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Lisa Messinger


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Comfort Food Can Be Nutritious, Too, Oliver Proves


"Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food: The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook" by Jamie Oliver (Ecco, $34.99).

When are four handfuls of baby spinach comfort food? When they are in the hands of talented English chef and bestselling cookbook author Jamie Oliver. It also doesn't hurt to be joined by slabs of bacon, pickled onions, pine nuts, and French bread that was toasted in the bacon fat as part of a salad that definitely makes the cut as food that's a rich delight.

Oliver is a master at combining flavors in such a way that anything he creates is comfort food. When was the last salad dressing you had, for instance, that combined pickled onion "liquor" with Dijon mustard?

Whether it's a salad, rum-raisin ice cream, or pulled pork and sweet potato hash, this is probably the man you'll wish was your personal chef.

Although, if so, you might be fending for yourself during the week, because Oliver considers this to be weekend food due to the time it takes to prepare and eat. He stresses throughout that eating is meant to do as sharing in large groups; that's as much of the purpose of food as nourishment, he notes.

Oliver, though, who has been a game-changing advocate for better school lunches in both the U.K. and the U.S., and had an American network television series addressing the issue, never lets the thought of your nourishment get too far from his mind.

That "bacon-y" salad is just a 300-calorie item. The rum-raisin ice cream, just 100 calories a scoop. The fare is both healthful and rich due to Oliver's insistence on the freshest local ingredients.


6 thick slices smoked bacon

Olive oil, to taste

2 heaping tablespoons pine nuts

12 (1 / 2-inch thick) slices French bread

6 medium pickled onions, plus 2 tablespoons pickling liquor

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons quality extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of black pepper

4 large handfuls baby spinach

1 handful salad leaves

Yields 4 servings.

Slice bacon into thin lardons and put into a large frying pan on medium heat with a good drizzle of olive oil.

Fry until golden, adding pine nuts at the last minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon onto a plate, leaving bacon fat behind in the pan. Carefully toast the slices of bread in the fat until beautifully golden on both sides.

Meanwhile, finely slice the pickled onions. In a large bowl, mix the pickled onion liquor with the mustard, olive oil and black pepper. Gently pile the spinach and salad leaves on top, add the crispy bacon, pine nuts and pickled onions, then lightly toss everything together with your fingertips, picking the salad up and sprinkling it back down from a height a few times. Doing it this way means the salad is perfectly dressed but you avoid bruising the leaves. Add the crispy toast croutons and tuck straight in.


6 sprigs fresh mint

1 cup plain yogurt

1 heaping tablespoon creamed coconut

Finely chop mint leaves, then, in a small bowl, stir them into the yogurt with the creamed coconut. Season with some of your favorite seasonings, if desired. Good served with both vegetarian and meat dishes.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "After-Work Gourmet" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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