November 6, 2019

Dear friends,

Yes, soup again. This one is a goodie. About halfway through a bowl of garlic soup at Don Quijote Spanish Restaurant near Belden Village Mall in Jackson Township, I told Tony, “When we get home, I’m going to make this.”

How have I not eaten this delicious soup before? I have visited Spain. I have eaten in numerous Spanish restaurants in the U.S. Over the years, at least a half-dozen Spanish cookbooks have crossed my desk.

I know how. In the 1980s, I once was a guest at an all-white-food dinner. I don’t think the the monochrome menu was an intentional theme, it just happened. It was as dreary as it sounds. The first course was garlic soup. It was chalk-white and studded with grapes. The texture was gritty from ground almonds. It wasn’t bad, but nothing I’d go out of my way to repeat. So I didn’t.

The reason I ordered the soup at Don Quijote was the picture on the menu, which showed a broth that was not white but deep gold with chunks of something bobbing in it. It turns out those chunks were bread. The burnished golden color was a mix of lightly browned slivered garlic, chicken broth and paprika — too little paprika to turn the soup red but enough to deepen the gold.

That handful of ingredients, simple but perfectly in sync, captured my heart. So did the restaurant, which has the kind of menu — if you ignore the Tex-Mex stuff — I haven’t seen since Madrid.

It’s obvious the tacos and such are a sop for folks who wander in off the street expecting margaritas and sombreros. The meat of the menu is the Spanish tapas, entrees and desserts, from paella (the best I’ve had in a restaurant) to the classic Spanish omelet, a garlicky sliced-potato cake that has nothing to do with eggs.

In addition to the soup, I had a by-the-book Spanish tapas of garlic-infused, sieved tomato with olive oil on crusty bread topped with paper-thin folds of serrano ham. Four of them filled a dinner plate. A couple of those and the soup were a meal.

The restaurant is a sister to one in Miami, Fla. We are lucky to have it here. It is a lovely upscale restaurant with moderate prices. I went even more upscale to recreate the soup. Jose Andres, one of the leading Spanish chefs (and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his charity work feeding disaster victims), includes a recipe for the iconic soup in his book with co-author Richard Wolffe, “Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.” His soup looks and tastes almost identical to the one I had at Don Quijote. Because the ingredients are few, they should be of high quality. I recommend using homemade chicken stock.

CASTILIAN GARLIC SOUP

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. white wine
1/2 tbsp. Spanish sweet paprika
3 oz. rustic white bread, crust removed, torn into small pieces
1 quart chicken stock
2 large eggs, beaten
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates, about 30 seconds. Then add the paprika and sauté for 1 minute.

Add the bread and pour in the chicken stock. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 minutes.

Add the eggs and stir with a spatula to fold them into the soup. The eggs will form long strands, almost like noodles. Simmer for 2 more minutes and add salt to taste. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve. Makes 4 servings.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Spicy skillet beans and ground turkey; banana pancakes; chicken stock; chicken soup; no-knead bread (twice); atsu age (breaded and pan-fried firm tofu) with soy sauce and sesame oil, grilled shishito peppers, pickled daikon radish and steamed rice; Spanish garlic soup; chicken salad; bagged Southwestern chopped salad with roast chicken; roast tomahawk beef rib steak with horseradish sauce and pan-seared brussels sprouts; chili.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
Scrambled eggs, grilled pork chop and grits at Cracker Barrel; blue cheeseburger and fries at Ray’s in Fairlawn; a Jane roll, edamame, salmon roe and a gyoza dumpling from Sushi Katsu in Akron; half of a hot pork sandwich and mashed potatoes, no gravy at the Amish Door in Wilmot.

THE MAILBAG

From Carol S.:
We went to Hyde Park Grill and ordered dry-aged steaks. They were so much better than the steaks we typically buy at the supermarket. Do you know of any butchers or high-end stores that carry dry-aged beef in our area?

Dear Carol:
Funny you should ask. I pseudo-aged a tomahawk rib steak in my refrigerator for five days last week. Although I’ve seen complicated instructions for home-aging meat, Tony and I just plunked the bare-naked steak on a rack on the bottom refrigerator shelf and left it like that. It tasted pretty wonderful. I don’t have the nerve to age meat longer without researching the correct technique (which I knew once but have forgotten), but you might try this no-work short-term aging.

If you want the real thing, you have options. Giant Eagle Marketplace stores in Green and Cuyahoga Falls sell dry-aged beef. You can check out various cuts at different stages of aging in a case in the meal department.

Or you can opt for my preference, dry-aged beef from Kirbie’s Meats & Catering in Stow. I called to make sure Kris Burns and his crew are still aging beef at their shop, and the answer is yes. You should call in advance if there’s a particular cut you would like. Calling is good idea anyway at this time of year, when the aged beef is in demand for holiday celebrations.

Call 330-688-4333 or, better yet, reserve a cut in person between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. any Saturday in November, when a large selection of house-made holiday foods will be offered at Kirbie’s annual tastings.

While Kirbie’s isn’t West Point Market, it’s as close as you’ll find in the Akron area. It is much more than a butcher shop. You’ll be surprised at how much luxe food the store stocks.