by Caroline

This is the time of year when we get sick. Whether it’s the weather (cold mornings and nights sandwiching hot afternoons) or our busy schedules, February always seems to be when this household is put on hold by illness. Lately, my son Ben has been suffering it all: first strep throat, then a vomiting bug, now a cold. He hasn’t been interested in eating, particularly, and he’s wistful about that; the other day, he pulled out Pretend Soup, Mollie Katzen’s classic cookbook for kids, and asked me to read him some of his favorite recipes: french toast; berry dip and roll; oatmeal surprise. I promised I’d make him whatever he wants when he’s interested in food again, and he’s taking his time to think about it.

In the meantime, I’m posting the recipe for what I want when I’m sick, my husband Tony’s hot and sour soup (followed, I have to admit, by a big piece of chocolate cake; de gustibus, right? I’ll post that recipe another day.)

Hot & Sour Soup

3-4 carrots, cut into matchsticks (or you can cut thin curls of carrot into the soup with a vegetable peeler)
1 lb. tofu, medium firm, cut into 1/2 cubes
2 quarts stock
7 Tbsp. soy sauce
7 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
fresh ground black pepper to taste (I think I use maybe a teaspoon or so)
ginger (optional, just a touch of fresh grated or slivered super thin, or ginger extract/juice, to taste)
scallions or cilantro to garnish (optional)

Drain/blot the tofu briefly.

Dump the stock, the soy sauce and vinegar into a good-sized soup pot. At this point, I cube the tofu and put it in.

Add the pepper to taste. Add ginger, if using.

Simmer for about 10 minutes or so, until the carrots soften a little but still retain some firmness.

Mix cornstarch in a cup with a few tablespoons of water. Add about a third of this mixture to the soup, and stir it in. Give it 30 seconds or so to thicken the soup a bit. Repeat as desired until you reach your desired thickness. You’ll often find this super thick in restaurants, others like it thin. One advantage of a thicker version is that it “suspends” the black pepper much more readily and you don’t simply end up with a pile of pepper at the bottom of the pot.

Garnish with super finely-chopped cilantro, scallion or chives.