Sopa de ajo
SPANISH GARLIC SOUP
Spain - Castile
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
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: