Spanish Garlic Saffron Soup with Fried Capers and Romesco Sauce Garnish

February 15, 2010
Author Notes

Winter and soup go hand and hand, which is why our local community has a fundraiser at the beginning of the year called Sip Some Soup. Competition is friendly but fierce, so one year I created this soup (gallons and gallons) as a counterpoint to all the very traditional entries. Spain has a history of garlic soups so a Romesco sauce seemed appropriate for some piquancy and color. Lots of different takes on Romesco but I ended up using jarred piquillo peppers and sweet Hungarian paprika instead of ancho chilies, primarily for the vivid color I wanted in the garnish. See notes on how to peel so much garlic. —Amber Olson

  • Serves 2 quarts
  • For the Soup:
  • 1 quart milk of your choice (whole, 2%, or 1%) I used 1%
  • 1 tablespoon each, unsalted butter and olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white part and some of the pale green, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 quart chicken broth, organic brand or homemade
  • pinch of Spanish saffron threads, dissolved in a little warm water
  • 1/2 pound (or more to taste depending on the potency) peeled garlic cloves, crushed
  • 8 ounces soft style country bread, like ciabatta or pugliese, crusts removed and soft part cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse grain salt and ground white pepper to taste
  • For the Romesco Sauce and the Fried Capers:
  • 1 thick slice white bread
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 pound roma type tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon hungarian sweet paprika
  • 6 ounces jarred roasted piquilla pepper strips, drained well
  • 1/4 extra virgin olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup or so extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons brined capers, rinsed well and patted completely dry
In This Recipe
  1. For the Soup:
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat, being careful that it doesn't boil, while you start to cook the other ingredients.
  3. In a 4-5 quart wide-bottom saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the butter foams a bit. Add the leeks and shallots and gently saute for 2 minutes. Cover the pan and let this soften for about 5 minutes. Uncover, add the chicken broth and the saffron with its water and heat for a few minutes. Add the garlic and bread cubes and bring to a boil. Stir in the hot milk and reduce heat to low. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
  4. In a food processor, puree the soup while adding the extra virgin olive oil in a drizzle through the feed tube, seasoning with salt and white pepper. The oil will enrich the soup but it can overwhelm it if you use too much. I pureed in batches, tasting and adding salt and a little white pepper to each batch. Put all the soup back in the pot, taste again for seasoning and reheat on low. Garnish with a dollop of Romesco and a sprinkle of fried capers. (Or toast thin slices of french bread and top with the Romesco, still garnishing soup with the capers, and serve bread alongside.)
  5. Note: to peel garlic, separate cloves; blanch in boiling water for 15-30 seconds, then put in ice water bath; peel should loosen easily. Or buy already peeled cloves such as Christopher Ranch brand from California.
  1. For the Romesco Sauce and the Fried Capers:
  2. Romesco sauce: Fry the bread in a bit of oil until lightly golden. Cool a bit. In a food processor, grind the bread, nuts, garlic and pepper flakes to a chunky consistency. Add the tomatoes, paprika, peppers and some salt to taste. Process until very smooth. With machine running, gradually pour in the oil and incorporate well. Add the vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  3. For the capers: pour oil into a small saucepan and heat over medium high. When oil is shimmery and very hot, add the capers and fry, stirring to evenly coat the buds, until the capers are a bit brown and crisp. Strain off oil (save for a salad) and turn out capers to a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

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