Seasons’ Eatings: Sopa de ajo
We would like to take a moment, on behalf of all of us here at RecipeRelay, to wish everyone who found themselves in the path of Hurricane Sandy this week a swift and safe recovery. Recipes will be coming at you on schedule every Thursday for the rest of the year, hopefully they will help to warm your hearts and bellies.
By Lauren Wilson
Brooklyn, NY – For my last turn with the relay baton at the beginning of September, I had a taco fiesta to say goodbye to summer. Since then, the relay has taken quite a worldly trip: from whole wheat peach muffins with a kiss of pineapple tropical goodness from Karleen, to Malaysian spicy crab curry from Amri, to a New Hampshire backcountry inspired stew from Stephanie, to a Greek influenced meatball and squash rice pilaf from Allison, and butternut squash risotto from Valeria.
And now, with Jessie’s Fall Harvest Chilaquilles I was happy to see we have come full circle. At first I was tempted to jump off into another totally different direction but with chilly temperatures finally making an appearance and the remnants of a cold still being pesky, it seemed there was only one thing to do: a hearty and satisfying Mexican soup!
I wanted three things from my soup: simplicity, ease of preparation and (most importantly) comfort. Which is why I decided to make a big old batch of Sopa de ajo, or garlic soup.
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Sopa de ajo is most famously found in the garlic growing region of San Gabriel Chilac, in Mexico’s Puebla state. Chock full of the stuff, this soup also gets a nice zing from the addition of arbol chiles making it a popular cold-remedy and comfort food in Puebla.
I decided to tweak this recipe by making it fully vegetarian and using some veggie stock I had in the freezer. In addition to the roasted tomatoes, I decided to roast some tomatillos and add them to the mix.
And since I wanted to make this a full meal, I thought it would be perfect to beef up the soup with some roasted chayote taken from Jessie’s chilaquiles recipe.
A trip to Sunset Park’s Gudelupita II yielded the prickly chayote, tomatillos, queso fresco and arbol chiles, while a stop at my favorite neighborhood co-op produced local eggs and heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, organic garlic and some locally grown cilantro.
This recipe took only about 30 minutes of active cooking time, plus the 45 minutes or so needed to roast the tomatoes, tomatillos, and chayote (which you could do ahead of time and pop in the fridge until needed).
The resulting soup was everything I was hoping for: rich in flavor with a spicy little kick to help clear out the sinuses, and definitely filling enough to be meal with the egg and chayote really giving this soup some heartiness.
If you want to go a more refined route, instead of whisking it in, you can poach the eggs in the broth before adding the chayote and then ladle them into the serving bowls before covering them with the soup and garnish.
And for any of our readers still reeling from Sandy’s blustery visit, you can substitute some of the specialty ingredients that may be harder to come by right now. You can omit the tomatillos entirely and use only tomatoes. Instead of chayote you can use any squash to beef up the soup: zucchini, butternut or even the seasonally ubiquitous pumpkin would work very nicely. If you don’t have arbol chiles, any dried chili would work (adjust quantities according to size and flavour of the chili) or you could easily use chili flakes. If you can’t get queso fresco, a mild feta or ricotta salata could be substituted. No cilantro? Parsley could be used instead. Here’s hoping this soup will provide some post-Sandy comfort! I have definitely filed this wonderful soup under fall/winter comfort food and will be coming back to it again and again. Enjoy!
Sopa de ajo (Garlic Soup)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes (40 minutes unattended)
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 large head garlic
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 arbol chiles
- 2 tomatoes, quartered
- 2 tomatillos, quartered
- 2 small chayote squash, skinned and diced
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 quart stock, vegetable or chicken
- 2 oz. queso fresco, grated
- 3 Tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place tomatoes and tomatillos onto a parchment lined baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil.
- Toss the diced chayote in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray.
- Roast both the tomatoes/tomatillos and chayote until well browned, about 30-45 minutes. Toss the contents and rotate the pans occasionally.
- In the meantime, soak the arbol chiles in boiling water and mince the head of garlic.
- When the tomatoes, tomatillos and chayote are ready, remove from the oven and cool until you are able to handle them. Remove the skins of the tomatoes.
- Add the tomato pulp, the tomatillos and the arbol chiles to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth and set aside.
- Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, butter, and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-4 minutes. If your garlic begins to take on color, turn down the heat.
- Add the chile/tomato/tomatillo mixture to the garlic. Cook down until it thickens slightly then add the stock and and stir to incorporate.
- Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Add the beaten egg in a slow stream while whisking.
- Add the chayote to the soup, and stir to combine.
- Serve immediately garnished with cilantro and grated queso fresco.
Lauren Wilson is a jack-of-all-food-trades. After eating up all the good bits of Toronto, Lauren followed a trail of crumbs to Brooklyn, where she is cooking, eating, writing, and teaching at Rustico Cooking happily.