Makes 6 servings
This is a classic soup of the Alentejo, a province in Portugal to the southeast of Lisbon. Throughout the Mediterranean region, there are many soups of this persuasion, some with less bread and more broth, all based on water and garlic and all with the ubiquitous poached egg floating in the middle of each bowl. Cilantro, the most widely used fresh herb in Portugal, adds character. This soup is adapted from one in Jean Anderson's The Food of Portugal. It's hearty enough to be served as a main dish, followed by a tomato salad, olives and perhaps some sliced meats.
The freshest ingredients are essential: good-quality bread, preferably from a Portuguese bakery; the fruitiest olive oil and, of course, impeccably fresh eggs.
4 large garlic cloves, quartered
2-1/2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves,
plus chopped cilantro for optional garnish
(from 1 large or 2 small bunches)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 cups water
6 large eggs
6 cups 1-1/2-inch cubes day-old Portuguese,
French or Italian bread (from a 15-to-18-inch-long loaf)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Using a mortar and pestle or in a small food processor, grind the garlic, cilantro leaves and salt to a paste. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl or soup tureen. Blend in the oil. Set aside.
2. Put the water in a large, deep skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Break the eggs one at a time into a cup and slip them into the water. Cook for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the eggs in the order you added them to the pan and place on a folded kitchen towel or paper towel. Keep the egg-poaching water at a gentle boil.
3. Add the bread and pepper to the cilantro paste and toss to mix. Add the reserved egg-poaching water, with any little bits of egg white remaining in it, and stir gently to mix. Carefully place the eggs on top of the soup. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired.
4. To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls, placing one egg in each bowl.
The Good Egg:
More than 200 Fresh Approaches
from Soup to Dessert
By Marie Simmons
Houghton Mifflin Company, May 2000
480 pages, hardcover, two colors throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created June 2000
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