These recipes originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of HomeLife Magazine.
I love films that celebrate food. That’s probably not a shocker coming from someone who writes articles about recipes. Truth be told, I’m always seeking new avenues of inspiration.
Recently, I curled up on the couch to rewatch a couple of old favorites for enjoyment and content fodder. Both storylines have heroes who are cultural outsiders seeking acceptance in strange new lands. These films are steeped with culinary metaphors that cause us to pause and inspect ourselves. They’re thought provoking while entertaining, and both movies showcase decadent dishes enhanced with glorious spices — a virtual feast for the eyes.
What stood out to me was a brilliant line from The Hundred-Foot Journey that resonated to my core. During a casual conversation, Hassan, our hero, is asked a simple question: “What’s your favorite dish to cook?” He answers, “Fermented duck and flour, deep fried. The smell reminds me of my mother.” Sighing, he adds, ”Food is memories.”
I find that statement so simple and yet profound. He prepares that dish to escape to a place of comfort, familiarity, and love. Is there any one of us who hasn’t connected a sweet or savory scent to a special place or loved one?
As a new resident to my hometown, I set aside the unpacking and ventured out on an errand. Briskly walking just off Main Street, I slowed my pace when a wonderful aroma drew me toward a narrow brick-walled passageway between two structures. What is that? I wondered. Each scent fought for distinction over the others, but woven together they brought me back to a place in time of comfort and acceptance. I opened the door to a whiff of cinnamon and fresh baked cookies, steaming hot coffee, apple pies, potato soup, and egg bread — all warmly hanging in the air, coaxing me in. Stepping into the busy bakery with its rough-hewn floorboards, I was instantly transported to my childhood and Nana’s house. Although hundreds of miles from her kitchen, I couldn’t have been closer to her.
The distance I’d traveled between a small child standing on a chair helping my Nana in the kitchen to standing in a foreign bakery reminiscing while a new kitchen waited to be unpacked led me to a truth. Food has the power to connect us in very unique ways.
Unpack the power of your kitchen through these fond aromas, or, better yet, “whiff up” some of your own.
Potato & Leek Soup • Makes 4 servings
2 large potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 large leek (sliced thin)
1 carrot (peeled and diced)
1 stalk celery
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. sharp Cheddar cheese (garnish)
Chopped parsley (garnish)
In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, combine vegetables, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. When vegetables are tender, place cooked soup mixture in a blender and blend until very smooth. Place mixture back in pot and stir in heavy cream and nutmeg. Heat through and serve in deep bowls. Garnish with grated Cheddar cheese and parsley.
Fried Apple Pies • Makes 6 servings
2 c. All-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 c. shortening
6 Tbsp. ice water
3 c. apples (peeled and diced)
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. vegetable oil (for frying)
6 Tbsp. sugar (for dusting)
In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt, and shortening with a pastry blender until combined and small beads form. Mix in ice water one tablespoon at a time. Continue to mix until you can form a ball with the dough. Wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare filling.
Peel and dice two large apples. Place in a small, uncovered saucepan on low heat. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Toss to coat apples, then add butter. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Mash apples just a bit to absorb the juice. Allow time to cool.
Pour oil in electric skillet and heat to 375 degrees.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out large circles using a 6-inch cookie cutter or large lid. Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in center of each round of dough. Moisten edges with water. Fold dough in half and pinch closed with a fork. Fry a few pies at a time, cooking each side for two to three minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Dust with remaining sugar and serve.
I use Granny Smith apples. I love the tartness of the interior. – Laura
Snickerdoodle Cookies • Makes 4 dozen
3-3/4 c. All-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 sticks butter
2 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Set mixture aside. Add butter and two cups of sugar. Beat until fluffy, scraping sides often. Add eggs — one at a time — and then add the milk and vanilla. Mix all ingredients well. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. If dough is sticky, place in refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes to chill.
In a small bowl, combine three tablespoons of sugar with one teaspoon of cinnamon.
Grease baking sheet. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on cookie sheet two inches apart. Flatten dough balls with the bottom of a glass. Bake for eight minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and serve.
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Laura Schupp is the author of Our Newlywed Kitchen: The Art of Cooking, Gathering & Creating Traditions. Learn more about Laura at OurNewlywedKitchen.com.