Cooking to keep the vampires away

When it comes to soup, garlic is the way to go.

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Garlic soup with pasta and peas, topped with Parmesean cheese. — Stacey Rupolo

When the chill of October starts creeping in, my friends bemoan the fading vestiges of summer. “No more beach days, no more tanning, no more short shorts,” they cry. Channeling my inner Wednesday Addams, I roll my eyes, pull out my favorite sweater, and put on a pot of soup.

Making soup is a ritual I return to during the cold months. It’s a grounding experience, almost like a moving meditation, except, unlike meditation, you get to eat at the end. During my first winter on Martha’s Vineyard last year, I took it upon myself to make a lot of soup. It was my favorite part of the week (queue tiny violin), since each pot of soup felt like an adventure. I learned how to make my own vegetable stock, and experimented with flavors. Some were great, while others were horrifying, like the time I made an Italian fish stew with chickpeas, squid, and spinach. I suffered through that pot of soup for a few days before tossing it in the trash.

While muscling through my solitary culinary journey, I discovered a recipe for garlic soup by Maria Rose Shulman from the New York Times.

I’m the biggest fan of garlic. My family is Italian, so I put more garlic than is necessary in everything, and I won’t live any other way, thank you very much. But I had never seen a recipe for garlic soup before.

I decided to give the recipe a try one cold night last year, and my life has never been the same. This recipe is one I come back to when I’m feeling down, or during the middle of the week when I’m pressed for time, but still want something nourishing and delicious.

After glancing at the list of ingredients the first time I made it, I noted that you can make it with pantry staples and things you already have on hand. Over various iterations of this soup, I have swapped out ingredients, added more seasoning, put in different frozen veggies, changed the type of pasta — there are no rules with garlic soup. I’ve added sage to the herb bundle; used pastina, penne, or orecchiette (but elbow macaroni are still my favorite); added corn and edamame; used bouillon or veggie stock instead of water. Whatever your taste, there are opportunities to change the dish to accommodate them.

Making the stock for this soup is a breeze. You’re essentially boiling garlic, a bay leaf, thyme, and salt. You then cook pasta in the stock, add some frozen peas, and use the soup to temper an egg. The egg mixture goes back into the soup pot, and is served over a toasted piece of garlic bread and topped with Parmesan cheese. I mean, come on, who could say no to that?

My first time making this recipe, I saw the required four cloves of garlic for 6½ cups of water, and laughed out loud. I probably used six or seven cloves in all. I would recommend even more for a fuller garlic flavor (and to keep vampires away). Adding sage into the broth and subbing out chicken stock for water gives the soup an even more well-rounded and satisfying taste.

So what are you waiting for? Give this recipe a try. You’ll thank me.

The makings of the soup base.

Garlic Soup
(Recipe from cooking.nytimes.com)

4 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 garlic clove, cut in half

Salt to taste (about 2 tsp.)

1 bay leaf

¼ tsp. dried thyme, or a few sprigs fresh thyme

½ cup pasta, such as elbow macaroni, orecchiette, or fusilli

1 cup frozen peas

4 slices country-style bread, cut in half, or 8 slices baguette, lightly toasted

2 large eggs, beaten

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Ground pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 to 3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese

 

Bring 6½ cups water to a boil in a 3- or 4-quart saucepan. Add minced garlic, salt, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and adjust salt. Remove bay leaf, and fresh thyme sprigs, if using. (Dried thyme will be difficult to remove.)

Add pasta to pot. Stir, cover and simmer until al dente, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending

The soup is poured over toasted garlic bread.

on pasta type. Stir from time to time so that pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Add peas and simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, rub toasted bread slices with cut garlic clove and place 2 pieces in each bowl.

Beat together eggs and olive oil. Temper the egg: Spoon 2 ladlefuls of the hot soup into eggs and stir together.

Turn off heat under soup, and slowly stir in tempered egg mixture. Add pepper and parsley. Ladle soup into bowls over bread, sprinkle cheese over the top and serve.