Bouktouf

I hate. Being sick. The only thing worse is when one of my children is sick. Gabriel has inherited my proclivity for the hacking smoker’s cough. Give him a couple days with your garden-variety cold and soon grocery clerks and librarians will be commenting on how terrible he sounds. Jonah developed a fear of the hospital by age three (stitches, broken teeth, SVT). Watching your child get wheeled into anesthesia, seeing him on a hospital bed in the ER attached to machines and sporting an IV is like to split your heart open.

I digress. There is, if not a silver, then a comforting grey lining (who wants sunshine when your head is pounding?) to the cloud that is the common cold. The slowness. The rather pleasant fog that makes it difficult to do anything except catch up on all the trashy TV I didn’t know I’d been missing (thanks Hulu). Sometimes there’s even an accompanying gratefulness along the lines of wow, I’m glad it doesn’t always feel like there’re razors in my throat when I swallow. When was it that I began taking the ability to breathe freely for granted?

And then there’s bouktouf (bouk, as in boutique; touf as in Tartuffe). An Algerian vegetarian soup made up of zucchini, onions, potatoes, lemon, and olive oil, bouktouf is one of those soups that seems too hard to make on a weeknight, but when I start dicing I think this isn’t so bad, and then I remember I have to put it all in the blender, which isn’t difficult or time-consuming, just messy, but by the time I realize this I’ve once again underestimated how long the crusty bread needs to bake to get crusty.

But we all needed this soup this evening. Only Jonah has resisted our first cold of the season—and even he, unbelievably, proclaimed, “This is so good. I like it very much. I would eat it every night.” This after taking one bite and insisting he’d had enough, followed by a trot to the freezer for ice cream.

The picture doesn’t really capture its glimmering quality (who wouldn’t glimmer with a full cup of olive oil under their belt?). How does the recipe put it? “The soup should shimmer in the ambient light.” Heck, I’d like to shimmer in the ambient light. Another favorite line: “When the potatoes are very soft, and the zucchini has given itself to the soup…” As you can see, the making of this soup is a religious experience.

But we all still feel like crap. I guess a bowl of soup can only take you so far. Thankfully, it was far enough for me. Tonight. (Postscript: click HERE to go straight to your own bowl of shimmering delight.)

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