What do you want to eat or drink when you're sick, assuming you can swallow anything at all? Do you sip warm tea, cold ginger ale or little cups of chicken broth or is hot whiskey with lemon and honey your tonic of choice?
The current flu virus has an interesting impact on appetite, or so it has had on mine. For the first couple of weeks, I reverted to my childhood sickbed cravings, Lipton's noodle soup and Saltines. For several days, I wanted nothing but a simple potato pancake, and right about the time a friend showed up with homemade chicken soup, chicken soup began to sound like a good idea.
I've made chicken broth twice, used one batch to make jook (a simple rice porridge) and, if I had the energy, I'd head to Simply Vietnam or Thang Long for a big bowl of pho.
At times like this, I think it would be nice to live in New York City, where a quick phone call will get hot-and-sour soup, pork noodles or anything else you're craving delivered to your door.
Do you have favorite sickbed foods or remedies you swear by? If so, take a minute to share them at Seasonal Pantry's companion blog, Eat This Now, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, where you'll also find my recipes for jook and the chicken soup my grandson Lucas swears is magic.
This traditional Japanese dish is typically served with green tea but I prefer it with genmaicha, green tea with toasted rice. Instead of tofu — which I confess to not liking at all — I use roasted chicken or wild salmon. The recipe is casual and flexible and you should feel free to make your own adjustments.
Ochazuke with Chicken and Nettles
Makes 2 to 3 servings
2 teaspoons genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice)
— Boiling water
3 cups cooked risotto or sushi rice, hot
1 small carrot, grated
4 to 6 ounces diced (1?-inch) cooked chicken, preferably dark meat, or 4 to 6 ounces cooked wild salmon, broken into small pieces
— Small handful of wakame (seaweed)
— Handful of small nettle leaves (see Note below) or 2 to 3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
? to 1 teaspoon powdered wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
1 teaspoon umeboshi paste (pickled plum paste)
2 heaping teaspoons miso paste (fermented soybean paste)
— Toasted sesame oil
— Sriracha or other hot sauce
Put the genmaicha in a teapot, add a generous splash of boiling water and pour it off. Set aside briefly.
Divide the hot rice between large bowls and scatter carrots, chicken, seaweed and nettles or scallions over it.
Divide the wasabi, umeboshi paste and miso between the two servings, placing it on top of the rice. Shake a few drops of sesame oil on top.
Fill the teapot with about 4 cups boiling water and steep for about 90 seconds. Pour the tea over the rice, pouring in concentric circles so that all of the rice is moistened and the tea pools in the bowl.
Use chopsticks to stir the mixture thoroughly so that the umeboshi and miso mix with the tea.
Serve immediately, with the hot sauce alongside.