Tag Archives: Chicken Soup

Procrastination Soup

27 Jan

It starts with a montage:

A blurry flurry of papers.

The camera pans out.

A writer is crouched over the pile, frantically scrawling away.

The camera zooms in.

A pencil scratches the surface of the paper, the sound like skates cutting into clean ice.

A fist crumples a ball of paper and drops it down off of the side of the bed.

The pile is growing; one ball bounces off of another.

Classical music plays in the background. Or maybe classic rock. Or even something bluesy, ‘cause writers often have the blues. In fact, they regularly mope around, brooding as a form of procrastination.

The camera pulls back.

They suffer publicly. Their friends wonder why they don’t just get a real job. They grow moodier. They start fights with loved ones to avoid fulfilling their destiny, whatever that means. They must believe their chosen line of work is some sort of unavoidable fate, however unpleasant, and that they are the chosen one.

Only they can do this task: drop the ring into the fiery pits of Mordor, conquer Voldemort, destroy Darth Vader, enter the Upside Down and blow the smoke monster to smithereens using nothing but their mind.

Even when they succeed, trauma will ensue. It is inevitable. They will never fully recover. They will never be the same. While childhood friends continue life as they knew it, they, the chosen one, will never be the same. Everything will have a slightly more sinister twist. Forever.

The calendar pages flutter as the deadline approaches. The clock ticks noisily on the wall. Blood rushes to their head and a heartbeat is ominously heard loudly in their ears. There is no body under the floorboards, so it must be stress.

Suddenly, cleaning the toilet seems very appealing.

Rituals form. Every day, coffee will be made at this time and this way. Two sugars, two splashes of creamer, filled to the little crack near the top of the rim. Same mug. Every day. The work will begin when the coffee cup is empty.

When the bottom of the mug is revealed, two words are visible: Start now. This was cleverly painted on the bottom of the mug by the writer at a paint-your-own-pottery store. So far, it is all the writer has written, which doesn’t bode well for destiny.

As the two words appear, the music stops short, cut off uncomfortably in the middle of a refrain. Unresolved dissonance hangs in the air. It is as if oxygen has been cut off. All blood flow to the brain is gone. Nothing is left except despair echoing in the pit of the stomach.

The writer looks at the pile of crumpled papers and says: Fuck it. And also: Time to begin.

Except they are launched into a daydream.

It is more like a grand mal seizure.

They have disappeared from the earth, even as their body sits on the edge of the bed, laptop in hand.

They stare straight ahead, the eyes two pits of sadness as they see nothing but terror ahead. They are a prophet. An oracle. They can see the future, and they are afraid.

They clutch the manuscript tightly in their hands. They run for the subway entrance. They barrel down the stairs, pushing past crowds of people who are all wearing gray suits, and dash toward the open train doors. The doors begin to shut in slow motion. The manuscript that is clutched by hands is now also crushed by hands as a leap of faith is taken.

They make it through the jawlike doors in the nick of time, Indiana Jones style, reaching out at the last minute for the hat.

 

Procrastination Soup

Place the following ingredients into the Instant Pot: a small chicken, a few peeled and sliced carrots, a chopped onion, a bay leaf, a tablespoon of kosher salt, and whatever else you’d like to add to your soup. Fill to the max fill line with water.

Set Instant Pot to the soup setting on high pressure for 2 hours. Release pressure manually, although if you don’t, that is fine too.

When done, strain, add the carrots and some of the chicken, shredded, back into the soup. Make some noodles. Eat.

Okay, now. Enough procrastinating. Get back to work.

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The Real Deal Matzah Ball Soup

20 Mar

“Of soup and love, the first is best.” ~Old Spanish proverb

I have to confess, I don’t have a family recipe for chicken soup. Nothing has been handed down from generation to generation. No one carried a recipe over to Ellis Island sown into the lining of their coat.

Not my actual family

Not my actual family

There wasn’t a magic formula with my name on it either. Until now.

Matzah ball soup with the works

Matzah ball soup with the works

I did have my grandma Esther’s knedelaich recipe, in her handwriting too! But one day I was reading the recipe and measuring the matzah meal from the box, and noticed that her recipe was THE SAME EXACT ONE AS ON THE BOX!!! Well, either she was a trendsetter, or she got it from there as well. So much for my family recipe!

Grandma's recipe on the back

Grandma’s recipe on the back

There are many different permutations for matzah balls, light and fluffy, egg white only, ginger and almond, baking soda and seltzer. Well my friends, you could use ol’reliable on the side of the box of matzah meal, or you can use this recipe for matzah balls seasoned with Herbes de Provence which I make for special occasions. If you aren’t keen on something so adventurous (it is pretty subtle, really), then just leave out the herbs and you will have a light yolk-free matzah ball.

Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence

As a child, I would do anything for soup. It didn’t matter if it had noodles or rice or kneidelach (Yiddish for matzah balls). I would eat it from a package or pot or can.

My childhood comfort food

My childhood comfort food

Almost everyone in my family made soup, and thanks to some sort of wonderful mutant food related super-power, I can remember the taste of them all.

I come from a long line of cooks that cook by eye, throwing in this or that, although all had a signature style.

