Monday, January 4, 2010

A DELICIOUS soup for the common cold...trust me!

Gail, a dear and very long-time friend reminded me in an email this morning about how she adores my mother's Greek Egg Lemon Soup. Let me tell you about it and I promise you'll make it!

Every time one of us many children got sick, Mom made her famous hot egg lemon soup. It got so that, as we met our men who became our husbands, she'd make it for them, too, if they felt unwell. Then it got so one who worked way downtown (about an hour in LA traffic) would drive to Mom and Dad's house just so Mom would make him what we all have come to call SICK SOUP. Sad name because it should really be called HEALTHY SOUP! You know what they say about Jewish chicken noodle soup....this is that delicious and healthy but SO much tastier (I promise). Come to think of it this soup also includes lemon as the star surprise ingredient as did my last post on scrambled eggs just below this post. It's an Egypt/Mediterranean thing. Actually, I also have to stop pretending this is Mom's recipe or anything to do with the place she was raised, Cairo, or anything Armenian (my heritage)...I have to give it up and admit this is AGVOLEMONO SOUP, as the Greeks, who probably invented it, call it. They deserve the credit.

Mom's EGG LEMON SOUP...

Heat chicken broth (maybe the size of the smaller Swanson's boxes for 2 people) in a saucepan and throw in a little broken up vermicelli (maybe one cup?) until the vermicelli's cooked (Angel Hair pasta's fine just make sure you break it into roughly 1" pieces first). Turn off the heat.
In a bowl, break one egg and beat it. When the broth isn't quite as hot as it was, take a little bit of the broth and put it in the bowl with the beaten egg in it WHILE YOU KEEP STIRRING/BEATING...this is the key...add only a little at first or you'll get egg drop soup with curdled pieces of egg! Add a tad more broth, and KEEP STIRRING as you keep adding the broth to the egg....when you've got about a cup of broth in with that egg, then start adding that cooled off eggy broth (cooled while beating it with the egg) back into the saucepan VERY gently AND KEEP BEATING! Go back and forth very carefully and slowly, continuing to stir/beat until you've got all the egg/broth mixture into the saucepan.
Now, you've got the lovely broth with the vermicelli and egg perfectly mixed and you won't have egg drop soup (Actually, the first few times, you will get some curdling but even seasoned cooks of this soup have that happen sometimes...no worries, just do your best to make that mixture as smooth and curdle-less as possible...it'll be beautifully smooth and almost look like you'd added cream to it...silky and opaque from the lemon juice and egg.)
Squeeze a fresh lemon and add a bit to that mixture....and some salt...to taste. You can have the heat back on very low during this step but make SURE you keep stirring a little so you don't curdle. If it's just right with the amount of little lemon you added, drink and enjoy. If you're a tart taste lover like I am, add more lemon (which I recommend to get this flavor just right)....keep tasting.... Do not leave out the salt, it really does do a lovely thing to this soup.

I hope you enjoy it... It sounds complicated with the curdling threats but it really isn't so bad the second or third time and you just might get it right the first time...just keep stirring and let the broth cool just a bit before starting the mixing process. I hope it becomes a favorite for you. And, I swear, the combo of chicken broth (satisfying, wholesome protein), lemon (citrus, Vit C) and egg (more protein, silky texture and comfort) works wonders on a cold. By the way, you can use rice instead of vermicelli, just don't use too much of either or it'll be too starchy.

Let me know if you make this........good luck! If you, too, have a special and surprising chicken soup ingredient, let us know!
z

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Z,
A question: If there is some curdled egg in the soup, couldn't you strain it?

For soothing a cold, I heat up lemon and honey, with a little water, let it cool a bit, and add about a tablespoon of whiskey. Drink it warm.

Pris

Z said...

Sure, you could but the soup's fairly lusciously thick and a bit eggy by then and it wouldn't work well...it's just a kind of challenge to not curdle. Plus, you want all that egg goodness not to coagulate and get down the sink.

Mr. Z would have put RUM instead of whiskey in your cold-beater!

beamish said...

Pris almost has my great-grandmother's homemade country cough remedy right there above. All that's missing is the powdered peppermint sticks. :)

When I'm sick, I like to eat hot, spicy foods (like, Chinese food hot) and sweat whatever's in me out of me. It's yummy, and more fun than a doctor visit.

