This weekend my husband took care of me and our under-the-weather family. I was sick and exhausted and needed it so, so much. He did a good job. He's a good carer. He beat himself up on Sunday, however, because he took our toddler with him to the grocery store with a mind to return with chicken noodle soup. He wanted to ease me back into food consumption slowly, healthily. He rightly anticipated that I'd probably overdose on animal crackers once I got my appetite back if there weren't chicken noodle soup available to me as an alternative. He knows me well. (But he forgot to actually buy the chicken noodle soup.)
I'm feeling much better now, despite the absence of chicken noodle soup from our home. But ever since he mentioned it, repeatedly, because he really felt way more terrible about it than he ought to have, I've been thinking about chicken noodle soup. I've heard and read that there is truly something healing about chicken noodle soup. And, you know, whatever, I believe it enough. But as my body was striving to recoup, it wasn't really craving chicken and noodles. It craved broth, for sure. But it wanted ginger and lemon and herbs and rice. It wanted heaps of vegetables, specifically mild, seasonal ones that would be easy on our still-sensitive bellies.
Randomly, annoyingly, I ended up making a huge amount of steak in the midst of our stomach flu, not because we had any desire to eat red meat at the time but because I'd thawed it a few days before and felt it should not stay thawed and uncooked in the refrigerator for too much longer.
So the combination of my body's cravings and the necessity to use up cooked steak resulted in a pot of soup this afternoon. Sadie and I enjoyed it v. much. It was brothy and lemony and it smelled and tasted and felt so nourishing. I'm glad we were out of animal crackers at lunch time because I might not have thrown this delight together otherwise. It's so much better for us than animal crackers. And so much better than chicken noodle soup.
P.S. You'll super like this even if you're not sick.
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 tablespoons sesame oil or olive oil
1 cup chopped winter squash (I used peeled butternut; a single, unpeeled delicata squash would be great here)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 small carrots)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 teaspoons ground cumin (or more)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or more)
5 cups water or broth or combination (I used 1 cup chicken broth + 4 cups water)
1/2 cup dry white or brown or wild or whatever rice (I used red rice - it's v. pretty)
1 cup chopped, ground, or shredded cooked meat* or beans**
Dashes of the following: Persian limes, sumac, coriander, red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper
Optional: Top with avocado slices and hard-boiled eggs
Heat the oil over low-medium heat in a soup pot. Add the winter squash and carrots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and saute until softened a bit, about 4 minutes. Add the lemon zest, ginger, garlic, cumin, and oregano and stir for one minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the rice and meat or beans, simmer until rice is cooked through (time will depend on what kind of rice you use - follow package instructions or check after 20 minutes and then again every 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, cilantro, any other spices you'd like, 1 teaspoon salt, and a lot of freshly ground pepper. Ladle into bowls and eat with a lot of crusty bread to soak up all that fantastic broth.
* Lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, whatever
** Cooked chickpeas or white beans would be good, or uncooked lentils or split peas