First Foods For Convalescents
Last week I dined with a friend at a favorite restaurant and we shared a Caesar salad. It looked a little limp and was certainly heavy on the dressing, but it tasted fine and the conversation was so good I really didn’t notice anything off. When I woke up abruptly at 3:00 am with the urge to purge, I assumed I had a stomach flu. However, later that morning when I checked in with my pal, it developed that he, too, was having a purge experience. Aha! Caesar dressing can be troublesome because of the eggs, which should be coddled gently but sometimes aren’t. The culprit could also be the lettuce, I suppose, but if so, I would expect the restaurant to have heard from a boatload of folks. They hadn’t, so I’m plumping for the Caesar, which I suspect had been prepped for lunch and not used up, as it had that I’ve-been-sitting-around-for-a-while quality to it.
Mr. P. recovered in a day or two but my body was quite unhappy for days. Indeed, it’s been over a week now and I’m just getting past the bananas and toast stage. Thanks goodness for apple cider vinegar, which, mixed with a little water, definitely helps get the internal garden back to its happy place. Today I had my very first actual meal, which made me a bit nervous, given the week in review. When I thought about what to try, I remembered making soup for my dying mom. (Ok, I’m not dying any faster than anyone else, but I have to say it kinda felt like it a time or two. Purging is hard work!)
Pleasures That Remain
As my Mom sailed away down the misty river of forgetfulness, food remained one of her few active pleasures. For quite a while, her favorite meal involved microwaving frozen mac and cheese (the orange kind), which she finally admitted she preferred over my homemade Italian version. I can’t even consider that at this point, but Mom’s next favorite sounded better; chicken soup with homemade biscuits.
She never got over her amazement that I was capable of baking “real” biscuits, but in fact they are dead easy as long as you preheat the oven and don’t waste time getting them into the oven. Assemble your dining companions too, as hot biscuits taste best straight out of the oven. Have your accoutrements ready as well: Some of us content ourselves with butter and homemade raspberry jam, while others prefer extra sharp cheese with a little slice of ham and a dab of mustard.
Floating Cloud Biscuits
These delectable critters are light and crisp on the outside and tender and almost creamy on the inside. That little bit of cream of tartar boosts them extra high; it’s a fast-acting leavening agent that works during the mixing/kneading stage, making for very light, crisp biscuits. Don’t let them sit around, though; for perfection, they need to be baked off as soon as you get them on the baking sheet.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 ounces (1/2 cup) pasture butter
2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients together, then put them in a food processor with the butter and blitz for a few seconds; mixture should be like coarse corn meal. Put in a bowl, add milk quickly and stir gently until a soft ball forms. Knead gently for a few seconds, then pat into a square 1/2 inch thick (about 10 x 10 inches). Cut into squares or diamonds and put on a baking sheet, well spaced apart. Bake until golden brown (12-14 minutes) and serve at once. Serves at least one.
Simple Chicken Soup
I dislike commercial broths and stocks, most of which taste rather nasty to me. Instead, I make quick broths, including all skins and trimmings from the vegetables as well as the chicken bits. This gives a light, fresh quality to this quick yet satisfying soup. You can make this soup with deli rotisserie chicken or raw pieces; either way, include the bones and skin in the broth. Interestingly, chicken breast broth has a fullest, cleanest flavor than broth made with other parts or even the whole bird.
Convalescent Chicken Soup
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or thyme
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 organic skinless, boned chicken breast, chopped
1/4 cup stemmed Italian parsley
freshly ground pepper
Make broth by combining onions and garlic skins with carrot peelings, celery trimmings, and chicken bits. Add water to cover (at least 4 cups) and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer until needed.
For the soup, heat oil with onion, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, rosemary or thyme, and lemon zest over medium high heat until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add celery, carrots and potato, cover pan and sweat vegetables for 10 minutes. Add chicken and 2 cups water, cover pan and simmer until chicken is opaque. Strain broth, add to soup and simmer over lowest heat for 30 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve, garnished with parsley. Serves 4.
Safer Caesar Dressing
It may be a while before I enjoy a Caesar salad again, and if I do, I’ll probably use this recipe. (I prefer this one for picnics, when temperature control is challenging.) When you buy Worcestershire sauce, always check the label; these days, most include high fructose con syrup, but you can usually still find the “original” type that doesn’t (to me it tastes quite different).
Eggless Caesar Salad
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup fruity olive oil
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (without corn syrup)
3-4 canned anchovies, rinsed, drained and minced
1/3 cup coarsely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
8 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1 cup toasted garlic-bread croutons
Combine the garlic and the oil in a glass jar and refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour. Fish out the garlic and add the lemon juice, mayo, Worcestershire sauce and anchovies. Shake well to emulsify, then gently toss with lettuce and croutons. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.