Ah, the flu season--it's upon us again, despite the deceptively mild temperatures of this Virginia winter. Although I've been laid low recently by a stomach bug (my daughter recovered in about eight hours; I haven't been able to eat anything except for toast for about three days), prior to my latest elementary school-related illness, an upper respiratory, flu-like virus (the doctor's words, not mine) ran through the entire family and wiped the floor with us. Well, it wasn't that bad really--we've all been vaccinated this season, but none of us were too happy about it. I turned, not to family lore (as a native Virginian--mostly--my grandparents are from, well, here, as were their grandparents, and so on), having no lore to speak of really, but to a variation of a recipe for garlic soup originally by Martha Rose Shulman.
Mine is a little looser and designed for the single, sickly cook at, say, lunchtime while everyone else is at work or school and hunger propels you from under the covers and into the kitchen. Variations of it can be found in every cook's kitchen in every Mediterranean country. Is garlic a miracle cure? I have no idea. I do know that this fragrant, simple soup will soothe those swollen nasal passages, that scratchy throat, and even, from time to time, a restless and unquiet soul.
Garlic Soup for the Sick and Hungry
4 cups water
3-4 large garlic cloves (to taste), crushed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoons coarse salt (to taste)
freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf
2 fresh sage leaves or 1 pinch dried sage
2 thick slices French bread
1 large egg beaten
good olive oil, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
1. Bring the water to a boil and add the garlic, salt, bay leaf, and sage. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Add more salt if needed (it should have a surprisingly full, savory flavor; if it tastes weak, add more salt, 1/2 teaspoon at a time).
2. Brush the bread with olive oil and toast.
3. Beat the egg thoroughly in soup bowl and slowly, in a steady stream, still whisking the egg, add the garlic broth. Reserve the extra broth for lunch the following day. Grind some pepper over it and add a swirl of olive oil.
4. Float the two croutons on the soup and top with cheese. Place the bowl under broiler and remove when the cheese is hot, bubbly, and melted. Get well soon!