Foods to Fight the Flu

First, this week Touring & Tasting has a great deal on World Class wines--save from $28-$100 depending on whether you're a wine club member and if you order one or two bottles each of the three hand-crafted wines. I wanted to make something different to match the full-bodied 2007 Sculpterra Maquette--the highly extracted Bordeaux blend from Paso Robles, and came up with this crunchy appetizer:
2 pita
1/2 cup almonds
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbps. dried onion flakes
1/4 cup sundried tomato
1/4 cup + approximately 4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Japanese cucumber
1 cup prepared hummus

Chop the almonds into small pieces about 1/4" across. You can use a food processor--just pulse briefly so the nuts are not ground fine. Chop the sundried tomatoes, mix with the almonds, sesame seeds, spices and 1/4 cup olive oil to make a paste. Cut the pita into 6 wedges each and spread the paste on each piece equally. Toast in the broiler until golden brown. Slice the cucumber. Put the hummus in a serving bowl, sprinkle with paprika, then drizzle with a swirl of olive oil. Place the pita and cucumber slices around the hummus. Serve with a spoon to put a dollop of hummus on the pita or cucumber. Serves about 8 as an appetizer. Serve with the mouth-watering 2007 Sculpterra 'Maquette'.
The new year knocked me out with the flu and since it seems to be going around, I thought I'd share my five top foods that helped me recover from the flu:
1. Ginger tea. Ginger has long been used to treat nausea from seasickness or pregnancy and according to the U. of Maryland Medical Center can be used for upset stomach for cancer patients and can alleviate arthritis inflammation. Cut an inch off the fresh ginger root, peel, slice and put in a cup of hot water for a tasty brew.
2. Peppermint tea. UMMC reports peppermint is antiviral and antibacterial as well as working as a decongestant. Crush a handful of fresh peppermint in a pot of hot water--using fresh rather than dried means getting the peppermint oil. A study by the American College of Gastroenterology found peppermint oil most effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome. Maybe more important is the fact that peppermint tea is soothing and smells heavenly!
3. Miso soup. When you have the flu, you don't want anything acidic and are advised to stay away from dairy, carbonation, and caffeine. Also, when you can't keep food down, electrolytes can be off balanced leading to weakness. Miso is a bit salty, helping to rehydrate the body and balance electrolytes and it's nutritious with a lot of protein. I make miso from scratch with dashi and miso from the Asian market:
2 cups water
1 dashi pack (soup base made from fish shavings)
4 heaping Tbsp. miso (red or white) paste
1/2 block firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 egg
Boil water with dashi pack for ten minutes, turn heat down to simmer. Spoon miso paste into a strainer that can be immersed into the soup, stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the miso. Add the tofu and turn the heat up for a low boil. Crack the egg into a small cup and slide the egg into the gently boiling soup, poach for two minutes. This makes about 3 servings, save the left over in the frig and reheat to poach another egg, if desired.
4. Chicken soup. I don't eat chicken anymore, for compassionate reasons, but I still make chicken soup for family as it does seem to hasten recovery. The garlic and lemon have an antibacterial effect in the stomach and it's protein and vitamin rich.
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 fryer, cut up
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. marjoram
1/2 Tbsp. thyme
1 qt. chicken broth
2 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, cut into pieces
2 corn cobs, cut into 2" pieces
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 lemon approximate
salt to taste
 1 avocado, optional
Heat oil in cast iron pot, like a Dutch oven, and sear the chicken all over. Add the garlic and onion, turn down the heat and cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the spices and add water to cover the chicken completely and cook for about an hour with the lid on. Turn heat off and remove chicken pieces to a tray to cool. When chicken is cool enough, remove the meat and return it to the broth. I like to keep the meat pieces large--tearing the chicken breasts into about four large pieces. The corn cobs are difficult to cut into 2" slices--use a very sharp, heavy chef's knife. Add the vegetables to the soup, turn the heat on to low and cook for another 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Add as much of the chicken broth as needed to keep the vegetables submerged. When the vegetables are cooked, chop the 1/2 bunch cilantro and add to the soup. Squeeze the lemon juice into the soup, adding the salt slowly and tasting after each addition. You want to find the right mix of flavors between slightly lemony and slightly salted. The amount of lemon and salt used will depend on the other ingredients and your personal taste. Serve with slices of avocado, if desired. Makes about 8 servings.
5. Almond butter. The local health food store has a machine that grinds roasted almonds into almond butter. The aroma of roasted almonds is very appetizing! Almond butter on a toasted waffle was all I could take for a couple of days, it seemed neutral to my stomach which allowed it to remain when all else was rejected. Turns out almonds boost the immune sytem and reduce inflammation--turns out my "gut instinct" was right on!

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