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Three Quick "Comfort" Entrees
(Food #8: August 7, 2001)

   By now it must be obvious to everyone who reads this feature that I like good food. Chilis and soups are two of my favorites. Unfortunately, both also have fairly long cooking times. Sometimes, like when I get home from work, I want something faster and easier. The three simple shortcut entree recipes in this issue are fast and easy, but they taste great, too. Another nice thing, they're easy for children to prepare (or, at least, to help with.)

1. Skillet Pizza
   I love pizza, and I've made it from scratch many times. But after a while it begins to seem a hassle, especially making and keeping the yeast dough. One morning in the supermarket I spotted an unrelated product which, I thought, might relate perfectly. Here are the ingredients and the recipe:
    Skillet Pizza
  • 1 medium to large flour tortilla
  • 1 Tbsp. good olive oil
  • cheese: swiss, mozzarella, or monterey jack, grated, or in very thin slices
    grating cheese: parmesan or romano (or Sap Sago, if you can find it!)
  • 3 Tbsp. canned spaghetti sauce (avoid meat sauce—it tastes weak in pizza) or tomatoes
   Put the tortilla into a well-seasoned or non-stick skillet and set the heat to medium. Sprinkle the top of the tortilla with the olive oil. Cover the tortilla evenly with a thin layer of the cheese. Top with the spaghetti sauce, and spread it evenly over the cheese. Grate a little of the hard cheese over the top. Cover the skillet loosely and let it cook for about five minutes. When the cheese bubbles up through the sauce and the sauce begins to simmer, it's ready. Remove it from the skillet, let it cool a minute or two, slice it, and enjoy!

   For a very subtle-tasting variation, use simple canned crushed tomatoes for the topping and skip the grated cheese. Don't even use any salt! It's very mild, but the taste of the cheese and the olive oil comes through.
   There are, obviously, endless variations of this treat, but try your first one simple to get the hidden flavors. Then improvise.
   Tip: canned spaghetti sauce spoils very quickly in the icebox after it's opened; but put the unopened can in the icebox several days before you need to use it, and its life is increased to a couple of weeks. This is a very easy way to extend the life of any opened, canned product that you'll use only a little of at a time. I even do this with the water I use to mix dry skim milk. The life of the milk is extended quite a bit.

2. Curried Tomato Soup
   I like to make soup from scratch, but it's slow and a little messy. I only make scratch soup about every two or three weeks. This recipe, though, based on canned soup, is fast. From the time I start 'til I first burn my mouth is only about a half-hour:
    Curried Tomato Soup
  • 1 can tomato soup concentrate
  • 1 can water
  • 1 Tbsp. grated yellow onion
  • 1/8- to 1/4-tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. parsley or cilantro, optional
   Prepare the soup and add the other ingredients. Set the burner to medium and heat the soup well, then switch to "warm." Stir occasionally to prevent the soup from burning on the bottom.

   I like to drink this soup from a mug, but it's also great in a bowl, over rice or beans.

3. Spicy Deli Chicken
   I stopped by that famous chicken place, you know the one: with the old southern colonel. I wanted to try their new spicy chicken strips.
   "Would you like to try a piece before you order?" the counter guy whispered conspiratorily. "We don't want you to be surprised."
   "Sure, I'll try a piece." And I did. It was tasty, but only ho-hum-hot. I'm used to hot pepper, and I'd call these only mildly hot. My lady friend thought they were "pretty hot."
   It was a good meal, but there was no pepper rush, no throat-searing tingle. I thought I could improve it.
   Now fried chicken is something I don't do well, but I do know where to get good fried chicken cheap! Here's my ultra-simple recipe:
    Spicy Deli Chicken
  • 1 box of supermarket deli fried chicken
  • 1 bottle of hickory barbecue sauce
  • 4 to 6 Tbsp. Tabasco® sauce
   Add the Tabasco® sauce to the barbecue sauce and mix thoroughly (shake it real good). Taste it and add more Tabasco® if you need it.
   Brush the sauce liberally over the chicken.
   Microwave in a covered dish to thoroughly warm the chicken, or bake it in a medium oven, for an even better flavor.

   My ex gave me a partitioned microwave dish, which I really didn't know what to do with for a long time. This recipe answered that question. I put two pieces of anointed chicken, a helping of corn, and one of beans in the three compartments, covered it all with a piece of plastic wrap, and snapped the cover in place. It was my lunch the next day at work.
   I honestly can't do this too often—it's just too delicious, and I could feel the squeeze at my beltline. But as for flavor...c'est magnifique!

Two Great Soup Cookbooks
   I'm still fascinated by delicious soups. They're nourishing, tasty, and relatively easy to make. If a soup will freeze well, I'll prepackage it in pint containers and take it to work for an excellent hot lunch. I try to make only soups that will freeze well.
   There are lots of soup cookbooks on the market, so I went to our local bookstore to scan them for interesting recipes. When I'd made a list of the good ones, I returned home and began to order them from the internet.
Is it Soup Yet? A Cookbook for Soup Lovers
order the book
by Among Friends and Dot Vartan
One book I hadn't seen on the shelves came to me as a birthday present. Is It Soup Yet? is an attractive, thin book with 118 soup recipes. It's cleverly illustrated, too, but the best part is the variety of recipes. Just this one book could keep a cook busy for two years without ever repeating a recipe.
   There are chapters on chicken soups, vegetable soups, bean soups, cheese and creamed soups, seafood soups, 20-minute soups, soups from leftovers, international soups...whew! So far I've only scratched the surface, and they've all been good.
   I've used this book so much I've put one of my protective book covers on it to try and preserve it as it sits amid the clutter of my kitchen counter. You can read reviews of this book and order it online, at a discount, by clicking the picture of its jacket, at the left.
   The Daily Soup Cookbook is a collection of soup winners from the New York and satellite restaurants of the same name.
   These soups are clever, innovative, original, outrageous, and all commercial successes. The recipes are a bit more elaborate than those of lesser soups, and some of the ingredients may be hard to get in cities smaller than New York; but there are a lot of ideas here. The authors have also included lots of discussion and tips about soups and cooking. Their sections on cooking beans and making chili are great, although I'm not as fanatical and perfectionistic as they are. It's good reading, though, and good eating.
   Again, click the book jacket picture at right to read reviews or buy at a discount from our online affiliate bookstore Amazon.com.
The Daily Soup Cookbook
order the book
Leslie Kaul, Bob Spiegel, Peter Siegel, Carla Ruben

   Until next time, remember what Julia Child taught us all:

Bon apétit!

   You can protect your valuable cookbooks from stains and damage with our excellent polyester book covers. I've been using them for years, and my book jackets and bindings are holding up great. Order them from our Store.


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