Friday, December 03, 2004


Hooray! After having almost exhausted my favorite cookbook, Pasta e Verdura, I happened upon another one by the same author, Jack Bishop, at the library: Vegetables Every Day. I don’t know why I’d never thought of looking for other books by him before, or maybe I’d looked in Minnesota and forgotten to renew the search when I moved to L.A. A quick search of the Pasadena Public Library catalog yielded 2(!) more Bishop books, which I’ve placed on hold and am eagerly awaiting. I’m like a cooking stalker. Anyway, Vegetables Every Day seems like a useful book to have around, as it contains mainly side dishes, and I’m always looking for something besides salad to have with not-quite-complete-in-themselves main dishes like fish, chicken, and soup. The recipe that really stood out to me when I first paged through the book, however, was Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup, which sounded basically like eating a big bowl of garlic mashed potatoes. I decided to make it this week, and bought all the necessary ingredients.

But when last night rolled around, I was tired and craving pizza. Loath to disappoint Jack, however, I rose to the challenge and schlepped into the kitchen. And challenge it was. I started cooking at around 7:30, and we sat down to eat at 10:00, just as the opening credits of ER were beginning. Looking back, I’m not sure why it took quite so long. I imagine I should be able to do this a little faster in the future, when I’m better-rested and have had some practice, but it’s still an involved, multistage recipe—roast the garlic, peel the potatoes, slip the garlic cloves from their skins, boil everything, puree in the blender…. Not exactly a quick weekday meal. Still, both A and I agreed it was well worth all our efforts (mine of cooking, his of doing the immense heap of dishes I left behind). This would be an especially wonderful thing to have when you were sick (provided someone else would make it for you, that is)—pale, smooth, creamy, comforting, but with that kick of garlic you could taste even through your head cold, plus all the antioxidant/antibiotic properties garlic is supposed to have. Of course, this soup is tasty enough that I’m probably not going to wait around to get sick before having it again. I’d like to give it a try with homemade chicken stock (I’d run out, so I used Trader Joe’s free-range chicken stock—so nice that they don’t keep the chicken stock in cages, don’t you think? Hee.), which I bet would be even better.

Obviously, you need something green with this plain white soup. I went all-out and roasted some asparagus, which was perfect. A simple salad would work just fine, too.

2 large heads of garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 pounds red potatoes, peeled and diced fine
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel off as much papery outer skin from the heads of garlic as possible without separating the cloves. Cut a ½-inch-thick slice from the top of each head, exposing the cloves. (Actually, because I am often foggy-brained by the time I get around to cooking, I cut the slice from the stem end of the first head. This of course, caused the cloves to instantly separate, since I’d cut off the part that holds them together. So, all together now, the part you want to cut off is the pointy part at the top, not the dark hairy part at the bottom. But if you are dim-witted like me, you’ll be reassured to know that I just threw the loose cloves in the pan and they roasted up just as fine as the second head, which I managed to cut correctly.) Place the garlic heads (cut side up) in a small baking dish and add just enough water to come up 1/8 inch in the dish (about ¼ cup). Drizzle a tablespoon of oil over the garlic, sprinkle with salt to taste, and cover the dish with foil. Put it in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake about 15 minutes longer, until the garlic is quite tender and golden. Remove the dish from the oven and let the garlic cool until it's comfortable to handle. Then the fun part: gently squeeze each garlic clove out of its skin (which sounds like an annoying task, but really was satisfying to me). For they most part, they should just slide ride out. Discard the skins and put the cloves into a measuring cup--Jack helpfully informs us that you should have about ¾ cup cloves.

2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions and sauté them until soft and golden, about 6-10 minutes. Add the roasted garlic and stir, smashing the cloves with the back of the spoon. Add the potatoes and stir until they're coated with garlic and oil.

3. Next, add the chicken stock, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat back to medium and let it simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.

5. When the potatoes are done, remove and discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in batches in the blender until it's nice and smooth, stir in the chives, and add more pepper.

Serves: about 6
Time: well, it took me 2½ hours somehow, but I contend I was abnormally poky. Let’s say 1½ to 2 hours (but much of this is garlic-roasting time, during which you can go and do something else).

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