Food

16 Dishes to Make for Someone Going Through a Hard Time

When your world feels like it’s falling to pieces — and just dragging yourself out of bed and into the kitchen to shove a few Oreos into your mouth can feel like a herculean task — shopping for and cooking something can feel downright impossible. If your friend or family member is going through a terrible ordeal, making something delicious and delivering it to their door with a sweet little note may not scare away the monsters, but it can provide sustenance for the hard (and hopefully healing) days ahead. These are the dishes New York Times Cooking editors, writers and more like to make for their loved ones.

1. Lasagna

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

When someone I care about is down or trying to navigate something difficult, I often make them lasagna. Most people like it. For meat eaters, I make a hybrid of this Regina Schrambling recipe and this one from Alison Roman; for veg, I like Martha Rose Shulman’s. Either way, it’s big enough to provide for numerous meals, or to feed a larger group, eliminating at least one thing for my friend to worry about. Plus, my eldest son, who is 8, likes to help assemble lasagna, making it a gesture from our family. BRETT ANDERSON

Recipe: Lasagna

2. Lentil and Orzo Stew With Roasted Eggplant

Credit…Tara Donne for The New York Times. Food Stylist: LIza Jernow.

I am a soup person. There will, inevitably, be a quart or two of homemade soup pulled from my freezer for emergencies, because I love to nourish the people I love. If time permits, I’m making this lentil and orzo stew with roasted eggplant from Yewande Komolafe. Wholesome and flavorful, it revives the spirit. ALEXA WEIBEL

Recipe: Lentil and Orzo Stew With Roasted Eggplant

3. Chicken Enchiladas

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

I crave casseroles blanketed with gooey cheese when I’m down, so, when someone I love is struggling, I like to whip up a tray of these gorgeous enchiladas from Rick A. Martínez. They also happen to freeze like a dream, so you can divvy them up into serving-size containers that can be defrosted and heated up as needed. MARGAUX LASKEY

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

4. Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

I like to show up with bags of cookie dough for friends’ freezers so they can have a warm, freshly baked cookie whenever they want. You could make this lovely one from Millie Peartree, or the one of your choosing. That’s the nice thing about cookie dough: Most all recipes are highly freezable. KRYSTEN CHAMBROT

Recipe: Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

5. Pulled Pork

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Maggie Ruggiero.

Because grief can zap hunger or heighten it at unexpected times, I like to give food that freezes well and feels nourishing. I pack pulled pork and collard greens in half-pint containers, and seal biscuits in an airtight bag. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies also go in a bag and don’t even have to be thawed if a sudden craving strikes hard, but reheating them in a toaster oven gives them a comforting warmth. GENEVIEVE KO

Recipe: Pulled Pork

6. Sancocho

Credit…Chris Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

Whenever a family member or friend doesn’t have time to be in the kitchen, I rummage through my fridge and pantry, and make sancocho, a huge stew of protein and root vegetables meant to warm the soul. Von Diaz’s recipe is a great base to work from. Use whatever you have on hand. Once done, the stew can be frozen and reheated on the stove. Be sure to remind your loved ones to add a few drops of hot sauce for an added kick. GINA FERNANDEZ

Recipe: Sancocho

7. Broccoli Salad

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

The last thing I want to do when I’m in a funk is clean and cut produce, so I like to show up with containers of Ali Slagle’s fruit salad and a hearty chopped salad like Hetty Lui McKinnon’s salty-sweet Southern-inspired broccoli salad that gets better as it sits. The mother in me loves knowing that I’ve helped them get something green and cruciferous into their bodies. MARGAUX LASKEY

Recipe: Broccoli Salad

8. Almond Cake With Peaches and Cream

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

There is such thing as comfort cake, and I think Lindsey Shere’s almond cake from “Chez Panisse Desserts” is a perfect example. Easy to make and easy to love, and maybe even better the next day? It’s also tender, but structurally sound enough for a subway ride in a tote bag, or a bumpy car ride on someone’s lap, and that means you can easily transport to the person you love without worrying it’ll fall apart. The fruit and cream topping in Melissa Clark’s adaptation will make it extra special, but the cake doesn’t have to be dressed up. It’s perfect just as it is. TEJAL RAO

Recipe: Almond Cake With Peaches and Cream

9. Best Black Bean Soup

Credit…Jessica Emily Marx for The New York Times

There’s something inherently soothing about soup — and it’s a lot easier to reheat than a casserole. This one can be lunch or dinner, served plain or with rice, garnished or not, and served cold or hot. JULIA MOSKIN

Recipe: Best Black Bean Soup

10. Chicken Salad

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

I like protein-packed salads like Julia Moskin’s chicken salad (egg or tuna salad is great, too) that can be picked at all week. They can eat it straight from the container standing at the fridge or tuck it into a pita or a wrap with a handful of potato chips. MARGAUX LASKEY

Recipe: Chicken Salad

11. Mochi Brownies

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times

When my buds need some boosting, it’s time for mochi brownies. Hetty Lui McKinnon’s recipe is soothing for both the giver (it’s six ingredients and comes together in the time it takes to heat the oven) and the receiver (the sweet rice flour gives the brownies a unique bounce and chew, plus, you know, chocolate). Add nuts if you have them, or don’t — they’re a perfect pick-me-up just as they are. MIA LEIMKUHLER

Recipe: Mochi Brownies

12. Toor Dal

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

It’s easy to make a few pint containers of Tejal Rao’s simple, cozy toor dal and pop them into the freezer — it’s even easier for your loved one to thaw one out and have a comforting meal. Bonus points if you bring them the elements of the tempering (ghee, curry leaves and other whole spices) that they can quickly fry and add to the dish. BECKY HUGHES

Recipe: Toor Dal

13. Loaded Baked Frittata

Genevieve Ko’s loaded baked frittata.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

This is a gift that keeps on giving: There are up to six servings in this Genevieve Ko recipe, so it can be eaten throughout the week (for any meal, really) and can also be portioned out and frozen. And, for the person making it, it’s quick and easily customizable for whatever is hanging out in your crisper. MELISSA KNIFIC

Recipe: Loaded Baked Frittata

14. Chile Crisp

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Victoria Granof.

Tough times inevitably put dinner on the back burner — last-minute delivery from the only place that’s open, yesterday’s pizza cold from the fridge, one lone scrambled egg. Having a jar of Genevieve Ko’s chile crisp on hand means instant spice, brightness and texture for whatever meal might be cobbled together, which is why I’ll cook up a big batch at the first sign of distress. MIA LEIMKUHLER

Recipe: Chile Crisp

15. Chicken Noodle Soup

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

There’s a reason “Chicken Soup for the Soul” became a thing: A brothy bowl of noodles is the food equivalent of a big, warm hug. Plus, Ali Slagle’s recipe freezes up beautifully, so lucky recipients can stash it in the freezer for later in the week, or month, if they still don’t feel like cooking. MELISSA KNIFIC

Recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup

16. Amaro Sours

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Chris Lanier.

I make them a stiff cocktail. Does that count? I love Rebekah Peppler’s amaro sours. It’s a great drink for someone down bad. TANYA SICHYNSKYFollow New York Times Cooking on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Pinterest. Get regular updates from New York Times Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.

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