How to Cook to Feel Good

Brothy curry, garlicky rasam and dumpling soup deserve a spot in the rejuvenation rotation.

By Tejal Rao

I loved Yewande Komolafe’s most recent column about the foods she makes when the floorboards start to feel cold under her feet, and she wants to feel warm and nourished by the food she cooks. She calls this big family of broths, soups and teas her “restoratives” and builds them quickly, from simple ingredients.

I’ve got my eye on her soupy red curry with lots of jiggly silken tofu and soft herbs on top. Yewande uses jarred paste to make the process quick, so I think I’ll make it tonight with the smidge of leftover red curry paste I froze a while back from another recipe.

Home cooks often have a few sets of ingredients or recipes they turn to when they want to feel cozy and restored. For me, there’s nothing like hot rice and a bowl of brothy rasam when I need something to keep me steady — tangy with tamarind, or toasty with garlic, or mouth-warming with black pepper — the variations are endless. This quick garlic rasam, from Usha Prabakaran, calls for 10 cloves of garlic, but when I’m really feeling it, I’ll make it 20.

Hetty McKinnon’s comforting dumpling noodle soup seems to fall into this category, too. I almost always have an open bag of dumplings in my freezer, and this recipe turns a few of them into a complete, snug dinner with broccoli and boy choy, and a miso-boosted vegetable stock.

And Tamar Adler often makes big batches of what she calls health soup, because it freezes really well, adding rice or noodles to the portions she warms up. To make it vegetarian, skip the bonito altogether and use a vegan fish sauce — there’s so much flavor already from the miso, mushrooms and kombu.

Restoratives can be meals, but they don’t have to be! Yewande also makes a sunny citrus tonic with oregano and turmeric. You can make a batch ahead of time and dilute it with hot water when you need something soothing. It reminds me a little of my grandmother’s chai, which I sip in the mornings as much for the vividness of its aromatics as for the caffeine: lots of fresh ginger, chopped lemongrass and mint leaves boiled in water with black tea, cardamom, milk and honey.

Brothy Thai Curry with Silken Tofu and Herbs

Go to the recipe.

Garlic Rasam

Go to the recipe.

Dumpling Noodle Soup

Go to the recipe.

One More Thing!

February is a funny in-between time in Los Angeles: There are garlic greens and strawberries at the farmers markets! My own garden still seems so quiet and sleepy, but one of my dahlias is in bloom early, the chives and onions are coming back nice and juicy, and the sweets peas are climbing a bit higher every day. I’m really excited about all volunteer nasturtiums, which popped up out of nowhere, and I plan on eating some of those soon, while I wait for the rest of the garden to pick up.

If you’re gardening, too, tell me what you’re growing right now and where you are!

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