This Mediterranean classic, as ancient and almost as simple as boiling, is the quintessential beginner’s or just-plain-basic soup. It’s one you’ll cook forever.
6 to 10 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 thick slices French or Italian bread (slightly stale bread is fine)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
1. Combine 4 cups water with the garlic, bay leaf, and some salt and pepper in a saucepan or stockpot. Bring to a boil, cover partially, and turn the heat to very low. Let the liquid bubble gently for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, brown the slices of bread in the oil, turning once, for a total of about 5 minutes.
3. Put the bread in bowls and top with the grated cheese. Strain the soup into the bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve.
Roasted Garlic Soup
Substitute 10 or more cloves Roasted Garlic for the crushed garlic. Or put the crushed garlic in the skillet with the olive oil and cook over medium-low heat until fragrant and just starting to color, about 4 minutes. Fish out the garlic, chop it finely, and add it to the pot in Step 1.
Add 2 cups chopped tomato (canned is okay; don’t drain) in Step 1. Don’t strain the soup.
Omit the olive oil, bread, and cheese. Juice and zest 2 limes. In Step 1, use 1 can of coconut milk and 3 cups of water, along with the lime zest. Omit Step 2. In Step 3, add the lime juice to the soup right before straining. If you like, ladle the soup over a small mound of plain white rice, bean threads, or rice vermicelli. Garnish with cilantro instead of parsley.