Comfort Foods, Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals
[128] pages
Lake Isle Press, 2000
Reviewed by Bess R. Emanuel for Good Cooking
June, 2001

Rachael Ray

Review: Comfort Foods: Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals

Who could resist the idea of comfort food in 30 minutes? Rachael Ray presents a wide variety of recipes in this collection. I must admit that the selections made me think about the definition of "comfort food"how individual it is, and how tied it is to one's own culture. Within her book, items range from a variation of that mainstream American comfort food classic, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, (hers is "Meatloaf Patties and Smashed Potatoes with Scallions") to dishes from many cultures. Grandpa's Ziti, Swedish Meatballs, Red Beans and Rice: all comfort foods to some of us!

Most of the recipes take up just one page in this small-format book, which makes them feel not too intimidating. With few exceptions, the ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets; the directions are simple and clear. A few of the more complex recipes would require an experienced cook to complete in the 30 minutes as advertised, but for the most part, this is an easy-to-use cookbook full of favorites.

Here are two recipes from the book---
Steamed Clams or Mussels with Garlic Toast and Baby Greens Salad
Serves 2 to 3

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (1 turn around the pan)
3 large shallots, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
4 sprigs fresh thyme (about 2 tablespoons), chopped
1 1/2 cups dry white wine (4 glugs)
1/2 cup clam broth
2 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded, or
36 littleneck clams, scrubbed well
Salt and black pepper, to taste
A handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine

Place a deep skillet over medium to medium- high heat. Add olive oil, shallots, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and thyme. saute 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine and broth and bring to a boil. Add clams or mussels to pan, cover and steam until shells open. Discard any clams or mussels that do not open Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley.

Garlic Toast (Bruschetta)

1 loaf chewy, crusty firm bread, sliced thin, on an angle
4 cloves garlic, cracked from skin
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place bread slices on cookie sheet. Rub the slices on both sides with cracked garlic. Place the bread in a 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Remove from oven and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Pork Schnitzel 4 thin-cut boneless pork loin chops
1 large plastic food storage bag
2 cups cracker meal (available in most markets near bread crumbs)
coarse salt and black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup milk or reduced-fat milk (2 splashes)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (twice around the pan)
1 pat butter (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
Grated fresh nutmeg, or a few pinches ground
1 Lemon, cut into wedges

Serves 4

This recipe is one of many given to me by a fan. I'm ready to swap anytime!

Place cutlets, 1 at a time, in a large plastic food storage bag. Pound cutlets with a meat mallet to 1/8 inch thickness. Pour cracker meal into a shallow dish and season with a little salt and pepper. Coat each pork cutlet in crumbs, shaking off excess. Combine eggs and milk in a second shallow dish. Dip each cutlet into egg, then turn a second time in cracker crumbs.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil (once around the pan), and half a pat of butter. Cook cutlets 2 at a time for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Wipe pan clean, return to heat and repeat. Top cooked schnitzel with grated nutmeg or a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and serve with wedges of lemon.
Potato salad or potato pancakes with applesauce make a nice side dish.