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SPANISH GARLIC SOUP

Sopa de ajo

Spain - Castile
Preparation - Medium
Serves 4 - 6

Sopa de ajo, from the rather bleak high central plains of Spain, should be pleasantly flavored with warm roasted garlic. Add more than the recipe specifies if you wish. A well-flavored homemade chicken stock is important. Spanish cooks sometimes poach an egg for each serving in the rich stock. Note that you will need to serve the soup in bowls that can go into a hot oven without damage like the earthenware bowls are traditionally used in Spain.

8 large cloves garlic (more if small), peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups clear white chicken stock, or use canned
1/4 cup amontillado or oloroso sherry
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of saffron threads
salt to taste
4 pieces of crusty bread, 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 large eggs (optional)
freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

In a heavy soup kettle or a 2-quart saucepan, gently saute' the garlic in the oil until the cloves are golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the paprika and cayenne. Add the stock and sherry and stir to mix thoroughly.

Return to the heat and stir in the cumin and saffron.

Crush each of the garlic cloves with a fork and stir into the soup. Taste for seasoning and add salt if desired. Let the soup simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes.

While the soup cooks, toast the bread slices on both sides under a preheated broiler. Set aside.

If you wish to add the eggs, poach them, one at a time, in the simmering broth, just stirring the broth to make a whirlpool into which you drop the egg. Poach for 1 1/2 minutes, just until the white firms up and encloses the egg, or longer if you prefer.

Heat the broiler again and fill each bowl with hot soup. Float a slice of toasted bread on top of each serving, sliding an egg (put the egg first, then the toast) under each slice of toasted bread if you're using eggs. (The toast will protect the egg from further exposure to heat.) Sprinkle the bread liberally with grated cheese and slide the bowls into the oven just long enough to melt the cheese on top.

VARIATION: For a more substantial vegetable soup in the same style, add 3 peeled, chopped medium potatoes and 2 cups coarsely chopped deveined spinach leaves with the roasted garlic.

Nutritional Data, per portion:
Calories 278  Carbohydrate 22g  Saturated Fat 3g
Protein 6g  Sodium 225mg  Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Fat 17g  Cholesterol 0

From:
The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Bantam

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