Garlic (and Shallot) Soup
with Harissa & Greek Yogurt
This wonderful recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Yotam Ottolenghi's, Plenty. I've doubled the quantity in my adaptation--it doesn't make sense to me to make a pot of soup for just 4 people. Besides, we love leftovers in this house, and freezing is always an excellent option. As soups go, this recipe comes together pretty quickly, so prep all your components first. There is a good amount of chopping here, not to mention the peeling of many, many cloves of garlic. But don't let that deter you--I have a technique for that.
The size of shallots can vary widely, from small to large. I define large bulbs (the size I most often find in my market) as "doubles"; they have 2 halves when you cut into them. Peel and finely chop 4 large or 8 medium shallots--you should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Wash and trim the celery stalks and finely dice them. In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium to medium low heat and add the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes until translucent.
Peeling a lot of garlic may seem a daunting task, but it only requires patience. Separate the cloves from the head, removing any excess "paper." Cut off the root end of each clove--if the garlic skin is crisp, it should easily peel away. If not, use the side of your chef's knife to gently crush the clove, which will release the flesh from its skin. Peel away and then thinly slice the cloves.
Add the sliced garlic to the pot and cook for 5 minutes more.
Stir in the grated ginger and chopped thyme leaves. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer.
Cook for a few minutes, then add a couple of generous pinches of saffron and the bay leaves.
If you prefer to keep the soup vegetarian, use vegetable stock, but as I have a good supply of homemade chicken stock on hand, that's what I use. If you use store-bought stock, choose the low-sodium variety so you can control the salt content. Pour the stock into the pot and add a big pinch of kosher salt to season. Raise the heat to bring back to the simmer; cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves from the pot and add the chopped parsley. Using an immersion blender (a regular blender will work too--just purée it in batches) pulse the soup until it's mostly puréed, leaving a little bit of texture. Taste and add more kosher salt, if needed.
Harissa, a condiment blend of peppers and spices, adds a lively bit of heat to the soup. Ottolenghi has a recipe for making it from scratch, but there are plenty of nice varieties readily available. Here I'm using a special one that we picked up in Montreal--it has rose petals in the mix! You can find jars or small cans of harissa in Whole Foods or other markets in the ethnic section.
Ladle the soup into large bowls and swirl each with a spoonful of harissa. Add a large dollop of Greek yogurt on top and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Crusty bread and a watercress salad make lovely accompaniments.
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large or 8 medium shallots, finely chopped
5 celery stalks, finely diced
35 to 40 garlic cloves (about 3 heads), peeled and sliced
3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 pinches saffron
5 bay leaves
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium
6 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
chopped fresh cilantro