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I Dream of Genie Soup 

In spite of my culinary background, I do, on occasion, dream of a genie who's focused only on my needs as I trudge home on the bus after a cranky day at the office. As the bus dodges potholes, I can see, through the winter-crusted windows, my genderless genie shimmying away in the kitchen. He/she is fixing me a post-work cocktail, followed by a perfectly timed, bubbly hot meal, just like in the movies.

I don't even care what's on the menu, as long as it's salted properly and it doesn't come out of a box. In fact, the simpler, the better. I'm not picky when someone is waiting on me and fetching my slippers.

Dreams are such fun. Even better, they come true if you let them. You can start by making the magic soup described below. Although it takes only 35 minutes to prepare (start to finish), this broth, infused with garlic and chile pepper, is homey yet complex — as if a genie has been stirring a pot for hours. Composed of pantry basics such as spinach, long-grain rice and the juice of a lemon, this soup simply sings. A couple of slurps, and you'll feel not only pampered, but healthy and virtuous.

Make enough to take for lunch the next day, and life is but a dream. With this little number, my genie will need a day job.

Clear Soup with Spinach and Rice
Adapted from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi

Olive oil to coat bottom of pot
Diced chile pepper, to taste (I am partial to 1/2 habanero, seeded)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons long-grain rice
4-5 cups stock (vegetable or chicken; for canned chicken stock, I like Swanson's or Hain brands)
Approximately 20-22 spinach leaves (alternatives: chard or escarole), washed and stemmed, then chopped on a diagonal
Salt to taste
1/2 lemon

Pour oil into bottom of pan and saute the pepper and garlic. Add spices and stir with a wooden spoon. Add rice, then stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Cook about 20 minutes, until rice is tender. Uncover, add salt and spinach. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Squeeze lemon into each serving bowl before pouring soup. Serves four.

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