This lemon thing might be a bit easier on my stomach when I'm sick and fighting off an ulcer, like now.

As for chicken soup itself, I like to make it a little creamier by stirring in a dash of buttermilk while it's boiling.

Faith said...

I absolutely LOVE Avgolemono Soup. I first had it back in Berkeley when I hung out with a group of Armenians and Greeks. They served it in the food concession of the local espresso cafe too when a Greek couple managed it. I've fooled around making it for myself from time to time and do OK with it but never had a recipe. Make it with rice which is how I always had it. The trick is definitely to incorporate the egg so it makes that wonderful velvety thick texture. I'll try your version one of these days.

Z said...

Beamish, I think that buttermilk taste probably makes it a little tart too, doesn't it? Great idea. I always thought buttermilk must be so high in fat and found it's got less than regular milk...weird.

Faith, great that you know it and have tried it. Yes, rice is very typical but I hope you try this. Trouble, is I'm having trouble finding Vermicelli, which is even thinner than Angel Hair pasta ....I use it in my Armenian rice pilaf so this irks me bit time....I found it in an upscale shop not too far away and bought about four boxes as I'm afraid they'll discontinue it.
Let me know if you try this version.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Z would have put RUM instead of whiskey in your cold-beater!"

Z, I can't argue with using rum. It would be a little sweeter I think.
Whatever turns you on is OK by me! Including powdered peppermint sticks, Beamish.

In each of these cases you have a different flavor, so it comes down to what taste you'd prefer, as it should be.


Pris

Faith said...

I guess there must be a different Vermicelli than what you can get in the supermarket? I always thought it was a little thicker than Angel Hair.

PS, I can understand how this soup got associated with having a cold, as it would be a terrific comfort food on that occasion, but it's just a great soup for any occasion in my opinion and I love it with a TON of lemon in it myself. I also think of it as having bits of chicken in it, and I think of the process of incorporating the egg as similar to making Hollandaise sauce where the thickening happens because of the lemon and the egg together.

Faith said...

PPS: You can also stop the curdling process the same way you do with Hollandaise: Throw in a splash of cold water or milk as you keep beating it.

Beverly said...

Sounds good and sounds Greek if it has lemon in it.

Z said...

I wouldn't add anything to this but you can try...it's just so delicate. I always think of Vermicelli as thinner than Angel hair...but they're close and most Greeks use rice.

You absolutley must keep stirring lightly....until it starts to cool a bit as you go back and forth with the two mixtures.

Beverly, right...the Mediterranean cuisines use a lot more lemon than most Americans do. My grandmother used to drink a little lemon juice every day and swore a doc told her to do that to ward off the arthritis she'd started developing; she says the arthritis never progressed after she started drinking that juice!

sue said...

I have a good mac 'n cheese recipe whenever you are ready.

Z said...

Sue, I'm thinking of doing a post soon asking for everybody's fave mac 'n cheese recipes.
I only wish I could make every single one of them ... I might pick the one that sounds most appealing to me.
I have to admit I'm a purist like I am with pizza; I do NOT want bbq'd chicken on my pizza...and do not put ham in my mac 'n cheese! I hate it when I hear "California pizza' with SHRIMP and CHICKEN on it. blech!! Give me pepperoni or sausage! xx

sue said...

z - I totally agree with you on the pizza. My mom is always telling me how good Hawaiian pizza is. I know I wouldn't like it. I strictly like sausage pepperoni and mushroom.

I'm sure you will get tons of mac 'n cheese recipes. Your food blog is turning out well.

Z said...

Sue, thanks....I hope more and more people come and share good food thoughts/recipes/stories...

There are so many people who like pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple on it...I just don't get it.

Jen said...

I love Greek food, but I've only had Agvolemono soup once. It was VERY good! Chicken lemonati (sp?) with rice almondine is one of my favorites.
We have a huge Greek food festival every September in Dallas, and it is wonderful!

Opa!

sue said...

Z - When are ya gonna ask for chopped liver recipes? I've got a good one!

beamish said...

Pineapple and Ham / Canadian Bacon pizza is the shiznit!

