We all know that there are four astronomical seasons in the year: spring, summer, autumn and winter. But, in our daily lives, we divide up the year into so many more seasons: the holidays just past, New Year's resolutions have just begun; it's back-to-school season, tax season, vacation season, and on and on. And many of those specialized seasons overlap each other.
Right now, we're in a real seasonal pileup, as resolutions and cold and flu season come right on top of winter. With that in mind, I'd like to share a simple recipe to help you deal with all the many demands this time of year may bring: my Cream of Garlic Soup.
First, consider your resolutions. You may have sworn that you'll save some money in 2018 by enjoying more home-cooked meals. This recipe will help you achieve that goal by producing delicious food from inexpensive ingredients -- primarily garlic cloves and potatoes -- in only about half an hour. The soup may also help you reach a weight-loss goal, because it's a dish that satisfies the appetite by being sipped slowly, spoonful by spoonful. (And you can cut the fat and calories from the relatively small amount of cream, just 3 tablespoons per serving, by substituting buttermilk.)
Cold and flu season brings its own stuffy, sniffling challenges. But garlic, an abundant ingredient in this recipe, has a long anecdotal history as a popular folk remedy for such illnesses. While medical researchers are still divided on whether or not garlic actually works to fight viruses and relieve congestion, some studies have found evidence that those who eat it regularly get ill less often and suffer less severe symptoms. And while I know the old joke about how someone who eats a lot of garlic can't get close enough to other people to pass along germs, the garlic in this soup actually turns mild and sweet tasting thanks to blanching in boiling water as the first step in the recipe.
Finally, there's winter itself. To me, few foods chase away the chill of this season more effectively than a hot bowl of soup to start a meal. To help you get the most flavorful results, I'm also happy to share my simple recipe for super-quick rich chicken stock, which takes minutes to prepare and will help make store-bought stock or broth taste surprisingly close to homemade. Start with a good-quality product that's lower in sodium. Simmer the stock while you're prepping other ingredients for whatever recipe in which you'll use it. In addition to the enhancements I list, you can also include leftover chicken bones, other vegetable trimmings or other mild fresh herbs.
Here's to a happy, thrifty, healthy, warming and flavorful bowlful in 2018!
CREAM OF GARLIC SOUP
For the soup:
2 cups (500 ml) peeled garlic cloves
1 large baking potato, about 3/4 pound (375 g), peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
2 cups (500 mL) super-quick rich chicken stock (recipe follows) or good-quality canned chicken or vegetable stock or broth
Freshly ground white pepper
3/4 cup (185 mL) heavy cream
Chopped chives (optional garnish)
For the basil oil:
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 cup (250 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
First, blanch the garlic: Put the garlic cloves in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain well.
Return the garlic cloves to the pan, add the potatoes and stock, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender enough to piece easily with a fork or sharp knife tip, about 20 minutes.
Pour in the cream. Over medium heat, bring back to a gentle boil.
Meanwhile, prepare the basil oil: Put the basil, parsley, and oil in a blender and blend until smoothly pureed. Pour through a fine-meshed strainer into a glass bowl; set aside. Rinse out the blender thoroughly.
Working in batches if necessary to avoid overfilling, transfer the soup to the blender and blend until smoothly pureed, carefully following the manufacturer's instruction to avoid spattering. Transfer the soup to a clean saucepan and gentle rewarm over low heat, adjusting the seasonings to taste.
To serve, ladle the soup into heated bowls. Drizzle with a small spoonful of basil oil, refrigerating the remainder in an airtight container. You can also garnish with chopped chives, if you wish.
SUPER-QUICK RICH CHICKEN STOCK
Makes about 3 quarts (3 L)
3 quarts (3 L) low-sodium store-bought chicken stock or broth
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium celery stalk, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 medium leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise, thoroughly rinsed, and cut into chunks
In a small stockpot or large saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Strain before use.(c) 2018 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.