By SHANNON WATKINS
Sometimes, quite without warning, you’re overcome with a cold. It seems that sort of thing should save itself up for late winter, say, January or February, when you have nothing in particular going on anyway and can almost enjoy it. After all, the landscape is frozen and bleak, which is exactly how your head and chest feel, so why not bask sulkily in your illness, drinking tea and grousing and wishing you could go on a cruise?
Well, sadly, you managed to come down with one when you’re still trying to get things in shape for the holidays, or at least fretting about how you ought to, and really, why do you need to cook? Why do you absolutely have to get up from the couch and do things, period? For starters, ordering nonstop takeout will leave you too broke for cold medicine and Kleenex. Make something quick that’ll go a long way and possibly help relieve some of your symptoms.
The thing to do, when you’re stopped up, is to alternate eating something clear and hot, temperature-wise, like soup, with something spicy-hot, like peanut sauce. You’re woozy with sinus pressure and medicine to treat same, so my advice is to order wonton soup from a Chinese restaurant and let them worry about fiddling with the dumplings and driving it over to you, and make something spicy that takes only a minute or two to bother with.
Gabi Moskowitz’s “BrokeAss Goumet” (both the cookbook and the blog it draws from) has an excellent recipe for peanut sauce which can be used in many ways, and is good enough that you’ll find a number of things you’d like to do with it when you’re not ill. While she doesn’t specifically make it for treating a cold, I can’t think of a nicer remedy.
(Also you can visit her blog directly at http://brokeassgourmet.com, where you can spend many an hour planning cheap, delicious meals and/or click the “books” link at the top to purchase either of her cookbooks, and I am TOTALLY not telling you that because she contacted me directly to thank me for putting this recipe in my column.)
¼ cup peanut butter
6 oz. coconut milk
1 small bunch cilantro, stems intact
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1” piece of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
2 Tbsps. soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1-2 tsps. Asian chili sauce (Sriracha works fine)
1½ Tbsps. brown sugar or honey
Toss everything in a blender or food processor and whirl away until pureed. There, done.
You can make it hotter with more chili sauce, depending on your tolerance, which will help open up your sinuses a little, which when you feel like a congested penguin is always a good sensation.
The only other thing to know about this stuff is that you should refrigerate it after you use what you’re going to, and when you do, it’ll go about the consistency of … well, peanut butter, but it’s still good and will melt back down when introduced to something sufficiently hot.
Speaking of which, a nice healthy side to a bowl of steaming egg drop or wonton soup is a plate of noodles – real, thick yellow Chinese wheat noodles if you have them lying around, regular old spaghetti if you don’t – tossed with some chopped, lightly steamed or raw veggies, like broccoli florets and red pepper and carrots and cucumber, and then swirled with a generous pour of peanut sauce. Top with a little more chili sauce if you like.
You’ll feel a bit better and start thinking of all the other stuff you can do with this: use it to sauce Asian meatballs, add more rice vinegar or water to it to make a salad dressing (both ideas of Moskowitz’s), maybe use it to glaze roast chicken legs. The possibilities are endless, you’ll sniffle to yourself, dreaming of a time your tastebuds are fully functional again.
As it happens, I have a cold myself, which is why this week’s column is shorter than usual. Now if you’ll pardon, I have to get back to boiling noodles, sneezing 15 times in a row and looking up cruises I can’t afford.