As I walked into Whole Foods, filled with self-pity for all the sniffling, sneezing, and phlegm-expelling I'd been doing over the last week, a little pamphlet by the front door caught my eye. I saw the words "COLD, "FLU," then..."Better Than Chicken Soup!" I immediately grabbed the pamphlet and flipped through it--praying for a recipe or a remedy that would help me out.
Given the sorry state of my health at the time, if they had recommended boiling crocodile chunks and pureeing them with liverwurst I probably would have tried it. But the recipe for a comforting, semi-spicy miso broth soup made from a variety of immunity-boosting ingredients actually sounded good. I grabbed all of the ingredients I needed and headed home to whip up a giant pot of the stuff. Wow, was it good. It wasn't good in the same decadent way that buffalo chicken dip with Tostitos scoops is good. It was good in that homey, nourishing, delicious, "I know this is really good for me, but it actually tastes great too" way. I don't even like two of the ingredients (butternut squash and kale), but I liked them in this soup.
Here's the recipe (courtesy of Whole Foods):
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I used chicken)
1 tsp ground turmeric
8 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups julienned fresh kale
1 cup cubed butternut squash
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)*
6 thin slices astragalus root (optional)**
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
1 tsp miso paste
*Instead of cayenne pepper, I used a few squirts of sriracha, an Asian hot sauce that looks like this:
**I had no idea what astragalus root was, and neither did the guy working in the Whole Foods produce section, so I left it out.
In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook onion and garlic in 2 tbsp broth, stirring occasionally, until tender and most of the broth has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add a splash of broth if needed to keep onion from sticking, then stir in turmeric and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in remaining broth, kale, squash, ginger, cayenne and astragalus. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then add lemon juice and miso (adding more miso when still very hot will diminish it's probiotic benefits). Cover and let sit 5 minutes before serving.
I was so excited when this soup turned out great. It's the type of soup I can imagine making over and over again throughout the years. I can picture my kids away at college in 15 years, telling their roommates "My mom made this AMAZING soup whenever we were sick, and it made us feel a million times better. It was like magic!"
I should point out, this soup is actually intended to prevent illness, rather than cure it. So even if you're feeling great, you might want to start eating some so you can keep feeling that way.
Wishing everyone a healthy flu season!