Sopa de Ajo Castellana
Quick to make and surprisingly satisfying, this garlic soup is one of my favorite comfort foods. It has a richness that belies the effort put into it. Each spoonful provides a complex backdrop of flavors and textures – the musty, meatiness of the wild mushrooms alongside the bread cooked so soft it melts on your tongue, all supported by the smokiness of the paprika, the fragrant garlic, and just a hint of spice from the chile-infused oil.
The recipe provided here is 100% vegan. Traditionally, this is served with ham and a poached egg. However, I like it simply ladled into a bowl and served with nothing more than some sea salt and an extra dusting of smoked paprika.
Try using different varieties of dried mushrooms. My favorite for this is a mix of porcini and shiitake. Just make note that the amounts may change depending on how large the mushrooms get after rehydrating.
For a shortcut, you can substitute the dried Arbol chiles for crushed red pepper. Simply add a pinch when you put in the garlic and smoked paprika. It won’t have quite the same flavor you’ll get from slowly cooking the dried chiles in oil, but it’s close. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the Spanish smoked paprika – there’s just no substitute!
Recipe ingredients:2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1 quart Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth
3oz dried wild mushrooms
1-2 dried Arbol chiles, chopped
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 large slices of stale bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes
Salt, to taste
(If you don't have stale bread on hand, fresh bread can be substituted. Cut into cubes and place in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven until dry but not toasted, then use as directed.)
Cooking instructions:1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl full of cool water and stir to dislodge any dirt particles. Drain the mushrooms and rinse well.
2. Bring the quart of vegetable broth to a boil. Add the rinsed mushrooms and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are full rehydrated.
3. Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the chile, and cook until the oil is fragrant and the chile begins to lose its color, stirring occasionally (3-5 minutes).
4. Remove the chile and discard. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the cubes of bread. Cook until the bread is lightly toasted, stirring occasionally.
5. Reduce heat to medium. If the pan is dry, add up to a tablespoon of additional oil. Add the minced garlic and smoked paprika, stir, and cook until the garlic begins to be colored, about three minutes. (If the garlic starts to brown too quickly, remove the pan from heat and stir well. Do not let the garlic burn.)
6. Add the broth and mushrooms and the crumbled saffron. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the bread starts breaking down, stirring occasionally. Season with salt to taste.
7. Separate into bowls and serve immediately, garnished with sea salt and an additional dusting of smoked paprika.
NOTE: Dried mushrooms can be notoriously hard to clean. If you're having trouble, you can always pour the broth through a coffee filter before using it. Then simply rinse off the rehydrated mushrooms and add them back to the soup!