Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Comfort Soups

Each September as school begins, the boys bring home new things. Alas, they keep sneaking in viruses & boorish bacteria.

So, for the last month, I've been battling these creative, ever-mutating mico-demons & my only culinary interest has been SOUPS, the more comforting the better. And the Grandmother of all comfort soups is Chicken.

My mom makes canja; her secret is dark meat, particularly chicken legs. I was a terribly picky eater, and her chicken soup is one of the (very) few things I have eaten consistently since I was a child. And pretty much every time I come for a visit, she has chicken soup cooking for me.

Simply, comfort foods are foods your mom made to make you happy & foods you wished your mom had made to make you happy. Many are savory, i.e., brothy because water, salt, and that slight starchiness appeal to our primal nutrition needs.

Traditionally, the secret to canja, Portuguese chicken soup, is lemon peel & mint. Lemons belong in every medicine cabinet, aka, refrigerator. (Another key Portuguese comfort item is lemon tea, made to cure vast numbers of discomforts & illnesses.)

My Go-To cook book for all things Portuguese is "The Food of Portugal" by Jean Anderson. She has the classics: Green Soup, caldo verde, made with potato puree, chorico & collard or turnip greens; canja; vegetable; stone or empty-the-fridge & panty soup; fish stew/chowders; dry bread-rich acordas; & gazpacho.

Another go-to book is Jaime Oliver's Jaime's Dinners. The "Naked Chef" has a nice consomme, which I modified by adding a chunk of ginger during simmering. It's a great book that includes "Five Minute Wonders" & Sarnies (Sandwiches in American)-- which is my kind of cooking, particularly when colds & flu get me down & getting out of bed is work enough. He has lots of English-isms, like fish & chips & mushy peas. The former sounds great. The later, not so much. He also has a recipe for "Scrumptious Spanish Chickpea & Chorizo Soup." Anybody who uses chorizo, spicy paprika-red sausage, knows about flavor.

My friend Mira also hooked me up with a great site, which has soups from all over & creative ones, such as crema de guacamole, as well as "a good soup for the sick," a "miraculously delicious soup" made w/ beans, water, garlic, shallots, chiles. Medicinal classics.

"Total active prep time was under five minutes, the rest is just waiting and anticipating." FIVE MINUTES! OK, it would probably take me 15 minutes, given my current skill level, but I'll be trying that one soon.

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