I LOVE garlic. Some of my favorite meals have been favorites b/c of the garlic flavor in them. Tonight I’m offering two soups that are based on garlic. You might want to have them on Friday, if you work M-F, or on Monday, if you have a date on the weekend. But you seriously might want to have them! They are night-and-day different from each other, despite each being based on 4 heads of garlic. Apologies to veggies: both soups this week are also flavored with meats.
About that main image: We’d been at Mom’s near DC for Christmas. Mom was all “Where did you learn to like garlic? ” so there were a lot of favorites we couldn’t cook for her when there. I stayed on a bit while Mr pixxer and the younger generation went back to Berkeley. Shortly thereafter, there appeared on Mom’s internet-connected digital picture frame the photo and
taunt caption for me, above. Mr pixxer, pixxer-son and pixxer-DIL made garlic soup — Sopa de Ajo — and sent a photo from early in the process.
Obviously, when I got home, we cooked more nice garlicky things. [Mom was a fine cook, and she made us wonderful food, but we did just miss garlic for a bit :) ]
The criterion for inclusion in this diary was that the garlic in the recipes be measured in heads, not in cloves!
Sopa de Ajo — from Moro the Cookbook
This is a recipe from the restaurant Moro, which is a Spanish restaurant in… London. We found the cookbook at The Spanish Table here in Berkeley. I’ve cooked some really good things from this book — it has my go-to, quick & easy flatbread recipe, for example — and recommend it.
Below is the Sopa de Ajo as I cooked it. I increased the amount of liquid by a quarter, but otherwise it’s not changed a lot. Two notes, to start:
CHORIZO: There are two types of chorizo — Mexican and Spanish. Mexican is uncooked, usually pork but sometimes beef, a mix that looks like dark red-orange hamburger and is highly spiced with Mexican chiles. Spanish is a hard sausage, I believe fully cured, and the flavoring comes from smoked paprika. I imagine this recipe was intended for Spanish chorizo, but I have tried both and actually prefer it with Mexican, IOW: take your pick.
GARLIC: I originally had trouble in the low-and-slow first step of this recipe with large garlic cloves that didn’t cook through, and small ones that got burnt. Solution: pay attention! The first time I cooked this for this diary, I used uniformly sized, moderate garlic cloves. Worked great, but I didn’t like the photos, so I cooked it again (darn! ;) with the monster cloves I had avoided the first time, plus some small ones, and just watched them very carefully. Also worked great. I pressed the cloves down to see when they were soft, and removed the small ones early, and stirred the large ones for about 20 minutes (while listening to The Downballot :) But you can’t, as I did the first (recent) time, run off to read a pootie diary while the cloves cook too long on one side. Stir ‘em!
Amounts are for 4 servings:
Break into cloves: 4 - 5 large heads of garlic. Whee!! Do not remove the hard peels, but rub off the paper as much as you conveniently can (see lower right clove, above); it’s not that hard to remove paper bits from the oil after you cook the garlic cloves, so don’t stress. Also, if some of the hard peel comes off and part of the clove is bared, it still works ok, if you are diligent about turning them a lot. Note that the amount of garlic is flexible [this is not baking!]. Use a lot, don’t count ‘em up.
If using Spanish chorizo, cut the sausage into little pieces. [100g — about ¼ lb — chorizo]. Mexican requires no pre-prep here.
Pick 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and gently fry for 15-20 minutes, stirring/turning over frequently so they cook from all sides. Remove small cloves earlier, big fat cloves later, each when they are soft. The skins will gold-up a bit, but I have not found them to turn the suggested “golden brown.”
Remove the garlic from the pan and skoodge out any bits of garlic paper still in the oil. Let the cloves cool, and squeeze out the “sweet garlic flesh” by hand, discarding the skins. Puree the cloves. [I did this in a small Cuisinart. I did not find mortar and pestle to work very well, nor was a blender that good at it, oddly. Both left lumps.]
Add the chorizo to the oil and fry “until crisp and caramelized.” [It is hard to imagine how a hard sausage would caramelize, and I have not had the Mexican chorizo caramelize either — just fry it till it’s thoroughly cooked. It will be great.]
Add the thyme leaves and cook “a few seconds,” then add the pureed garlic, stir well, add ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika, and then pour in about 5 cups chicken stock. [Original recipe: 1 liter. I thought the soup needed a higher ratio of liquid to other stuff — especially to bread.] [True confessions: I used chicken bouillon for this: 5 cups water, 5 tsp bouillon. The flavors of the chorizo and garlic are so strong that the subtlety of a homemade stock seems not terribly relevant, and almost a waste.]
Bring to a simmer and check for seasoning. I let it simmer awhile (busy). As long as you don’t cook this down, timing is flexible.
Toast, or if you can, grill or lightly broil, 1 — 2 slices per serving of ciabatta or other substantial bread. Break them up a bit, and place into bowls.
