Comfort food for your cold or flu
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 2:07 p.m.
What do you want to eat or drink when you're sick, assuming you can swallow anything at all? Do you sip warm tea, cold ginger ale or little cups of chicken broth or is hot whiskey with lemon and honey your tonic of choice?
The current flu virus has an interesting impact on appetite, or so it has had on mine. For the first couple of weeks, I reverted to my childhood sickbed cravings, Lipton's noodle soup and Saltines. For several days, I wanted nothing but a simple potato pancake, and right about the time a friend showed up with homemade chicken soup, chicken soup began to sound like a good idea.
I've made chicken broth twice, used one batch to make jook (a simple rice porridge) and, if I had the energy, I'd head to Simply Vietnam or Thang Long for a big bowl of pho.
At times like this, I think it would be nice to live in New York City, where a quick phone call will get hot-and-sour soup, pork noodles or anything else you're craving delivered to your door.
Do you have favorite sickbed foods or remedies you swear by? If so, take a minute to share them at Seasonal Pantry's companion blog, Eat This Now, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, where you'll also find my recipes for jook and the chicken soup my grandson Lucas swears is magic.
This traditional Japanese dish is typically served with green tea but I prefer it with genmaicha, green tea with toasted rice. Instead of tofu — which I confess to not liking at all — I use roasted chicken or wild salmon. The recipe is casual and flexible and you should feel free to make your own adjustments.
Ochazuke with Chicken and Nettles
Makes 2 to 3 servings
2 teaspoons genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice)
— Boiling water
3 cups cooked risotto or sushi rice, hot
1 small carrot, grated
4 to 6 ounces diced (1¼-inch) cooked chicken, preferably dark meat, or 4 to 6 ounces cooked wild salmon, broken into small pieces
— Small handful of wakame (seaweed)
— Handful of small nettle leaves (see Note below) or 2 to 3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ to 1 teaspoon powdered wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
1 teaspoon umeboshi paste (pickled plum paste)
2 heaping teaspoons miso paste (fermented soybean paste)
— Toasted sesame oil
— Sriracha or other hot sauce
Put the genmaicha in a teapot, add a generous splash of boiling water and pour it off. Set aside briefly.
Divide the hot rice between large bowls and scatter carrots, chicken, seaweed and nettles or scallions over it.
Divide the wasabi, umeboshi paste and miso between the two servings, placing it on top of the rice. Shake a few drops of sesame oil on top.
Fill the teapot with about 4 cups boiling water and steep for about 90 seconds. Pour the tea over the rice, pouring in concentric circles so that all of the rice is moistened and the tea pools in the bowl.
Use chopsticks to stir the mixture thoroughly so that the umeboshi and miso mix with the tea.
Serve immediately, with the hot sauce alongside.
Note: Nettles are delicious and full of great nutrients. However, you must handle them very carefully or they will sting you, a quality that is neutralized by cooking, including simply a quick immersion in boiling water. In this dish, be sure to use small leaves; the tea will “declaw” them.
This recipe is easily doubled and will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Simply warm a cup whenever you feel like it. Many people swear by the health benefits of apple-cider vinegar and, if you like the taste, this is a great way to have some.
Hot Ginger Lemonade
Makes 1 quart
4 ounces fresh ginger root, thinly sliced or chopped
— Juice of 2 to 3 lemons, strained
— Simple syrup or honey, to taste
— Unfiltered apple-cider vinegar, whiskey, Scotch or brandy, optional
Put the ginger into a saucepan and add about 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, remove from the heat and let steep for 30 to 60 minutes.
Strain the water into a clean pitcher or quart jar and discard the ginger. Add the lemon juice along with enough water to make 4 cups. Add simple syrup or honey to taste.
Serve warm, with or without a shot of vinegar, whiskey, Scotch or brandy.
Here's a very easy way to make a hearty beef broth, perfect for convalescing during a bad cold or bout of the flu. A similar broth may be made with lamb, goat or pork. Use local, grass-fed meat for the best results.
Simple Beef Broth
Makes about 8 cups
2 to 3 pounds beef shanks
2 to 3 pounds meaty beef bones
— Kosher salt
1 yellow onion, quartered
5 or 6 garlic cloves
1 carrot, in chunks
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 parsley sprigs
— Fresh lemon juice and bottled hot sauce, optional
Put the beef shanks and meaty bones into a slow cooker, season generously with salt and add the onion, garlic, carrot, vinegar, peppercorns and parsley sprigs. Fill the slow cooker with boiling water and cook on high for 2 hours and on low for 22 hours, adding water now and then to keep all ingredients submerged. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface.
After 12 hours, remove a cup or two to sip as you like, always replacing an equal amount of water.
You can keep the broth going for as long as three or four days if you wish, being certain to keep the water level high. Sip the broth as you like, adding a squeeze of lemon juice or a shake or two of hot sauce to taste.
Sweet potatoes are full of good nutrients, including Vitamins A, B and C. If you like spicy foods, add the cayenne or chipotle, which blends beautifully with sweet potatoes and can help ease a cold's discomfort.
Sweet Potato Broth
Makes about 1 quart
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cayenne or chipotle powder, optional
4 cups Simple Beef Broth (see recipe, this page)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Put the sweet potatoes into a medium saucepan, season with salt, pepper and cayenne or chipotle, if using. Add the beef broth and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the sweet potato is fully tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Puree with an immersion blender or pass through a food mill. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle into mugs and top with cilantro leaves.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful” each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.
E-mail Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You'll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com
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