AVGOLEMONO & AN EXCERPT FROM EVANTHIA’S GIFT

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It’s October, and the weather here in New York took a nasty turn. The pool company came and covered my pool, and my husband took in the lawn furniture. So that’s it. I have no choice but to concede—the summer is really over. Up to this point, I refused to cook anything that wasn’t grilled or light and refreshing. But between the cold snap and feeling a bit under the weather, I decided that I needed warm comfort food. The first thing that came to mind was a bowl of Avgolemono soup—chicken rice soup with a frothy egg – lemon topping. And yes, it made me feel so much better. This is one of the soups my mom would make for us when we were cold or not feeling well, and I think each Greek woman has her own version. Some like to use orzo instead of rice. Some shred the chicken into the broth, and some don’t use the meat from the chicken at all.

In Evanthia’s Gift, Anastacia tries to comfort her daughter, Sophia, with a bowl of avgolemono that she brings up to her bedside. But even her mother’s cooking cannot bring the color back to Sophia’s cheeks, more caused by heartbreak than the flu she feigned.

Sure her daughter couldn’t resist a bowl of avgolemeno, Ana frothed the eggs and lemon, adding it to the chicken soup.            

           “Are you awake?” Ana whispered. “I made you soup.”

           “I’m not hungry.”

           “You can’t go all this time without food. Try a little.”

           Ana set the food tray on the nightstand. She propped up Sophia’s pillow, helping her into a sitting position.

           “There you go,” she urged as she sat on the edge of the bed. She ladled some broth into the spoon and fed it to her.

           “Kukla mou, you don’t need to say anything, but I know pain when I see it. This kind of pain.” She rested her hand on her daughter’s heart.

           Sophia said nothing. Her eyes were blank.

           “I know what it’s like to have your heart broken. I have a beautiful, perfect daughter and a husband I adore, but everyone — and I mean everyone — goes though heartaches of some kind. You’re so much like me, more than you know. We don’t choose to open up about what’s bothering us, what’s hurt us. We’d rather not talk about it. We keep it bottled up inside and let it fester. But whatever this is, you must confront it and, I promise you, you will come out stronger. I’ve had my tears… cried the hurt away… let myself mourn for what couldn’t be, and then I did what I had to do. I went on. For me, the greatest lesson was that after the heartbreak, what came after was much, much better. We are strong Greek women — warriors! We’ve been through it all. We fight for what’s important. It’s in our blood, and no one can break us.”

Avgolemono Soup

2 large carrots, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 heart of celery, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cups chicken broth

Whole chicken, chicken breasts or chicken cutlets

1-cup rice

1-tablespoon parsley

Pepper to taste

2 eggs

Juice from 1½ lemon

Zest from 1 lemon

In a large pot, heat oil and add carrots, celery and onions until tender. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the chicken of your choice. If you use chicken with bones you will have to strain after cooking. The cutlets will avoid that step and you can shred the chicken when fully cooked. When the chicken is fully cooked, add the rice and cook until rice is ready, about an additional 15 minutes.

In a blender, beat the eggs, lemon juice and zest. While the blender is running, slowly add some broth to the egg-lemon mixture and keep blending. Remove soup from heat. Add the frothy egg- lemon mixture to the pot and cover. Let the soup stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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