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A pretty virulent strain of stomach bug went around Carroll this winter, with many of our friends and loved ones sadly catching it the last week of December and first week or two of January. My family, thankfully, escaped the virus, and by the first week of February, thought we were in the clear.

And then, somehow, it hit us, during the first week of April. It came on fast and thankfully was over within 24 hours of us each contracting it, but it left our bodies weak and our appetites hushed and humbled.

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When I finally went out to the store to buy more than canned soup, I tried to think of what we would even WANT to eat after having gone through such gastronomical distress. And all I could think of was more soup.

Our family loves soup, and I cook different varieties of soup year-round, but when you're in the first days after a stomach bug or bout with food poisoning, you don't want your tried and true hearty soups. (What if it's not quite out of your system and it comes back up? You may never want your favorite corn chowder recipe again!) We wanted some lighter soups, and I thought that would be perfect inspiration for this week's cooking column, too.

First, I found a recipe for green minestrone, named so thanks to lots of leeks, peas and parsley. This one's vegetarian, but has enough veggies and pasta in it to keep it interesting.

Second, a recipe for parsnip and potato soup. Here you sauté the veggies, then boil them in the broth, and finally blend them up with a half cup of cream for extra creaminess. Simple, flavorful, and easy on the stomach.

And finally, a potlikker soup with ham hock and egg noodles. I had never heard of potlikker before, but apparently that's the term for the water/broth created by cooking hearty greens. This recipe uses the green stems to make the potlikker, and you use the leaves (such as kale or beet greens) as a soup additive later so they don't get overcooked. A ham hock gives it nice smoky flavor, and the egg noodles help fill you up.

I hope you can make these recipes under less dire circumstances that inspired my searching for them.

Enjoy!

Green minestrone

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped

½ small fennel bulb, finely chopped

½ small yellow onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

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2 small carrots, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline

1 cup fresh shelled peas or fava beans (from about 1 lb. pods) or frozen

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup ditalini, or other tiny pasta

1½ cups (lightly packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

½ shallot, finely chopped

2 red pearl onions or ¼ small red onion, thinly sliced

Shaved Parmesan (for serving)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook leek, fennel, yellow onion, and celery, stirring occasionally, until softened but not taking on any color, about 5 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are just tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add carrots and peas and simmer until carrots are just tender, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain and add pasta to soup.

While pasta is cooking, process parsley and remaining 4 tablespoons oil in a food processor to a coarse paste, transfer to a small bowl, and mix in shallot. Season pesto with salt and pepper. Serve soup topped with pesto, pearl onions, and Parmesan.

Parsnip and potato soup

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoons olive oil

2 parsnips, about 1.5 pounds, peeled and chopped

2 potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, cleaned and sliced in 1-inch rounds

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1 tablespoon dried basil

1 bay leaf

3 to 4 cups vegetable broth, or enough to just cover the vegetables - you can also use 2 cans (14.5-ounces each) of vegetable broth

1/2 cup heavy cream or milk

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot and pour in the olive oil. Add the chopped parsnips, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, basil, and bay leaf. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the vegetable broth.

Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf.

Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until creamy. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a blender and blend until smooth. This should be done in several batches.

Return soup to pot and add heavy cream or milk; stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Source: diethood.com

Potlikker soup with ham hock and egg noodles

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 more

1 large ham hock

1 yellow onion, chopped

10 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and rough chopped

4 bay leaves

1/4 cup red wine vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons Sriracha

6 cups cold water

2 bunches dark leafy greens (kale and beet greens used here)

2 cups dry egg noodles

Sea salt to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

Salt to taste

Sriracha to taste

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ham hock and sear on all sides, cooking for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash your greens, and remove the stems (but don't throw them away!).

Add onions, garlic, and bay, and cook 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup vinegar and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pot, and then add reserved stems. Pour in 6 cups cold water and bring mixture to a boil. Turn heat to low; simmer broth for 1 - 2 hours (the longer the better). Broth can be made ahead up to this point. Sealed tight, it will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Remove ham hock from broth and pick off all the meat. Set aside. Strain potlikker and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until al dente.

In soup pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot for 4 minutes. Add reserved ham hock meat, greens, red pepper flakes, and ground pepper. Sauté 4 minutes. Stir in potlikker, cooked noodles, and 2 tablespoons vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Adjust salt and acid levels as needed.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with Sriracha and ground pepper, and serve immediately.

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