When I realized I left my drawstring bag filled with garlic somewhere at the market on Saturday, my puffy little dream of making homemade pitas with roasted garlic deflated.
When our daughter woke up with a fever on Sunday, I dug up a head of garlic (not the chunky-cloved Music variety I’d planned on roasting) and starting plotting a pot of soup instead.
Which was a little sad. I was looking forward to trying my hand at a yeasted bread. But respiratory illness doesn’t call for cutting through new culinary territory, bobbing my neck between an open copy of Bread Alone and a big bowl filled with yeast and flour, salt and water. Though it sounded so nice.
Moms of sick kids make soup, if they’re lucky. And I was. There were three Allium cousins about (yellow, red, shallot), enough carrots and the very end of the celery. Plus, I had a taster in the house. My daughter had the honor and requested the role of recipe namer, too (she didn’t hestitate, nominating “Tomato Garlic Heaven”).
As luck would have it (more luck!) I cleared the hoop house of its cold, spent tomato plants this week. I separated the fruits in the kitchen, placing ripe ones into a glass bowl and stacking the others into a berry box, greenest on the bottom.
For this soup I peeled the whole bowl of speckled romas and medium slicers, happy that boiling them to loosen the skins, even for a few moments, reduced the insides of the romas to a comforting mush, ideal for a rainy-day, sick-day broth.
I remembered this garlicky soup. Then I snooped around a bit and felt inspired by this homey recipe. Alas, though our stop at the store in the morning filled a hole in the medicine cabinet and added a box of popsicles to the freezer, it didn’t increase the person-to-greens ratio. Or person-to-parsnip, for that matter. But Yukons and a freezer full of pesto made up for it: I garnished my bowl with a dollop of radish green and mizuna pesto the size of a whole walnut to make up for the lack of greens. This is the way to get cozy on the inside.
Garlic and Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil or other cooking oil
1 small or medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 rib celery, sliced (save the leafy top)
1 shallot, sliced thinly
2 carrots, grated, to yield about 1 cup
8-12 cloves garlic*, minced and divided: mince 3 cloves
into one small bowl, 5-8 cloves into another
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups vegetable broth
3 Yukon Gold or other thin-skinned potatoes, diced with skins on
10-12 small or medium tomatoes, skins removed and flesh chopped
¼ cup bulgar wheat
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from about ¼ of a
medium sized lemon)
Celtic sea salt
*This is a lot of garlic. But as all kitchen magic goes,
you can’t tell how much when you taste the final product.
The garlic added at the end melts into the broth, without
the horseradish-level harshness that might discourage
you from slathering raw minced garlic on your toast.
Combine oil, onions and celery in a large pot over medium heat. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add shallots and grated carrots and stir well to coat. Cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until carrots soften and vegetables are relaxing into each other.
Push vegetables to the side, add a little oil to the empty side of the pan and stir the 3 cloves of minced garlic into the oil. Continue stirring until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add thyme to the garlic and cook another 15-20 seconds. Stir garlic and thyme into the rest of the vegetables.
Add broth, tomatoes and potatoes. Add the whole leafy celery top (you’ll remove it later, as you would a bay leaf). Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and taste the broth. If needed, add ½ teaspoon of sea salt at a time until it tastes right (I used just ½ teaspoon). Cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft, 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast the bulgar in a small skillet for about 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Add ½-¾ cup of water to the pan and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
Add the cooked bulgar to the pot along with the remaining minced garlic (I used 5 large cloves in addition to the three that were cooked with the onions).
Simmer for another few minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Turn off the heat. Fish out and discard the celery top. Add lemon juice. Taste once again and correct the seasonings.
Garnish with pesto or a drizzle of olive oil.