This recipe doesn’t have asparagus or ramps in it. I wish it did, but my timing seems to be wrong every time I go to the farmers market, and asparagus and ramps have all been snatched up. Instead this recipe comes from my “work (werque?) your assets” style of cooking, where leaving the apartment to buy additional groceries is not an option. (In this instance a deluge was happening outside.) So it’s a recipe that you can make any time of the year, and it will probably make you feel both nourished and resourceful.
This soup jumped out at me when I was recently thumbing through Love Soup. The cookbook had been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a year, and I don’t know why it took me so long to revisit it. You’re probably familiar with Anna Thomas’ first cookbook The Vegetarian Epicure—I’ve seen many a ragged paperback edition on the bookshelves of kitchens I’ve visited. Like Epicure, Love Soup is a cookbook you’ll find yourself reading for pleasure on the subway or before bed. The writing is gentle, vivid, and it will make you hungry, especially if you’re a soup person. There are 160 different vegetarian soups, in fact, organized loosely by season and with a few other recipes for easy breads, sides, salads, and desserts to balance out a meal. That might sound intimidating, but if your food interests are anything like mine, you’ll be dog-earing like mad.
Sopa de Ajo appealed to me because it takes less than 15 minutes to throw together, it’s a one-pot meal, and because, as I said, I didn’t have to leave my apartment to buy ingredients. Lots of slivered garlic is gently cooked in olive oil, then covered with paprika and vegetable stock. Thomas calls for half sweet paprika and half smoked—and fairly generous doses at that—which results in perfect roundness of heat: a slight punch, due to the spicy smoked paprika, but mostly a nice warm bath of flavor. The broth takes on the color of a rich, lovely brick.
A few minutes later, stir in some dry bread (the bread I had was so dry I had to hack it into pieces with a cleaver), which softens, giving the broth a luxurious body. Then top it off by cracking an egg into the pot. Other recipes for Sopa de Ajo instruct to poach the egg separately but I’m not sure why, except as a way to make more servings than eggs can fit in your pot at one time. As soon as it’s poached to your liking, the soup is ready to eat. All in the comfort of your sweatpants.
Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo)
Adapted (very slightly) from Love Soup
Serves 1 (but can be doubled or tripled easily)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large or 3 small cloves garlic, slivered
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups vegetable stock, hot
2 slices dry, rustic bread, torn into bite-size pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan (1 quart capacity is ideal) over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the paprikas, stirring to distribute and until fragrant, then pour in the hot stock. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste the broth and add salt if needed.
2. Stir in the bread and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the crust of the bread is softened. Adjust the heat so that it’s actively simmering, then pour in the egg (I find it best to crack the egg into a small bowl and then lower it in, rather than cracking the egg directly into the pot, but you should do what you’re most comfortable with), ensuring that it’s submerged in the soup. Poach for 3 minutes, which will yield a runny yolk. Cook longer if you prefer more of a well-cooked yolk. Carefully transfer to a soup bowl, without breaking the egg open, and serve immediately.