Is it cold season already? Apparently so because I have one. I know you can get colds anytime of year but it just doesn't seem right to have one before sweater weather. I spent my Labor Day weekend with Brian and his family and friends, sneezing lots and sniffling. It wasn't until Sunday evening that I really began to feel terrible. I felt achey and feverish and the air conditioned supermarket seemed colder than usual, causing me to shiver. I don't get too hungry when I'm sick but I do crave a few staples: bread, cheese, noodle-y and brothy soup, farina. Here are two recipes to refer to when you're feeling a bit under the weather or just need something soothing and smooth to put in your stomach.
Soothing Tortellini-Broccolini Soup
Adapted from Serves One by Toni Lydecker, a very thorough cookbook with a warm, engaging tone about cooking for one. I usually cook only for myself and highly recommend it. I love broccolini, which comes in small batches, making it somehow seem more manageable at the end of a workday than does broccoli. So of course I would prefer it when cooking for a cold. For the broth, I use Pacific Natural Foods organic broth, which comes in handy 1 cup 4-packs, also perfect for cooking for one. Measurements are suggestions rather than hard and fast rules. Add more carrots if you like or omit them entirely. You could also add a large handful or two or frozen baby peas, asparagus, or onions that have been lightly sauteed in some olive oil.
1 clove garlic
1 cup canned lower-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cheese or vegan tortellini
1/2 cup chopped broccolini
1/4 cup thin carrot slices
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)
small handful of whole-grain crackers (optional)
1. Thinly slice the garlic clove lengthwise and then cut into slivers. Combine broth, water, and garlic in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.
2. Add tortellini, broccolini, and carrot and cook a few minutes longer, until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese or cracker crumbles. Retire to bed or the couch. Serves 1.
My grandmother, Cuca, often made farina for me. She added a special touch by laying little blocks of cheese in a circle around my steaming bowl of farina. I would circle my spoon around the melted cheese and continue to circle around the bowl until it was empty. Since my grandmother left behind no written recipes, this is more my interpretation of a memory from long ago rather than a strict reenactment. I can assure you that hers was better but this isn't bad either. I must admit, 1% or 2%, if not regular, cow's milk works best here. The fat makes it ultra creamy. But vanilla soy milk doesn't hurt. It's just not quite as rich. I haven't had much luck heating rice or almond milk but if you do, go for it.
Boil 1 cup of milk with a stick or two of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Watch very carefully as it boils, stirring frequently. Once cow's milk begins to boil, it takes only a second of turning away from it for the milk to boil over completely and then burn (although my grandmother did slightly burn the milk on purpose in preparation for adding it to her coffee since the brief scorching adding a caramel undertone to the milk). Add 3 tablespoons of farina/cream of wheat, stirring well. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of walnut oil (or butter or Earth Balance or no extra fat at all), and a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a gentle boil again and lower heat, continuing to stir frequently for a few minutes or until the farina thickens. Add 1/4 cup of trail mix (walnuts, cashews, raisins, dates, sunflower seeds etc.) and stir before eating.