I had the opportunity to do a bit of grocery shopping during our recent house-sitting vacation in San Francisco, and I’m sure it surprises absolutely no one to hear that food is not only fresher in the city, but it’s cheaper, more varied, and easier to locate than in the supposed food-friendly mecca of Portland. I don’t think we went in a single market in any neighborhood that didn’t offer something either totally random yet useful (a liquor store that sold fresh kimchi and baklava), spectacularly weird (cellophane-packaged dried snake), or shockingly inexpensive (super-fresh garlic bulbs, 10 for $1). Garlic is one thing we definitely stocked up on to take home, especially since garlic bulbs average between 33 and 60 cents each here. To celebrate, I decided to make what is probably my favorite soup of all time.
Yes, it does look like a lot of garlic (if you’re going anywhere the next day, you may want to take a very long, hot shower in the morning and pack some gum), but the flavor doesn’t punch you in the face—in fact, if you have even the slightest affinity for garlic, let alone roasted garlic, you just haven’t lived until you’ve tasted this soup.
As below it makes a very generous 2 servings.
The bread bowl is fully optional, but definitely heightens the experience. These sourdough ones I made for about 10 cents each, but you can easily find some small boules at the grocery store, cut off the top, scoop out the middle, and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes to harden.
Adapted from Bon Appetit.
• 44 garlic cloves: 26 unpeeled, 18 peeled (3-4 bulbs): 35 cents
• 2 T olive oil: 12 cents
• 2 T butter: 12 cents
• 2 large or 3 medium onions, sliced: 50 cents
• 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (garden): $0
• 3 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (I used frozen turkey stock): $0
• 1/2 cup whipping cream: 35 cents
• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (I use a Microplane so it melts faster): $1.40
• 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges: 25 cents
• Salt and white pepper to taste: 2 cents
TOTAL: $3.09/2 = $1.55 + 10 cents for the bread bowl: $1.65/serving
Toss the 26 unpeeled garlic cloves in the olive oil. Place in a baking dish tightly covered with foil and bake (slow-roast) at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Check after about 20 minutes to make sure they’re not browning too quickly; the final product should be light brown, and the skins should be separating from the cloves. Cool, then peel.
Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or soup pot with lid. Add the onions and thyme and cook until onions have softened, about 6-8 minutes.
Add the roasted garlic and 18 unpeeled garlic cloves and cook about 3 minutes. Add the stock or broth, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the raw garlic cloves are completely softened. (Try mashing them with a wooden spoon to check.) Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Add the cream, bring to a simmer, and adjust salt and pepper to taste. (I prefer white pepper for aesthetic reasons, but if you only have black, that’s fine.)
Serve sprinkled with the cheese and a lemon wedge or two squeezed over the top.