Have you ever come home from work late at night, looked in your refrigerator, and seen that you don’t have much to work with?
If you’re like me, that produces one of two outcomes — either it’s takeout for dinner, or it sets my brain afire with ideas.
That’s the beauty of this soup. It’s one of those dishes where you can literally create something out of nothing.
The basic template is: sliced garlic, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, Italian parsley and bread. If you don’t have Italian parsley, you can substitute sage, thyme or rosemary and it will be fine. The bread can be from a bakery fresh baguette or a stale loaf. Rub a slice with a crushed garlic clove, then either toast it or fry it in olive oil until crisp; you’re halfway done. If you’re feeling extravagant, instead of frying the bread, smear a slice with a paste of mashed anchovy, shallots or green garlic, herbs and oil.
The broth is usually water, but you can use chicken stock in a pinch. Vegetable stock is all right, but I rarely add it because those delicate flavors get muddled. This soup is all about the interplay between piquant garlic, fragrant herbs, and crispy bread. I almost always add a poached egg, for body, protein and an added jolt of flavor.
You can make this all year round, but I love it best on cold, gray evenings like tonight.
The version pictured on top is vegetarian; the bottom picture isn’t (it contains chicken stock instead of water).
This soup is very forgiving, and what’s more, you can make it in under 20 minutes.
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley or sage, or 2 thyme sprigs or 1 rosemary sprig
3 cups water or chicken stock
toasted bread slices
Warm olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. When it begins to shimmer, add the garlic and parsley (or sage, thyme or rosemary). Sauté until the garlic begins to turn a pale gold, about 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the water or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, although you shouldn’t need much.
Ladle about a half cup of soup into a small pot or skillet. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs directly into the simmering soup, and poach for 2 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon.
Lay a piece of toasted bread in a soup bowl. Top with a poached egg. Ladle soup over the egg and bread, then serve at once.
This recipe is sized for 2-3 servings.
Time: About 20 minutes, including prep.