If there’s anything I am paranoid about, it’s catching a cold. For a long time, a friend kept passing on to me horrible mutant colds that her niece passed on to her from daycare. Which I would then pass on to Chris. It was a vicious cycle.
I finally wisened up to the fact. I mean, after the third time, as I lay splayed out across the couch half-delirious and shivering, Chris in the next room in pretty much the same condition, I had to admit the obvious: my friend was a germ magnet.
But I didn’t have to be! And it started with establishing defensive measures: washing my hands as soon as I got home and washing my hands before eating, for instance. I also started wiping down handles and doorknobs, holding my breath after someone around me sneezed, and cancelling plans with potentially sick friends.
And if Chris shows any symptoms of anything, he’s banished from my presence. “Get out of here!” I’ll say, after his fourth sneeze in a row. (I sneeze in three’s myself, so anything up to that point is generally okay.)
I’m not a terrible partner, honest. You just can’t fathom how many times Chris and I have transmitted colds to each other.
“I might be sick!” I warn him when he leans down to kiss me.
“Oh, who cares?” he’ll say, believing himself invincible for that one moment. The next thing he knows, he’s sick. And glaring daggers at me from his position on the couch, swaddled in blankets and surrounded by used tissues (which I remove with tweezers. Just kidding.)
So imagine my reaction when Chris informed me on Saturday morning that he thought he might be getting sick. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically, as I slowly sidled away from him. Later, after he failed to put into action Sick Protocol (i.e. distancing himself from me), I got mad and yelled at him for being inconsiderate.
Afterwards, I felt bad. So I made him some soup.
It was a wise decision, I think, because soup is a magical cure-all to all ailments: the cold, hangovers, physical cold. Especially when harissa, the most magical of condiments, is mixed in. It imparts the perfect amount of heat to clear sinuses, warm up internal organs (or so I imagine), and cause the sweat glands to kick into action. The stuff is good for colds.
As for taste, I was a bit dubious about this soup initially. With only, what, four ingredients, you wouldn’t imagine that there’d be much complexity. Sure, carrots have a distinctive flavor, but is it enough to act as the backbone to this recipe? The vegetable for which this soup is named after? Why yes, they are, but only if you use good-quality chicken stock, and the aforementioned harissa. With them, you’ve got a possibly-sick, soup-despising man slurping the stuff up like it’s liquefied pizza (his favorite food). That is the sign of a successful recipe. Another sign: the man’s not sick after all. You see? Soup cures everything. Correction: spicy carrot soup cures everything.
SPICY CARROT SOUP
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 2 to 3
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick, rinsed well
1 bunch carrots (about 6 medium ones), peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
2 tsp harissa
3 cups chicken stock
cilantro to garnish
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook leek until just soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and harissa and season with salt. Cook until carrots are just soft, 5 minutes or so. Add chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender, 10 minutes or so.
Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), puree half the soup until smooth. Stir the puree into remaining soup and divide it among 2 or 3 bowls. Garnish with cilantro.