Hey, underemployed creative types! Having a tough time making the budget stretch until payday? Waiting on a check from a flaky freelance client? Finding yourself digging through the couch cushions for grocery money? Then this is the soup for you!
I was feeling a bit peaked last night–I've had a headache for about two weeks now and it's stubbornly resisting my efforts to get rid of it–so I was not in the mood for some big ol' belly-filling soupy endeavor. Somewhat to my surprise, this combination of super-cheap ingredients and lots of broth turned out to be more filling than I've expected. (It's a variation on an Italian zuppa di pan cotto, the ultimate in poor people food.) My headache's loss… your gain.
Serve it with a salad if you're feeling flush, or all by its lonesome if you gotta. Really not that much of a hardship. (Not really much of a hardship at all. It's pretty darn tasty.)
Serves four to six, depending. You could also double or even triple this recipe and have enough soup to feed yourself for days.
Stale crusty bread (Italian-style recommended; a baguette would be fine too)
1 Tbsp olive oil (or butter, or other vegetable oil… olive oil will taste the best)
4 to 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or one jalapeno, seeded and minced
4 to 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth–make your own by simmering random vegetable trimmings and/or chicken bones in water for half an hour or so, or splurge on a jar of Better Than Bouillon and you'll have broth for weeks
3 bay leaves–you can buy these in bulk at any decent grocery. In the Portland area, both WinCo and New Seasons have them.
Salt and pepper, if necessary (this will totally depend on the broth you use)
1 cup frozen peas
1 egg for each serving
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Break or cut the bread into roughly 1" cubes–if your bread's not technically stale yet, bake it
in a 350-degree oven for ten minutes or so to dry it out. You'll want
about the equivalent of 1 thick slice (or 2 baguette slices) per
serving. If you've got extra bread left over, put it in a bag and save it for more soup later.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes or jalapeno. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.
Add broth; bring to a boil; cover pot and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes (longer wouldn't hurt). Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Now comes the moment of truth. Are you going to serve lots of people all at once or portion the soup out for yourself (and maybe one or two others) for several days?
If (a): Uncover the pot and add the peas; bring back just to a boil. Beat the eggs in a small bowl with a fork. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of hot soup to eggs; beat together; pour back into simmering soup, stirring constantly.
If (b): Remove soup from heat; cool slightly; put into an appropriate container and refrigerate. For each serving, heat up 1.5 to 2 cups broth in a saucepan. Add a palmful of frozen peas as it comes to a boil. Beat an egg in a small bowl with a fork. Add 1/2 cup of hot soup; beat with fork; pour back into simmering soup, stirring constantly.
To serve: Pour yourself a beer. Set aside. Put several cubes of bread in each bowl. Pour soup overtop; garnish with Parmesan cheese, if you've got some. If not, console yourself with beer. Either way: soup and beer, what could be better?