Sopa de Ajo

Usually when I’m exploring the labyrinth of recipes and ideas on Saveur.com, I find lots that I’d like to try. The website has an impressive selection of ethnic and international foods, including several recipes from Senegal, where my wife and I once resided. Often the most exciting recipes include expensive ingredients or are a bit too labor-intensive for a weeknight meal. Sometimes, though, there’s something simple, quick, and easy that can be whipped up in a flash. Sopa de Ajo, or Castilian Garlic and Bread Soup, is just one of those recipes. photo 1 If, like my sister, you’re gagging at the thought of purposefully putting bread in soup to make it soggy and thick, I understand. I had never heard of such a thing until I lived in Italy for a semester in college, and tried the Tuscan bread-infused-soups, Ribollita and Pappa al Pomodoro. Pardon the image, but if these soups are not presented artistically, they can look an awful lot like a bowl of vomit. Luckily, all it takes are some fresh herbs, a thin shaving of parmesan, red onion, and a drizzle of olive oil to make them look like a million bucks. Oh, and they’re frickin’ delicious. But back to Sopa de Ajo. Hailing from the slightly vague region of Castile, the north/central area of Spain, this dish appealed to me because I generally love traditional Spanish cuisine, and I have a garlic itch that needs frequent scratching. Loving garlic as I do, I was excited to give this recipe a shot, though slightly wary that there were SO few ingredients. Following the recipe faithfully, apart from using hot Hungarian paprika instead of Spanish, I found this dish to be very intense. It is not overwhelmingly spicy, but it is quite overwhelmingly garlic-y. I never thought it possible, but this dish (at least as listed) can really only be served in very small portions as an appetizer. I would perhaps serve it in a ramekin alongside something clean and fresh, like thinly sliced cucumber. It really isn’t bad, but the flavors are very, very bold, and there isn’t a lot of subtlety. And if you want to make a garlic joke about serving it only with close friends and not on first dates, go right ahead.

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