A friend and colleague was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She’s about a week out of surgery and starting chemo soon. It’s almost impossible to know how to reach out to her – what can I say that would be even remotely comforting?
The only thing I really know to do is to take her food. It’s what Jews do. I’ll never forget how wonderful it was to have dinners from both dear friends and near strangers arrive at our doorstep for weeks after each of my c-sections. Almost every meal came from a member of our shul. (One strong argument for joining a synagogue even if we’re not going to attend.) I promised myself that I would pay that mitzvah forward, and this week I actually have two opportunities to prepare meals for congregants in need of care. Not only do I feel as if I’m doing something useful, but coming with a bag of food gives us something to talk about other than illness – recipes!
I brought my colleague a pot of chicken soup. It’s the first poultry dish I learned to cook when I abandoned vegetarianism during my second pregnancy. It’s hardly a recipe at all – but trust me, you will love it. Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl.
One onion/2 carrots/2 stalks of celery/one 3-4 lb chicken (we use Empire)/one cup uncooked brown rice or barley/parsley
Cut up all the vegetables and throw them in a pot with the rice/barley and a whole chicken (really!) Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until the chicken is cooked. Put the chicken in a colander. After the chicken cools down, remove the skin and throw it out. Then shred the chicken and toss it back in the pot with some parsley. Skim fat and reheat.
The trick is not to overcook the chicken. I use a meat thermometer and pull out the chicken as soon as it hits 165. And the brown rice isn’t just because I want to impress you with our healthy eating habits – the texture is really integral to the recipe. Sometimes I add some veggie bouillon cubes along with the salt and pepper if it needs a little oomph.
This soup is amazing. I just wish it could cure cancer.