Cook | Fixing the soup, fixing people up, all in a days work

We all know chicken broth will heal us. However, several years ago, Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha did some experimenting to validate the folklore. In 2000, he published his findings in the journal Chest.

He theorized that chicken soup inhibits the migration of infection-fighting neutrophils (a white blood cell), essentially repressing certain cold symptoms. (Read it at

Several scientists took this research one step further, patenting and manufacturing the active enzyme in chicken soup that wards off the super-radicals released by the flu virus. They are calling it Jewish penicillin.

If you want more details, you should find a doctor. And if you know of an eligible doctor (or eligible mensch), you should find me.

My compulsive yenta instincts are hovering intrusively over two of my female  doctor friends. Both 30-something pediatricians. Both Jewish. Both spent time in Africa working with children. One is from an interfaith family and lives in Philadelphia. The other is right here in the Bay Area and enjoys yoga retreats and her big friendly dog.

Send leads to with info about sense of humor, social style, age and education level.

Soup can be made with flu-fighting chicken stock or morph into a hearty vegetarian supper with a poultry-free substitute.


Rainbow Vegetable Tortilla Soup

Serves 4-6

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 cup red onion, diced

2 tsp. garlic, minced

1 cup carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground chili powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups zucchini, diced

1 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup tortilla chips, crushed

14-oz. can diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup cilantro or parsley leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and carrots and cook, stirring frequently so garlic doesn’t burn, and just until carrots start to brown in places — about 4 minutes. Stir in the cumin, chili powder and dried oregano and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add drained garbanzo beans. When coated in spices, add the zucchini and frozen corn. Stir.

Add crushed tortilla chips. Stir. Add tomatoes with juice. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add cilantro or parsley.


Red (But It’s Really Yellow) Lentil Soup

Serves 6-8

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

2 cups onion, finely chopped

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. garam masala

1 1/2 tsp. chile powder

1 tsp. turmeric

pinch cayenne

fresh black pepper to taste

1 lb. (2 1/2 cups) dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over

8 cups chicken stock


cilantro and plain yogurt (optional)

In a soup pot, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Sauté the onions over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garam masala, chile powder, turmeric, cayenne and black pepper to the onions (it’s OK to eliminate the cayenne if you don’t like spicy-hot food; or increase it if you do). Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to prevent spices from burning.

Add lentils, stir to coat. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat 25 minutes until lentils fall apart. Blend with immersion blender or omit blending. Add salt to taste. If desired, garnish with cilantro and/or yogurt.

Josie A.G. Shapiro is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet” and works at the JCCSF. Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Her website is

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”