Your mother was right — when you’re sick, chicken soup is the best medicine. There’s no denying that when you’re feeling stuffed up and miserable, a bowl of chicken soup can bring relief. (My husband and I both confirmed this in independent taste tests yesterday, he with a bowl of Chinese chicken dumpling soup, I with homemade chicken and cabbage soup.) If you can’t order in, though, chances are good that you have all the ingredients to make chicken soup on hand and that you can have a bowl ready in less than 30 minutes, even in your sorry state. Here’s a basic recipe that can be modified to fit your tastes and the ingredients on hand. This is also a great recipe for cleaning out the bits and pieces of leftover vegetables that accumulate in the refrigerator during the week.
Time to make: ~30 minutes
What you’ll need:
- 3 cups chicken stock (store-bought is fine)
- 1 bay leaf
- dried herbs to taste
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ lb. boneless chicken breast, diced small and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1½ cups diced vegetables — whatever you have in the fridge will probably work fine, presuming you went to the store sometime before you got sick
- ½ cup small pasta, noodles, potatoes or beans
- Heat the stock with the bay leaf and herbs in a sauce pot to a simmer
- Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high in a large soup pot
- Add the vegetables and saute until they start to soften
- Add the chicken and let brown
- Pour in the heated stock
- Add the pasta or other starch
- Simmer until the pasta and chicken are cooked through, about 10 minutes
Notes: Depending on the vegetables you have available, you will want to vary cooking times. For instance, you will need to saute firmer vegetables like onions, carrots and celery longer than softer vegetables like cabbage, spinach and green beans. Remember that the vegetables will finish cooking in the stock.
This Asian-inspired soup is called “Hidden Moon Noodles” because of the egg hidden among all the vegetables. It makes a hearty and filling main course.
Hidden Moon Noodles
Time to make: ~30 minutes
- 1½ oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
- ¼ lb. Chinese-style noodles or spaghetti
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- 3 tbsp. rice wine
- ½ tbsp. sugar
- ¼ head Napa cabbage, shredded
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 2 eggs
- sesame oil
- fresh bean sprouts
- ½ tbsp. grated ginger
- Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 10 minutes, until rehydrated
- Boil the noodles according to the package directions; drain and apportion into serving bowls
- Heat the stock to a simmer
- Add the soy sauce, rice wine and sugar
- Add the rehydrated mushrooms, cabbage, and carrot
- Simmer until just tender, about 3 minutes
- Break each egg into individual cups and slip each egg into the broth
- Simmer until set, 3 minutes
- Ladle the soup with 1 egg per serving over the noodles
- Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil, bean sprouts and ginger
Notes: This recipe works best if you can get fresh Chinese noodles, which only require 3 minutes or so to cook. Check in the produce section with the wonton and egg roll wrappers.
This Asian-influenced sesame dressing is a light accompaniment for pretty much any vegetable that can be steamed: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, snow peas or sugar snap peas. (If you substitute another longer cooking vegetable, remember to adjust the steaming time accordingly.) Serve this as a light starter before a heartier soup or stew. Serves 4.
- Prepare 2 cups of the vegetable by trimming and/or cutting into equally sized pieces
- Place a steamer basket over about ½ inch of water in a large, shallow pan and bring to a boil
- Reduce to a gentle simmer, place the vegetables in the basket and cover
- Steam until tender and bright green, 4-7 minutes
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by mixing together:
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. honey
- 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Pour the dressing over the steamed vegetables and serve.
This is a very simple recipe that uses the technique of simmering. Simmering is different from boiling in that a lot less liquid is used. By the time the squash is cooked through, most of the cooking liquid will have boiled away, and the flavors in the liquid will have infused the squash. So the trick is to use enough liquid to cook the squash but not so much that you have a lot of liquid left over at the end. This is mostly a judgment call depending on how much squash you are cooking, but as a general rule, it is better to start with too little and add more as you go along.
Simmered Squash with Asian Flavors
Time to make: ~30 minutes
What you need:
- 2 cups winter squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. sake
- 2 tsp. garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. ginger, minced
- scallion greens, minced, for garnish
- Add the squash to a pot with enough water to cover the squash halfway
- Add the soy sauce, sake, garlic and ginger to the pot
- Bring to a boil
- Cover, reduce the heat and let simmer until the squash is tender and mashes easily, 20-25 minutes
- Garnish with minced scallion greens
I used butternut squash, but any winter squash will do. Japanese squashes would be well-suited to this dish.
Start with ¼ cup water and check the squash frequently as it cooks. If it’s looking dry, add a little more water.