I’ve always had a thing for garlic, at least in my adult life but my relationship with the allium really took off in 2008 when my best friend, Sarah moved to New York and we lived together in Hell’s Kitchen. I needed a roommate and Sarah was ready for a change post graduate school so she moved to the city from Texas without a job – about three weeks before Lehman Brothers announced they were bankrupt. It wasn’t perfect timing but luckily Sarah did find a job not long after her arrival.
But she did have some extra time in the beginning and when I would return home after days of meetings and power point creations around kids cereals, she had cooked us dinner. Along with roasted artichokes and caesar salads, one of the things that she would frequently do is roast garlic in our tiny oven, that yes, you could touch from our couch.
One evening I arrived home to find her chopping cloves and cloves of raw garlic for a vegan garlic soup. Our apartment which could not have been more than 350 square feet, also did not have air conditioning. We were tucked between air shafts with little natural air and the leftover heat from the September Indian summer baked the potent scent of the garlic. While the soup was good, we walked around smelling of garlic for at least a week. Needless to say, it was the last time she made it.
And now that spring is officially here, it is time for fresh garlic. It’s a blink and you will miss it moment and even though we have access to garlic year-round, when you first see the garlic with the slightly greener stalks, it’s a sign we’re one day closer to warmer weather. This is the type of garlic when the cloves are not completely dried out and peeling them can be a bit taxing. Just when you think you have removed the skin, you realize there is one more young, soft layer to undress until the final fresh clove.
But since I have a love affair with garlic I am more than willing to take my time peeling and peeling fresh garlic. Plus it takes me back to 2008 and to Sarah sitting at our half-broken table from Target, peeling mounds (no joke) of garlic to feed her overworked roommate with something nourishing.
To pay homage to my favorite garlic memory – well one of, I actually have a few – I wanted to do a fresh garlic soup with the beautiful red chard I also found at the same time. Looking up a few recipes, I settled on a mixture between a few. Some call for sage but I wanted pure garlic flavor. Some tell you to roast the garlic first but given that this fresh garlic is so strong being this young, I opted to cook the garlic in water instead. And the soup is so easy to make that you will most likely spend most of your time peeling the garlic.
Fresh Garlic Soup
Two heads of fresh garlic (or regular garlic), peeled and thinly sliced
1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard, washed and chopped (stems included!)
5 cups of vegetable broth (or water)
Red chili flakes
Baguette, sliced and toasted
1. Boil water/vegetable broth and add salt, pepper and a 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes.
2. Add garlic slices.
3. Let boil for a few minutes then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Immediately add chopped swiss chard so it quickly cooks but does not overcook.
5. If desired, you can add toasted baguette slices to the bottom of the bowl, add the soup and shredded parmesan cheese.
6. Another option is to add pastina pasta to the soup.