Monday, May 2, 2011

Better Than Bullion (Soup for a Somber Monday)

I had planned to share a quick and easy soup recipe with you all today. Haven't changed my plan, but have to say that now I need a little soup.

Watching the President speak last night was surreal, no? Yes, good news - amazing news - that Bin Laden is gone. But upon hearing it, I was immediately brought back to 9/11, to the feeling of that day and those that followed. I was overcome with memories of what happened, who I was with, what I did - and even what I ate (Chinese food in a sad, fluorescent-lit spot near our apartment) - during that awful time.

Strangely enough, I'd taken my sister to the plaza at the Trade Center two days earlier. Our mother had worked at Windows on the World before my sister was born, the subway stops at Cortlandt St. had been my commuting hub in high school, and I'd worked and interned in the area during high school and college - but my much-younger sister had no attachment to the area, hadn't ever been to the Trade Center. So I decided I wanted to share that part of Manhattan with her on the weekend of her 15th birthday,  Lower Manhattan was pretty quiet on the weekends back then, so the plaza was practically empty that Sunday. I just remember standing there in the sun, telling her to look up - and the look on her face as she took in the massive towers above. Then we walked to South Street Seaport. No biggie.

Then, of course, the badness happened two days later.

So, while I was glad to hear President Obama's news last night, it's dredged up some of the sadness, nostalgia for things lost, the anxiety - and left me with a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Soup is definitely called for on this strange Monday morning. So without further ado, my comforting recipe made with (shhhhh) something other than stock: 

Look, I know: I could make my own stock, use organic free-range low sodium broth, etc. And I do - sometimes ... ok, ok rarely. If using the "real" stuff stands in the way of me making healthy meals at home - then it's time to abandon these notions of what makes for a homemade meal. No, I'm not going to get all partially homemade/Sandra Lee on you. I just think there's value in good quality shortcuts. Since being introduced to gluten-free Better Than Bullion by a family friend, I've made soup once or twice a week, as opposed to once or twice a year! Not only that, but I can shortcut the process even further by eliminating the big stock pot and cumbersome cleaning after.

I realize that it's getting warmer and not technically soup weather, but light avgolemono (Greek lemon chicken soup) is great year-round and my go-to soup lately. My recipe deviates a bit  from the traditional Greek one, but it got a thumbs up from an Athens-raised friend, so I think it's close enough:

2 broiled chicken breasts (skin-on/bone-in if you're feelin' fancy, skinless/boneless if you want food on the table 5 minutes ago). Slice or shred when ready to use.
1 cup short grain white rice, cooked (1 cup rice:1 cup water)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced (optional)
4 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 T Better Than Bullion
4-6 cups water
1 egg, beaten
juice of one lemon

Prepare chicken and rice. I often cook these two up the night before I plan to make the soup. (Easy peasy: one pot on the stove, one in the oven - each takes about 20 minutes.) Then I stick 'em in the fridge for use the next night.

Saute vegetables until soft. Set aside.

Combine water and bullion and heat through. Sloooooowly add broth, a tablespoon or two at a time to the beaten egg, beating vigorously so it doesn't set. Once you've incorporated about a cup of broth into the egg, slowly pour the egg/broth mixture back into the broth pot, stirring away. Lots of words, but this is actually insanely quick and easy. (Move too slowly and the egg set a bit? Fret not! Just change the name of the soup to lemon egg drop.) Mix the lemon juice into the broth while stirring. Broth will now be yellow and opaque. Continue cooking; take off before it hits a boil.

So while you could combine everything in one pot now, I just make individual servings. I tend to eat this for dinner on a Sunday and then portion out the rest in my trusty Ziploc twist-top containers (the virtues of which, I cannot overstate) as lunch for the rest of the week. Just put a mound of rice in each bowl and top with sauteed vegetables.

Slice or shred the chicken and add to bowls. Pour hot broth over everything. (I like mine less brothy, so make more broth/add an extra egg and lemon juice if you like.) Let cool, pop those lids on, and - behold - lunch for most of the week in well under an hour and with few dishes to wash:

Stackable, small NYC-fridge-friendly goodness

Hope the rest of this strange day treats you well. Give some hugs. Be even kinder than you usually are to others. Eat some soup.

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