I place 1 egg per serving into separate little Pyrex (unnecessary, just what I have) bowls, so I can pour them compactly, and pour them carefully into the gently simmering soup. 2 minutes gives you a good, runny egg; by 4 minutes, you have them almost solid — your choice. Dip out the soup and one egg per serving, and ladle over the bread. Enjoy!
[The original recipe has you add the toasted bread to the soup. I like pouring soup over the toast in the bowl better.]
Note that until you add bread and egg, this is a totally freezable soup. I made all 4 servings of the basic soup for us, put in 2 eggs, pulled them out with half the soup and served over toast, and froze the other half of the soup for some cold day in February. (Or maybe in next week’s “atmospheric river.” We’ll see.) Just have to add the bread and eggs. This is a hearty soup and deserves a good winter day to set it off!
I looked for more garlic-forward recipes, but mostly found [something]-with-garlic. Then I found this second soup, which, again, measures garlic in heads, rather than cloves. We both just loved it! This soup is somehow just a bit sweet — a tilt, not a flavor — I think it’s the cream. Oh, and perhaps the onions. Absolutely delicious, and absolutely opposite to Sopa de Ajo in attitude and flavors.
This soup is from “The Modern Proper,” which I’d never seen before. They have more great-looking soups, which, obviously, I am going to try some of.
Roasted Garlic Soup with Kale, Parmesan and Crispy Pancetta
For 4 servings:
For the starter soup -
- 3-4 heads of garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil [Recipe uses only ½ Tbsp. Should it have said to cook pancetta in the rest? The pancetta cooked fine by itself, though. Maybe “2” is a typo for “1/2”?]
- 4-8 oz pancetta, diced [I went for 8 oz per whole recipe and liked that amount.]
- 1 small onion, chopped [I recently saw “small” onion helpfully equated to “5 oz.”]
- 4 cups chicken stock [I just used Swanson’s canned broth for this, and it was great. Might be worth a fine, homemade stock; it surely makes more difference here than in Sopa de Ajo.]
To finish the soup -
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 cups kale, ribs removed, shredded [I measured after shredding the kale.]
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt [** Amount depends totally on your broth. I didn’t add any salt here. **]
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 350ºF
- Slice the tops off the heads of garlic, down just far enough to expose all their cloves. Brush ½ tablespoon olive oil over the exposed cloves and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Place each bulb right side up on a small square of foil. Fold the foil around the bulb of garlic and place on a cookie sheet. Roast the garlic for 45 minutes. Cool thoroughly.
[After slicing off the tops, I noted two things: 1) I had missed the tops of some outer cloves, and 2) there were all these garlic tops I was suddenly about to discard — No! For the first, I carefully cut the tops off the one or two uncut cloves, rather than cutting the entire head off farther down. Worked great, if a bit fussy to do. For the second, I brushed the cut sides of the tops, too, and wrapped them willy-nilly in another piece of foil. The tiniest tops just cooked to a crisp, but the larger ones ended up nicely roasted and became part of the soup, so they are worth reclaiming.]
- In at least a 2- or 2 1/2-quart pan, cook diced pancetta over medium heat until crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the crisped pancetta and reserve.
- Discard all but 1 tablespoon of pancetta fat, add the chopped onions to the fat, and sauté until they start to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
- Press the cooled garlic cloves out of their skins. [This is fun :) ] Discard the skins. Add the soft cloves to the onions in the pan, along with the chicken stock, and use an immersion blender to puree them. Alternatively, add the stock, garlic, and onions to a blender and purée till smooth.
- Add kale and parmesan to the soup in the pot, and simmer until the kale is tender. [I gave it 5 or 6 minutes. You might want more.] Add cream and heat to serving temperature. Sprinkle the pancetta over the soup in serving bowls.
[In order to serve half the soup and keep half for another day: I made the soup through the blender step. I cooked 4 oz pancetta to serve half the soup the first night, and will cook up the rest fresh for the second dinner. You could save effort by cooking it all at once and saving half; the amount does not impinge on the rest of the recipe b/c you need only a fraction of the rendered fat to continue. I had about 4 1/3 cups soup after the blender step. I put half in the fridge (you could freeze, but we’re having it again for dinner Saturday/WFD night). To the “now” half of the soup, I added ¼ cup cheese and 1 cup shredded kale and cooked 5ish minutes, then added ½ cup cream and heated. You might test the seasoning at this point. Serve with the reserved pancetta over the top.]
I looked around for other nifty garlic-forward recipes, and there are a lot that purport to feature garlic, but they are mostly “something with garlic” rather than “garlic with something.” An exception is garlic confit — garlic cooked slowly in oil. I have not tried it yet, but if you love garlic, maybe you should.
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What’s for dinner at your house? Got any more great garlic recipes for me?