inch baking dish. Spread 6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese in dish. Sprinkle 1 or 2 (4-ounce) cans of green chiles on top of cheese. Pour 8 beaten eggs over top and bake for 1 hour or until knife placed in center of dish comes out clean. Cut into squares. Mary serves these with salsa and sliced tomatoes when made for breakfast, just salsa for an appetizer and with a salad for lunch.
I wasn’t surprised to hear from Sharon Cook of Charleston, a faithful contributor. She writes:
“It seems that most people tend to go with casseroles, desserts, or deli platters. In order to avoid duplication, I like to make fresh green or fruit salads or chicken salad to offer something different. Recently, I have been using my own pasta salad recipe, which seems to have become a big hit because I use a vinaigrette dressing rather than a creamy one and the pasta salad can be served hot or cold.”
Sharon’s Pasta Salad
Serves 8-10 people
2 pounds of your favorite whole-grain pasta (Sharon suggests 1 pound bowties or wagon wheels and 1 pound tricolored rotini)
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups cubed cooked chicken or ham; or tuna
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into halves
1/2 cup each diced onion and bell pepper
1 cup fresh celery, diced
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup sliced pitted olives (Sharon uses both green and kalamata olives)
1 (16-ounce) package broccoli or coleslaw mix
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning blend (or Seasoned Salt)
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes
1 (16-ounce) bottle of a favorite vinaigrette dressing (Sharon uses Ken’s Greek Dressing.)
Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, adding the sea salt to the boiling water first. (Sharon cooks the pasta only 5 minutes).
Place frozen vegetables in large lidded plastic food storage container with a lid. Add remaining ingredients except for feta cheese and dressing.
When pasta is done, drain well and add it to the rest of the ingredients while still warm. The residual heat from the pasta will defrost the frozen vegetables without cooking them. Stir mixture until well-blended. Pour vinaigrette dressing over and give it another good stir.
Add the cubed feta to the top of the salad after it goes into its delivery container. (Sharon likes to enclose an extra 8-ounce bottle of vinaigrette to allow for absorption and personal preferences.)
“I always include a short note which alerts the recipient(s) that the pasta salad can be served cold or warm,” Sharon says. “I also buy disposable containers to use for this purpose so that nobody has to worry about returning the right container to the right person.”
Who’s got the recipe?
Remember, the hunt is still on for your best go-to recipes when there is an illness or death or to say “thank you.”
A James Island reader says when she sees cauliflower on sale, she wants more options for preparing it other than just plain steaming. She would welcome recipes for making it more of a “dish.”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Food and Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.