I think it’s a little weird how people are so afraid of garlic. The smell of it makes me think, wow, that person must love to cook. As a kid growing up in Labrador we used a lot of garlic powder, but I never cooked with the real thing until I was a teenager. I was obsessed with “Wok with Yan” and mom had one of his cookbooks. I spent hours looking at the photos, marvelling at how one man could make swans out of apples and a palm tree out of a carrot and a green pepper. I can’t remember what the recipe was, but when I did finally work up the nerve (Yan would totally say “wok up the nerve”) to try one of them, it called for a few cloves of garlic. Mom and I managed to dig out a head at the local Lo-Lo Foods, but when we got it home, we weren’t too sure what to do with it. My mother has since become a curry master and cooks the meanest Thai pork tenderloin you will ever eat, but at the time, we were both young and afraid of this bulb that we were used to seeing in powder form. We persevered, and our lives were changed forever. I’m a little obsessed with the stuff now, roasting heads of it to put in mashed potaoes, hamburger meat, or just to spread on freshly baked bread. I still haven’t learned to make a swan out of an apple, or make a Thai pork tenderloin, but I would like to thank Stephen Yan and my mother, for making me love food as much as I do.
Dear Chicken: Please stop telling food stories from your childhood and get on with the recipe. Right, so I found this one in my “Essential Mediterranean Cookbook”. Like I’ve mentioned before, this book was brought to Cow Head for the summer and it’s been taking a beating, that’s for sure. This recipe, simply titled “Garlic Soup” isn’t even listed as a real recipe, it’s just a sidenote, sandwiched between the fougasse and the walnut bread. After trying it, I feel a letter to the publisher is in order, demanding a reprint and a picture of the soup on the front cover of the book. The simplest, tastiest soup I have ever made. I want a huge pot of this to sit on my stove during the flu season in St. John’s this winter. As it turns out when I made my first batch it was a cold, miserable summer day here in Cow Head and my roommate Karen had the flu, so it worked out in the end.
(The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook, Bay Books, 2005)
The after-effects of the garlic in this soup are at a minimum because the garlic is boiled. In the Mediterranean, this soup is considered good for the health. Crush the cloves (about 20) from a whole bulb of garlic, using the side of a knife. Discard the skin and place the garlic in a large pan with 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 litre chicken stock and 1 cup (250 ml/8 fl oz) water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes,
Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Add 1/3 cup (80 ml/2 3/4 fl oz) cream and reheat gently without allowing to boil. Season, to taste.
Preheat the oven to moderate 180 C (350 F/Gas 4). Trim and discard the crusts from 4 thick slices of white bread and cut the bread into bite-sized cubes. Spread on a baking tray and bake for 5-10 minutes, until lightly golden.
Distribute among soup bowls, then pour the soup over the bread. Garnish with extra thyme and serve immediately. Serves 4.
If you try to “serve four” you will fail miserably. I’ve made this soup twice in the past couple of weeks and it will not serve four. It will give four people a taste, and leave them wanting more. I suggest making a double batch for three to four people, which will give everyone second and third helpings. I liked the bread…and I was lucky because it just so happened that my two roommates were on a bread-making kick that week and we had a loaf of white and a loaf of whole wheat kicking around the kitchen that I used for the “croutons”. Just be sure to toast them well so they don’t get too soggy. Not a huge problem, but some people have issues with that, with textures, blah blah. I wouldn’t hesitate to make this soup for the fanciest of dinner parties. I also wouldn’t hesitate to make a huge batch of it to sit on the stove in January, when Christmas has wiped everyone out and you just need something nourishing that’s not full of booze and cheese. The bread is a nice touch but I think it could work with no bread, just as a broth. Curled up on the sofa, to go with an episode of Dexter. So simple and tasty it will shock you. I can’t believe I just wrote that. It sounds like a cheesy movie review. But it’s true! You have to try this soup! Put this recipe in the back of your brain and haul it out when you’re sick or bored or want to impress people with your ninja garlic skills. But whatever the case, your guests and your immune system will thank you for it.