Welcome to The Storied Recipe! This recipe for Sopa de Ajo comes from my podcast guest, Susan Barocas, co-founder of the Savor Project, celebrating and sharing Sephardic culture through pairings of food and music. Listen to her episode with her Savor partner, musician Sarah Aroeste, while you make her Healing Green Garlic Soup for a Cold!
Delicious Soup, Comforting Elixer
For all you garlic lovers out there (and non-lovers too!), Susan Barocas has given us a comforting remedy from her Sephardic heritage to soothe your soul, warm your body, and chase away that stubborn cold. Sopa de Ajo, is the ultimate healing green garlic soup. This simple, easy garlic soup recipe is easy enough to make, even when you're sick. It all happens in one pot using raw garlic; no roasted garlic cloves or messing with baking sheets. Through the slow cooking of the leeks and garlic, you'll access mellow, slightly sweet, deep, rich flavors with no pungency at all.
- Sopa de Ajo and Sephardic Heritage
- Listen to Susan and Sarah Now
- Follow The Storied Recipe in Your Favorite Player
- Simple Ingredients
- Immune Boosting: Health Benefits of Susan's Fresh Green Garlic Soup with Spinach and Leeks
- Simple Garlic Soup Recipe - Instructions
- Substitutions, Additions & Variations
- You'll Also Like These Recipes
- More Interviews with Guests of Jewish Heritage
- Listen to Sarah and Susan on Sephardic Heritage Through Food and Music
- Healing Garlic Green Soup: Sopa de Ajo Recipe
- Food Safety for Soups
Sopa de Ajo and Sephardic Heritage
My sopa de ajo (garlic soup) is based on one my family and I first tasted in a little rustic restaurant in Guaymas, Mexico, during a family vacation in 1968 when I was 16.
Once we discovered the delicious dishes of this off-the-beaten-tourist-track restaurant, including the garlic soup, we returned every night for the rest of our week-long stay in the seaside city. I still remember the taste and aroma of that soup -- a clear, deeply flavored fragrant broth with a little rice.
I worked to recreate it, partly for the wonderful family memories it evokes and the memorable flavor, and partly because as I delved into my Sephardic (Spanish Jewish) background and cuisine of my ancestors, I became convinced that this soup was brought to Mexico from Spain with the Conversos and Crypto (secret) Jews who fled to the New World and had an important influence on Mexican food.
For hundreds of years, the cuisine of the Sephardim in Spain was distinct. For example, Christians did not eat the alliums (onions, garlic, leeks) that the Sephardim loved. When the Inquisition happened, codified into law in 1478, thousands of Jews, conversos and secret Jews to fled Spain, and the Sephardic cuisine was used to rout out Jews and those maintaining ties to their Judaism in secret, often through food.
The Spanish Sopa de Ajo developed sometime later and typically is red from Spanish paprika and thickened with bread. It is often served topped with poached egg and/or ham to continue to reveal secret Jews among the Conversos remaining in Spain as the Inquisition continued for several hundred years.
Listen to Susan and Sarah Now
Susan's Sephardic father gave her a deep love of garlic. Hear all about him and how she and Sarah collaborated to create an interactive project, allowing you to participate in the recipes and music of Sephardic heritage.
Follow The Storied Recipe in Your Favorite Player
One of the many things to love about Susan's simple Sopa de Ajo is that it only calls for pantry staples. Here's a little about each:
25 Cloves (or more) is a LOT of garlic - Is it too much garlic?
- It's TRUE that Susan's recipe calls for at least 3 whole heads of garlic, or at least 25 cloves, which is a LOT of garlic. And I used even more! - 52 Clove Garlic Soup! 😉
- However, NO, it's still definitely not too much. As Susan says, it all comes down to proper cooking technique - and Susan's recipe teaches us that technique.
- Lose the pungent flavor: For the best flavor, you'll cook it low and slow - first, by very gently sauteing the garlic, then simmering it along with leeks, creating a lovely, warm, savory, mellow, and healing garlic broth.
In addition to the garlic, you'll need:
- Spinach, baby spinach, white-stemmed chard (or your favorite greens)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Chicken broth or vegetable broth
- Bay leaves
- Rice: white rice or brown rice (if brown, par-cooked al dente)
- For garnishing: fresh lemon, salt and black pepper
Immune Boosting: Health Benefits of Susan's Fresh Green Garlic Soup with Spinach and Leeks
The idea that Sopa de Ajo is healing has been well-known for the ages. Susan shares in her own words how Sephardic Jews have turned to garlic soup for healing for over 800 years:
The Mexican version of the soup is closer to the caldo de gayina vieja (old hen soup) or sopa de gayina (chicken soup) was popular among the Jews in Spain for hundreds of years. In the 12th century, the Jewish philosopher and physician Maimonides was already recommending it for coughs and fevers, post-partum recovery and to build good health and strength. Gives new meaning and context for calling chicken soup “Jewish penicillin.”
