Across the board, across the world, sickness calls for soup. It is the universal comfort food.
While I appreciate a hearty, creamy one-bowl-meal kind of soup, sick soup is a little more delicate. Clear broth is the base, and all additional ingredients require minimal chewing.
Veggies must be chopped small and cooked until soft. Noodles or dumplings, if included, must be small enough to slide right down the esophagus with only a cursory chew or two. Sickness has no patience for chewing because all energy expended must be used in performing basic bodily functions, such as breathing, swallowing, blinking and the like.
As you may have surmised, I am in the throes of a cold, as are my immediate family members and several co-workers. While it would seem we are sharing an uber-contagious illness, it matters not from where the sickness came. It’s here, and it’s getting cozy.
Soup swoops in to save the day. Or more realistically, the moment. Soup is a warm bear hug from the inside; it offers a reprieve from the cold, if only momentarily.
I had a couple of really great, clear broth soups recently that have stuck with me.
One was a simple miso soup from a Japanese restaurant, and the other came with an order of takeout Thai food.
That soup was so delicious, I called the restaurant the next day to ask what it was.
The woman on the other end of the line was a little confused by my question and said it was “house soup.” I asked what kind it was or if it had a name, which further complicated matters. It was “house soup,” and I have to come to terms with that.
It helps that I can empathize with the maker of their house soup; I assume it’s a lot like my own.
It changes according to what I have in the fridge, but it always ends up tasting pretty much the same.
Because a pot of soup is so forgiving, I forget the virtue of following a recipe. I followed a soup recipe recently, and it worked out really well. I will do it more often. There’s nothing wrong with my house soup, but following a recipe here and there keeps me and my taste buds on our toes.
Boxed and canned broth do the soup job just fine, especially when you need soup in a hurry. When time allows, up your flavor game by simmering your own stock with herbs, veggies and broth bones.
Try these recipes for delicious, comforting soups, sick or not.
Flu fighter chicken noodle soup
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast tenders
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, finely diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
Big pinch of salt
32 ounces chicken stock or bone broth
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cups noodles of choice
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more for serving
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken tenders in a large baking dish lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with spices. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, flipping the chicken at the halfway point. Once cooked, pull into small chunks using two forks. While the chicken is roasting, prepare the soup.
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy soup pan over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 9 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook for another minute before adding the bay leaf, water and chicken stock.
Increase heat to high and bring soup to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, stir in noodles, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and the pasta al dente. Stir in cooked chicken, dill and lemon juice. Taste soup to adjust seasonings, then serve at once.
Recipe adapted from www.bakerbynature.com.
Egg drop soup
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup whole-kernel corn or creamed corn, optional
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Whisk together stock (chilled or room-temperature), cornstarch, ginger and garlic powder in a medium saucepan until smooth. Heat over high heat until the stock comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and egg whites in a small measuring cup or bowl.
Once the broth reaches a simmer, use a fork or a whisk to stir the broth in a circular motion, creating a “whirlpool.” Then slowly pour the whisked eggs into the soup as you continue stirring, in order to create long egg ribbons. Remove pan from heat. Stir in the sesame oil, green onions and corn if using, until combined. Season with salt, pepper and sesame oil to taste. Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional green onions.
Recipe adapted from www.gimmesomeoven.com.
Healthy Thai chicken soup
1/2 pound cooked shredded chicken breast or chicken thigh meat (2 cups)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 Kaffir lime leaf (optional), smashed
Fresh lemongrass stalk, about 2 inches long and smashed
1 fresh Thai chili or to taste, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Heat pot on medium high heat. Add oil and once oil is hot, add onion and garlic. Cook until translucent.
Add cooked chicken breast, fresh ginger and fish sauce. Stir and cook the soup for about 1 minute until everything is fragrant. Add chicken stock, Kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, bell pepper, tomatoes and chili pepper.
Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer on low for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the fresh lime juice right before serving. Adjust taste by adding additional salt or fish sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Recipe adapted from www.bestrecipebox.com.
Amanda Stone works in educational services, marketing and special features at the Globe. Contact her at 417-627-7288 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.