But, I too prefer a supreme pizza with at least 4 meat and 4 veggie toppings...

Elmers Brother said...

you should try canadian bacon and sauer kraut on pizza now that's the bomb

Z said...

sue, i don't like it that much.

Elbro, I hope you're kidding. That stops being pizza and becomes something else :-)

sue said...

Z - I don't either. There was a time when I could eat liver smothered in bacon and onions.

Pedaling said...

your recipes are proving to be interesting and different....but it's your background and heritage that is most intriguing...
way cool!

beamish said...

Sue,

I love Rumaki - Chicken livers and water chestnut in soy sauce wrapped in bacon and baked in the oven on a cookie sheet. It's an awesome "appetizer."

beamish said...

Traditional rumaki takes a duck liver though... but chicken liver taste better imho

beamish said...

Pris,

Great-granny's homemade cold remedy was awesome when I was kid - stay home from school and have a mixed drink for medicinal purposes? Who more could any kid want? Except for the requiring to be really sick part...

Z said...

Beamish, when I was a kid, Mom would say "If you're sick enough to stay home, you're sick enough not to watch TV..." Hardly made it worthwhile staying home. But, after we recovered (if we were really sick), we got those hard raspberry candies with the soft raspberry center...mmmm I wish I could still find those.

Elmers Brother said...

I"m not kidding and it's delicious...in fact the family owned pizza joint is rumored to have invented the Hawaiian pizza as well

Z said...

Elbro, when they mix sauerkraut and pineapple, they need to shut their doors for good !! :-)

And, don't LET me see ANY kind of liver on pizza!!! eeeeoooooooooooooooooooo

sue said...

beamish - I used to make Rumaki appetizers and they were good.

Z said...

I like the bacon wrapped around a seedless date and baked more than with chicken livers but I know they're popular with the livers, too.

Elmers Brother said...

baked chicken livers with a seedless date and bacon and you're giving me a hard time about sauer kraut and canadian bacon pizza?

Z said...

Elbro, I laughed out loud! NO NO NO liver...ANYWHERE, please (except in SOME very Sherry-laden and onion-heavy chopped livers:-)
No...it's dates with bacon wrapped around them and baked!! I'm still laughing at the way you put that! so funny! And, that sounds SO GROSS, you're right. But, no...NO CHICKEN LIVERS!

Jen said...

Z, this might make you gag...we used to go water skiing every weekend and Dad would stop at some little shack on the way and get a bag of fried chicken livers, gizzards. He tricked me into eating a few gizzards once. I nearly screamed when i found out what a 'gizzard' was.

Wow. We were total rednecks!

My dad and brother are both wonderful cooks, though. Much better than me.. They both cater as a hobby!! (no gizzards or livers involved)

Pizza? supreme with jalepenos!!

Z said...

Hi, Jen! usually ANYTHING fried tastes better than it does UNfried! Very cool that your men folk are such good cooks! Do they cater together?

I have to admit that Mom made something with chicken livers that I could ALMOST eat...and that's sauteed with tons of chopped onions and green peppers and tomato paste ...I'm not sure what else but the tomato made a very thick sauce and she'd scoop the whole mixture into pita pockets and I didn't hate it :-)

Elmers Brother said...

even without the livers I still win the less gross contest.

Faith said...

Julia Child's Chicken Liver Mousse is so wonderful I can't believe you wouldn't like THAT, Z (but you might not I suppose). Heavy with cognac and thyme and butter. Heavenly.

I also had a recipe for fried chicken livers I used to make that unfortunately I've forgotten now that you might like. Plenty of onion and red wine. Delish.

Jen said...

Nope, they both cater for friends on occasion. I love it. It makes me so proud. I call both of them sometimes for cooking advice. They're both so cocky about their skills, it's funny to see them together in the kitchen at Christmas and Thanksgiving. The women just get out of the way!! My brother makes the BEST key lime pie. Oh my. It makes me cry.

I bought the ingredients for your agvolemono soup today. I'm so excited!!

Z said...

Faith, I'm not a liver fan but, like I said above, if there's plenty of Sherry or Cognac, onions butter and herbs, I've been known to like it. Mask the liver and I'm happy.

Jen, it's so cool that you bought the ingredients. let me know !! xxx