My dad would overload his with root vegetables and fresh dill, while my mom showed restraint–except when it came to green peppers.  My grandmother Esther’s was simple and straightforward, just like her. My aunt Becca would add spoonfuls of turmeric to turn her soup golden.  I loved them all, the people and the soup. Their style said a lot about them, and I think about them every time I make my own soup.

I’ve been making chicken soup ever since college, when I would occasionally put aside the ramen noodle.

College staple

College staple

I don’t think, in the years since, that I’ve made two soups that were the same. Sure they all had similarities—it is soup of course—but they varied greatly. I’ve ranged from following in the footsteps of my parents to spanning the world to my exotic aunt’s golden soup, and I even have tried a few vegetarian versions. Most were good, some even great, all dependent on the quality of the chicken and the veggies.

Kosher chicken is the best for soup

Kosher chicken is the best for soup

I vary the recipe slightly depending on what in the fridge needs to go. Sometimes I will save up leek greens, or parsley stems, or celery leaves. I vary the ingredients slightly in amount—more carrots and parsnips for a sweeter soup, russet potatoes or yams for a heartier one.

Sometimes at the end I will snip fresh dill and sprinkle it on, especially in the spring (my Dad would approve).

Dill-icious!

Dill-icious!

But good news, folks—I’ve finally found myself. And this is the soup I will pass down to my grandchildren.  More or less.

Aura’s Chicken Soup

  • 12-16 cups water (note: less if it is just for my family, more if company is coming)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt now, plus more later
  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs and legs (quarters), preferably Kosher, with skin and bones (see note above)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 green onions or 1 large leek, washed well and chopped
  • 4 to 6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (on the diagonal is pretty), preferably organic

    Carrots on the bias

    Carrots cut on the bias

  • 1 or 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks (to add a little umami)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup tiny noodles (alphabet, stelline, orzo, or for Passover Manischewitz KFP noodles, cooked separately

    With alphabet noodles

    With alphabet noodles

  • Double batch of yolk-free matzah balls (recipe follows)
  • Fresh dill, optional, but not to my dad
  • More kosher salt, up to 1 tablespoon, to taste depending on size of soup
  1. Fill a large soup pot with the water. Put in the chicken and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes without stirring. After 20 minutes, skim off any foam that rises to the top.
  2. Add all of the other veggies: onion, green onions or leek, carrots, turnip, sweet potato, celery, tomato, parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium-low and simmer. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours, until the soup has reduced a bit and become more concentrated.
  3. Taste and add more kosher salt.
  4. If you like clear soup (we do on holidays or for company), then let soup cool a bit and strain the soup through a large fine mesh colander into another large pot or bowl. If you like carrots or chicken in the soup, then pick those out of the colander and add them back to the soup. In my house we eat it chunky-style with everything in the bowl (except for the chicken skin and bones).
  5. At this point you can refrigerate it (it will keep for a few days, just bring it back to a simmer for 5 minutes before serving. You can also freeze it.
  6. And as for that bay leaf, in my house, whoever gets it in their bowl has good luck. But who needs luck when you have someone to make you soup. 🙂

Herbes de Provence Mini-Matzah Balls

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence (sold in the spice aisle)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 1 ½ cups matzah meal
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, using a fork, mix together the oil and egg whites.   Then add the herbs de Provence, salt and pepper, and mix well. Stir in the water, and then the matzah meal, mixing well. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the mixture, and let chill in the fridge for an hour or more.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add a tablespoon of salt. Wet your hands and a small spoon, and make balls of the mixture about 2 inches in diameter. Roll them until they are smooth and then drop them gently into the boiling water. Repeat until all of the batter is used up.
  3. Cover with the lid partially vented and simmer for 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer the matzah balls to a pot of your favorite chicken soup or store in the fridge, covered for up to 2 days. Makes about 30 mini-matzah balls or 6 servings. Feel free to double the recipe or even double the size of the matzah ball.
Matzah balls cooking

Matzah balls cooking

Lazy Day Noodle Soup

4 Dec

Baby, its cold outside and winter lethargy has set in. You need something hot and you need it right now.

OK, well in reality, it is December and freakishly warm where I live. And although it has been 70 degrees for the last few days, my body knows it is soup season.

This will never replace your mom’s chicken soup recipe, which of course is the best. But it is better than anything canned, packaged, or processed. It is simple and honest and easy and fast. And you probably already have everything in the house.

I am a big fan of slaving away over a hot stove any day of the week. I love wielding knives, mixing, measuring, mashing, stirring, kneading, etc. But this is not that recipe.

All you do is throw a few things in a bowl, stick it in the microwave, and walk away. Of course you can go back and sit on the couch, or in front of the fireplace, the TV, the wall, or whatever you like to stare at. When your work is done, you will be rewarded with a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

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Quick Chicken Noodle

 

  • 1 medium carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed up a little
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 chicken flavored bouillon cubes and 4 1/2 cups water (or you can use 4 cups broth and ½ cup water)
  • 1 generous cup fine egg noodles, slightly broken up

 

1.  In a large microwave-safe bowl, place all of the ingredients.

2. Cover and cook the soup in the microwave for 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

3.  Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and serve with crackers, if desired.

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