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Roasted garlic soup marries savory cloves with creamy Cheddar

Thursday, May 11, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer


This will take your breath away: We would rather have a dozen cloves of garlic than a dozen roses. We admit it, we love the smell and taste of garlic. To Kitchen Mailbox, the aroma of garlic isn't offensive -- it teases us with an image of the delicious meal yet to come.

Today's recipe is Roasted Garlic Leek Soup. It's a cream soup with a chicken base and lots of garlic (four heads) and leeks. Garlic and leeks are from the lily family; they're cousins of onions and shallots. We loved everything about this soup -- the taste, the creamy consistency, and it wasn't one of those soups that take all day to make. Enjoy this soup with a salad and hot crusty bread.

Some facts we learned about garlic:

Garlic also is known as "the stinking rose."

Garlic is odor free until you free the cloves from its tissue-like membrane. Then the more you chop, slice or crush, the more you release garlic's famous fragrance.

Chinese scholars wrote about the medicinal benefits of garlic as early as 3000 B.C. And ancient Egyptians would trade a male slave for 15 pounds of garlic.

Crusading knights returning from the Middle East brought garlic home to Europe. It was well received as a food and a medicinal aid.

In ancient times, it seems garlic was a cure-all. It was believed to cure scorpion bites, typhoid, dog bites, constipation and dandruff. Garlic also was used as an anticoagulant, antiseptic, aphrodisiac and hair restorer.

And finally, an old wives' tale: Ancient Palestinians would place garlic in the buttonhole of the bridegroom to ensure a successful wedding night.

Source: "The Great Food Almanac" by Irene Chalmers

Louise Esposito of Irmo, S.C., requested a recipe for roasted garlic, leek and potato and white Cheddar cheese. Kathy Zechmeister of Library sent us her recipe for Roasted Garlic Soup -- minus the potatoes and cheese. We added both to the recipe, since that was part of the request. But in our opinion this soup can hold its own without the extra ingredients.

Here's how we did it: We boiled until soft -- but not mushy -- 3 cubed medium-size potatoes, drained them and set them aside. Then we followed the recipe directions through the pureeing process. We added the boiled potatoes along with the whipping cream. Then we cooked the soup until thickened, stirring occasionally, adding 1/2 cup white Cheddar cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and follow the last seasoning steps of the recipe.

Roasted Garlic Leek Soup

4 garlic heads, unpeeled (about 1/2 pound total)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
4 leeks, chopped (white part only)
1 onion, diced
6 tablespoons flour

4 cups chicken broth, heated
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 cup whipping cream
Lemon juice
Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut off top of each garlic head (about 1/4 inch). Place garlic heads in small, shallow baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over garlic -- bake until golden, about 1 hour.

While garlic is baking, chop leeks and dice onions; set aside. Heat the chicken broth.

Cool garlic slightly. Press individual garlic cloves between thumb and finger to release garlic (garlic should pop out easily). Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, leeks and onion -- saute until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add flour and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a wire whisk, stir chicken broth into the flour mixture. Add sherry. Simmer 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Puree soup in batches in blender or food processor. Return soup to saucepan. Add cream (and potatoes) and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes (add cheese). Add lemon juice to taste (we used about 1 tablespoon). Season with salt and white pepper. Garnish with chives. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Note: This recipe may be prepared 1 day ahead by following directions through the pureeing process. Cool slightly -- cover and refrigerate. The next day follow directions beginning with the addition of the whipping cream. The potatoes should be made the day the soup is to be served.


Catching up on our letters and other bits of information:

Evelyn Pukauskas of Whitehall alerted us to the fact that on boxes of Bisquick is the statement: "Store in refrigerator after opening." Pukauskas had never seen this before -- neither had we.

We called General Mills product consumer services department (800-328-6787) and spoke with a representative who explained that it's not necessary to keep this product in the refrigerator. The label was printed on the package primarily for people who do not have adequate storage space. In other words, this product should be stored in a cool, dry cupboard. But if do you decide to store it in the fridge, General Mills tells us we should make sure the product is stored in a moisture-proof package.

Gretchen Dreher of Butler bought "The Cake Mix Dr. Cookbook." One of the recipes, Coconut Icebox Cake, called for frozen coconut. Dreher wanted to know where she could get this product. We're happy to say that Reyna's in the Strip sells it. While we're on the subject: Does anyone know what an ice box cake is? If you do, let us know.

Good news for fans of the cookies from the former McIntyre's Bakery: Prantl's Bakery (5525 Walnut St., Shadyside) has the original recipe for McIntyre's filled cookies. Here's a letter from Jane Prantl: "I'm a regular reader of your column and was quite surprised about the interest in McIntyre's Bakery filled cookies. These cookies are available at Prantl's Bakery. We are using McIntyre's original recipe and baking them with the same tender, loving care."

Barbara Davis White of Edgewood writes: "I am writing to you to see if you could give me any suggestions to purchase Splenda. It is a sugar substitute. Splenda can be used instead of sugar in recipes. I can't find it in any of the local stores. It has been [mentioned] in several diabetic newsletters. I would certainly appreciate any help you can give me."


Jane Shomo of Bethel Park lost her recipe for chocolate ginger snaps. And since her grandchildren really love these cookies, let's try extra hard to get Shomo a another recipe.

P. Chadwick of Churchill has two requests: "Now that Charlie Ung's Tea Garden is closed, do you think they might give out their recipe for Shrimp Tung Har (Sweet and Sour Shrimp)? I tried this dish from other restaurants, but they don't compare to Ung's. And I would like a recipe for Zippalas. This is a dough that is cut or torn into small pieces and stuffed with anchovies and deep fried. Italian families make them during the Christmas holidays."

Rose Rosenberg of Squirrel Hill would like a recipe for coleslaw made with buttermilk. Sounds good to us -- anyone have a recipe?

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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