(SPANISH GARLIC SOUP)
When I was eleven, my family moved to Pamplona, Spain for two years. A life changing event in many ways... all the children in my family are more or less bi-lingual, and another may be what we do when we get sick... Last week I felt a cold coming on. You know: that feeling of the runny nose, a little sore throat, some nasal stuffiness, a little congestion in the lungs. In fact my GP doctor has characterized my personal version as “Franklin Fever,” since all of the symptoms seem to run a usual course, especially if I let it get too far along before I call her. However, if as soon as I feel those symptoms coming on...
I make a batch of Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), like we used to eat when I was a kid in Spain, I really believe that I can avoid that Doctor visit. Now, I am not claiming any miraculous cure or anything like that, but my older sister swears that it works, and what younger brother would disagree with his older sister, especially one who walked the Camino a Santiago- the pilgrimage trail from France to Santiago de Compostela, across the north of Spain. Now, many people do this pilgrimage every year. In fact, Martin Sheen just made a movie of his, but my sister did it after falling and breaking her arm on the third day...so imagine what would happen to a brother who disagreed with her on such an important subject like the healthy effects of garlic soup!
Many peasant soups have a similar type soup, a meat or vegetable broth soup, sometimes with different vegetables...sometimes with cheese...browned onions in France, with pasta in Italy, but in Spain the focus is garlic and the soup is thickened with bread. This gives a particular texture to the soup, depending on the bread that you use- I prefer a hearty, crusty, possibly sourdough baguette or boule. It is a great way to use leftover bread, if you already have enough breadcrumbs in the freezer, and croutons cut up for the salad. It does not matter if the bread is white, whole wheat, rye or whatever, each one will give its own particular taste and texture (but no “Wonderbread”, please); and the soup need not be exactly the same each time it is made or served.
In fact, like many slow cooked items, it can improve in flavor the second day. It is also not critical that it be made with a homemade stock, just that it be made with lovely browned garlic, onions, some sherry, stock and some bread for thickening. Some recipes even drop an egg into each bowl and let the hot soup cook it, like an egg drop soup in China. However, the better the stock, the better the soup, and mothers (and older sisters!) know that some good hot soup is what to give to sick children.
So here is my version of Sopa de Ajo...Que lo aproveche con buen salud! (enjoy it in good health). garlic cloves, whole thyme, fresh or 1 tsp dried onions, peeled, sliced sherry chicken, beef, or vegetable stock cubed bread, preferably french or focaccia salt and pepper 6 eggs hearty cheese like aged Manchego or Parmesan Saute the whole garlic cloves, thyme and sliced onions in olive oil, until lightly browned. Deglaze with sherry and reduce by 2/3. Add the cubed bread and the stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Puree the soup in a food processor or food mill.
Adjust seasoning. Serve with hearty bread.
Add a fresh egg to each bowl before serving, if desired, and/or sprinkle with cheese.