Cold and flu season = soup season! A large pot of Sopa de Ajo is a great way to rehydrate. It is also an immune-boosting restorative soup, returning essential vitamins and nutrients to your body as it fights off those bugs.
Sopa de Ajo Contains 4 of the Most Healing Ingredients available:
- Immune Boost: Garlic contains allicin, a compound with antimicrobial properties that can help your body fight off infections and illnesses.
- Heart Health: Regular consumption of garlic can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Anti-Inflammatory: Garlic contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Nutrient-Rich: Spinach is packed with vitamins (A, C, K), minerals (iron, calcium), and dietary fiber, making it great for overall health.
- Eye Health: The high content of lutein and zeaxanthin in spinach is associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, promoting good vision.
- Digestive Health: The fiber in spinach aids digestion and helps maintain a balanced gut microbiome.
- Antioxidants: Leeks are rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols and vitamin C, which help protect your cells from oxidative damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Digestive Aid: Similar to spinach, the soluble fiber in leeks prevents constipation and promotes a healthy gut flora, which can enhance nutrient absorption.
- Hydration: Chicken broth is a hydrating liquid that helps maintain fluid balance in the body, especially when consumed as part of a soup.
- Collagen Support: Chicken broth contains collagen, which is beneficial for skin health, joint mobility, and may help reduce the signs of aging.
- Nutrient Delivery: When used as a base in soups, chicken broth enhances the absorption of nutrients from other ingredients, ensuring you get the most out of your meal.
Why is Sopa de Ajo known as "Hangover Soup"?
- Rehydration: After alcohol consumption, dehydration is a common issue, and a warm bowl of soup can help with rehydration, especially if it has a flavorful broth.
- Nutrient Content: Garlicis rich in vitamins and minerals that help replenish some of the essential substances depleted by alcohol consumption.
- Garlic's Potential Benefits: Garlic has certain compounds, such as allicin, which have been studied for their potential to aid in the detoxification of the liver and improve liver function. Since excessive alcohol consumption can strain the liver, some people believe that garlic's properties may be helpful.
- Easy on the Stomach: Hangovers often come with nausea and a sensitive stomach. Garlic soup is mild and easy to digest, which may be soothing for an upset stomach.
Simple Garlic Soup Recipe - Instructions
In many ways, Susan's recipe is a great recipe for health and healing because it is an easy, simple recipe:
- do not need to roast garlic
- Wash and prepare the leeks.
- Wash and roughly chop the greens.
- Sauté leeks until softened (about 5-10 minutes minutes), add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 3-4 minutes).
- Add broth, bay leaves, and rice to the pot. Simmer until rice is soft. Meanwhile, crisp up the remaining cup of leeks in 3 tablespoons of oil in a separate pan.
- Remove bay leaves from the soup, stir in the chopped spinach or chard, and simmer until the greens are soft (10 minutes for spinach, 15-20 minutes for chard).
Substitutions, Additions & Variations
I'm certain this will become one of your favorite soups - and even more so, if you add a few of your own personal touches to this traditional garlic soup. Here are a few things to try (and not try!)
- Leeks: This is a fairly essential, irreplaceable ingredient. Green onions will not hold up as well as leeks; they'll break down too easily. If you are out to leeks, I'd recommend simple caramelized onions. You'll need to caramelize them longer than the leeks, still at a very low temperature. Leave yourself about 30 minutes for the onions to slowly caramelize.
- Make Vegan Garlic Soup - super easily! Simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
- Try a little white wine for a more grown-up flavor and to balance the richness of the garlic and broth.
- Make Cream of Garlic Soup. A few tablespoons of heavy cream will add a slightly sweet flavor and creamy texture
- While this recipe recommends adding a lemon wedge to the soup, John's Auntie Mary makes a version that adds lots and LOTS of lemon juice. Experiment and see if you like a little more or less in yours.
- Add a drizzle of olive oil to the top for look and flavor.
- Shave fresh parmesan cheese for a little salty flavor.
- Sprinkle a touch of beautiful deep red smoked paprika.
- Serve with crusty bread, soft rolls, and a plate of fruit
- Medium stockpot (8 quarts) or Large stockpot (16oz) for making the soup
- Skillet for frying leeks for the top
- Refrigerate 3-5 days or freeze up to 3 months.
- Gently reheat in a small saucepan or microwave.
You'll Also Like These Recipes
More Interviews with Guests of Jewish Heritage
Listen to Sarah and Susan on Sephardic Heritage Through Food and Music
Food Safety for Soups
- Refrigerate leftover soup within two hours of cooking. Store it in shallow containers to allow for faster and more even cooling.
- Keep soup stored in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C).
- Use or freeze leftover soup within 3-4 days to maintain its quality and safety.
- Thawing Frozen Soup: Do not leave it at room temperature for thawing.
- Reheating Safely: Reheat soup to a rolling boil or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving.
- Practice FIFO (First In, First Out): When storing multiple containers of soup, use the oldest ones first to avoid food waste and ensure freshness.