Greek Penicillin

This past week I had a cold and stayed home from work a couple of days. All alone. No one to take care of me. Woe was me.

Thank you, Mrs. Swanson!
I slept a lot. Watched television through squinted eyes between naps. I read some, too, which helped me sleep more. I drank a lot of fluids, then slept till it was time to drink more and sleep again. I ate very little - mostly because I couldn't stay awake long enough to cook anything. Besides, nothing felt good on my throat except hot honey and lemon.

On the second afternoon, as I was feeling my worst, I wanted - no, needed - a steaming bowl of avgolemono soup. Greek penicillin. It never fails to make me feel better. But, being home alone, it was going to be up to me to fend for myself. And aren’t you impressed that I had the wherewithal to take a few photos? (I pause here with an apology to my Greek friends - and to all Greeks - for simplifying a national dish to such levels. Doreen? Magda? Will you still speak to me?)

Normally, when I make avgolemono, I make my own broth, and include little slivers of chicken off the bones to flavor the soup. But, that day - and in that condition - the little 32-ounce box of chicken broth from Mrs. Swanson murmured my name. I always have orzo in the cupboard, as well as lemons and eggs in the fridge. In effect, I had the perfect medicine at hand and, in a matter of 15 minutes, I would be spooning piping hot, creamy and soothing avgolemono into my mouth.

In addition to the soup, I was taking every remedy known to man - zinc, Balsofumine (a French inhaler), NyQuil, Airborne, and the honey with lemon. I don't know which of these did the trick - or if it was a combination of all - but I felt almost 100% better the next day. ... I have a feeling if I were Greek, I would know it was the soup.

Stay healthy and eat well, my friends!

~ David


4 cups chicken stock, homemade whenever possible
3/4 cup orzo
3 extra large egg yolks (reserve whites for another purpose)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
1 cup cooked chicken meat, shredded or cubed, optional
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring the stock to a boil and add the orzo. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the pasta is done.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they begin to get foamy. Still whisking, slowly add the lemon juice.

When the orzo is done, remove the soup from the heat and add the egg-lemon mixture in a slow and steady stream, whisking as you go. It will thicken as you stir. Add the chicken and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat on low for a minute or two to warm the chicken, and serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a starter.


  1. It does sound like the perfect cure-all soup! Home remedies almost always include an extensive list, just in case. We become our own doctors! I have never cooked with orzo, mainly because I never saw it in the supermarket. Time to go on an expedition! I hope you´re feeling better. Have a great weekend David!

  2. Paula - I recently had a chat with a friend whose family had never heard of orzo, either. It is also good to make avgolemono with rice, although I generally prefer the orzo. I feel great now, and ready to tackle a new recipe for next week!

  3. I love Avgolemono, it is the most comforting thing can think of when a loved one is sick. I hope you are feeling better and thank you so much for your wonderful guest post!

  4. I used to routinely order avgolemono at the local Greek restaurant in my hometown. I loved it! However I didn't learn it's true powers until a friend made it for me while I was desperately sick with the flu. It's wonderful stuff.

  5. I love avgolemono - because I love Greek food and because lemon juice is a nectar from the gods! I just never thought of making it for those awful sick days. Totally therapeutic - thanks!!

  6. Astragalis, Zinc, B Vitamin and a shot of echinacea will kick out most of these nasty bugs. How about a vegetarian version of this soup, do you think you could substitute a firm tofu and veggie broth?

  7. Anna - Feeling all better now - must have been the soup! Hope your trip was amazing!

    Yasmeen - I agree and I really think there is a lot to it being good for you when sick - the lemon does something, for sure!

    Peg - we don't just make this when we are sick - it is one of our favorites anytime., especially when we are rushed for dinner.

    Holly - I think this would be great as a vegetarian soup. I recently learned from my favorite vegetarian chef, Ottolenghi (who is not a vegetarian but his vegetarian fare is AMAZING), that he adds prunes to his veggie broth to give it depth. I bet it would be really good with this.

  8. I think this looks like EPIC medicine and I am incredibly impressed that you got out of bed to make this soup. I hope you are back at 100% as soon as possible.

    Erin - ekcantcook.blogspot.com

  9. Colette - Agreed!

    Erin - don't be impressed... I make good food all the time when I am sick... It is photographing it that made me wonder what goes on in my head!

  10. It is chilly this morning in New Hampshire and that soup sounds divine!

    Prunes in the veggie broth?! How very interesting, dare I say weird? Ottolenghi is so creative! If he--and you--are suggesting their addition, I know the broth would be good!

    When are YOU going to publish your own cookbook?

  11. Susan, me thinks someone might need her birthday gift a wee but early! If it is chilly, flu or no flu, this is a perfect meal for your cozy kitchen!


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