What are you usually doing at 6 a.m.? Early morning run? Hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock, dreading your day of work ahead?
In Spain there are two classes of people awake at this hour, neither of them normal. On one hand, you have partygoers, stumbling home after a night dancing and drinking and talking at each other. On the other, in the Basque Country at least, you have a class of laborers that traditionally included fishermen and shepherds obligated to greet the morning before the sunrise. And for these people, there is sopa de ajo, or garlic soup.
Hearty and warming, this soup gives you the energy you need to face the day. Its warmth (and garlic's curative properties) are also said to be great for hangovers. Hence the double life led by this peasant-style dish. An integral characteristic of the soup, and perhaps the best part, is that it improves with time. Mom, grandma or wife makes soup alongside dinner and leaves it out, either for partygoing offspring, hardworking male companions, or the next day's hamaiketako.
Said to have originated in Castille, each region of Spain has adopted and adapted this soup, while allowing it to remain true to its humble origins. So what makes a sopa de ajo more Basque than Castillian? The Basques have a special bread, devoted to soaking in soup and thickening traditional sauces, which they often use in their garlic soup.
More than one unsuspecting tourist has bought a loaf of zopako ogia, Basque bread that literally translates of 'bread of the soup'. However, one bite of this crunchy, overly-toasted bread, pictured above in Galparsoro bakery, and he realizes that something is not quite right. It has almost no crumb, and it is made solely for cooking with, the sopa de ajo being one of its most common uses.
Here you have my recipe for sopa de ajo, the humblest and heartiest of soups. It's a result of combing several old (and new) Basque cookbooks and a round of testing. Sorry, purists, for the touch of vinegar. It's the cook in me.
sopa de ajo
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 10 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 rounded Tbsp Spanish paprika
- 4 oz bread, sliced (113g, about five slices)
- 8 c water
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Warm the olive oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic begins to brown, about one minute. Stir in paprika. Add bread slices to pan, allowing bread to toast slightly and absorb the oil, rotating if necessary.
FInally, add the water, a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-20 minutes. Add sherry vinegar and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. When ready to serve, reheat the soup and beat eggs in a separate bowl. Pour into soup while stirring. If any large pieces of bread remain, cut with kitchen scissors or dismantle with a spoon. Serve.
Links of interest:
Dan Lepard's Zopako Recipe
pimientos de gernika.... EVERYWHERE.
Today's pintxo goes unattached to any certain bar. Why? Because these local peppers, about 3 inches long, fat, and fried in olive oil until tender, are available almost everywhere. Order a ración, or a media if you're not sure you'll love them. But what's not to love? Huge flakes of salt are the only garnish necessary to enjoy this seasonal treasure.
astelena:::solomillo a lo pobre (poor man's steak)
Plaza Constitución, 1::Donostia-San Sebastián.
This is a case of me asking myself, now why did it take so long to post this pintxo? Nearly every time we go heavy pintxo hopping, Chip orders this one. It's a perfect combo: meat, fries, egg, caramelized onions and a touch of red pepper sauce.
Alegría is Spanish for happiness.
And what other feeling, really, could accompany the newest Mexican restaurant to step foot in San Sebastián? Confusingly, it takes the exact same spot as the former worst Mexican restaurant in Donosti, El Sitio de Magueyal, or something, whose closing is proof that there is a taco-eating God.
Alegría Takeria is quite different from its predecessor: fresh-from-the-freezer appetizers give way to housemade guacamole. Sauces shine instead of coming from the bottle.
First we tried the ceviche. This, the only ceviche on the menu, features chunks of marinated bonito, red onions, diced peppers and of course, leche de tigre. Our thoughts? A must order...spectacularly balanced and perfectly seasoned.
There was a long list of taco options....including one with solomillo and foie. We steered for the more mainstream option of pollo txipotle.
I liked the presentation, and the taco was passable, served in a warm, soft corn tortilla. But the star of the table for me were the sauces. Tomatillo, picante and muy picante, as well as the pico de gallo style that came with one of our dishes...they make the entire visit worth it!
We finished with the Alegría burrito, tasty and well-priced. In fact, all the dishes are
As far as the Mexican landscape in Donosti goes, this is the best that I have tried. I still have to make my way to the mysterious Antiguo spot...but until then I'll be quite content with margaritas, ceviche, and some guacamole.
If you're looking for the restaurant, here they are on Facebook. Make sure to reserve!