Cooking challenge, an update

Well folks, I threw down the gauntlet a couple weeks ago. I asked you all to try something new, be daring in the kitchen, and meet the following challenge:
1) Click the Surprise Me! button on Smitten Kitchen three times. Choose one of the three recipes and either make it or use it to inspire your own new dish.
2) Choose the third book from the left on your cookbook shelf and make the recipe on page 58 of that book (or the recipe nearest to page 58).

Did you do it? I heard a lot from people who wanted to participate, who had even chosen a recipe. My sister made the Smitten Kitchen olive and artichoke crostini and posted about it. I know time is tight and the last thing you need is one more thing on your to-do list, but she's go two kids, a bungalow, and she lives in Edmonton people! There's an ass load of snow to shovel there. Still, there's nothing like experimenting in the kitchen. At least for me it's a very relaxing and invigorating space, and the results are not always edible but unerringly interesting because I learn something about technique or about a new ingredient, and I carry that forward into future cooking. I hope you did find time, or will in the next few days, to join in on this challenge. When you've found the time, make a few more minutes to let me/us know how it went. What was the original recipe and if you deviated from it, how? Results? Good times? Do over? Recommendations?

Here's my contribution to the challenge. I don't really remember the other two options, but I clearly remember my eyebrows hitting the ceiling when my Surprise me! landed on 44 clove garlic soup. Whoa. Like, really whoa. That's a lotta garlic. And I like garlic! In our house, the alium family is king! That's anything in the onion family, and garlic is a family member who gets invited to almost every meal around here. He might be stinky and obstinate, but he really comes into his own around smoky red wines and juicy tomatoes - both of which are rampant in our kitchen. So hells YES I'm going to make 44 clove garlic soup!

The obligatory ingredients shot.
In preparation for this endeavour, I bought a bag full of garlic. Go ahead, go out there and try this. Watch how NO ONE blinks when you buy a BAG FULL of garlic. I suppose their processing doesn't extend to calculate what your apartment in an old house with shared forced air heating will smell like for days after you bring home that BAG FULL OF GARLIC and roast the hell out of lots of it. They probably aren't expecting you to use the entire BAG FULL OF GARLIC in one pot, let alone one dish. They probably haven't got a clue what you'll smell like the day after you make the entire bag of garlic into one, single, four-bowl soup. Until they sit next to you on the bus. Or the ferry. Or the lunch table at work.

What can I say except that this soup is really, really tasty, and needs to be eaten on a Friday morning at daybreak when you have a long weekend so that, with any luck, 80% of the garlic potency will be worn off by the time you go to work on Tuesday after a late morning (I did say long weekend!). Or, should you be hiring a cat sitter for the weekend, this soup should not be made. I made the soup this afternoon and my poor cat sitter almost passed out from the fumes when she came to pick up the keys at 5pm. I promised her the odour would be gone for the weekend but all windows open, candles lighted, hood fan whirring at top speed, and me applying toothpaste liberally to all solid surfaces doesn't seem to be helping. Someone please come check on my cat sitter (and my cats!) on Saturday morning in case a contagious case of garlic intoxication by inhalation has occurred!

On to the soup. You will be surprised to learn that it is a subtle and creamy flavour in the SOUP THAT SHALL DETONATE NEIGHBOURHOODS. Roast 28, yes 28 - I counted - cloves of garlic with olive oil until gorgeously silky soft, then help them shed their skins. Cook down lots of onions in butter. Add 16 more raw cloves of garlic to the pot, and a peeled, chopped potato for extra soup body. Saute a bit. Add the roasted garlic silkyness and 3-4 cups water or broth, and a large pinch of dried thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes. Attempt to tame this beast into submission with an immersion blender, only to realize that while the soup tastes and looks like an elegant starter dish only served at the snottiest of French restaurants, your apartment is uninhabitable by anyone but you; you can only tolerate this environment because you became slowly acclimated while the garlic was roasting. Add whipping cream to the soup (the second dairy sin of this recipe, unneeded but sure, what the hell).

Using your essential microplane, finely grate parmesan over the soup.

Drink the soup.

Listen, this thing is no beauty. I won't even apologise for my pathetic camera skills. Enough to say that this beige dish of Jane Eyre isn't winning any beauty contests, but she's a major winner in the personality category. We devoured...no, actually, we really savoured this with some toasted open-faced sandwiches a la Stieg Larsson. It's a subtle flavour. Not so subtle that you would miss it being garlicky to the max, but subtle as in mild. Creamy. Delicious. Puddles of unctuous beige matter. And you know what, on an otherwise uneventful Thursday night, who could ask for anything more?

We're going away for the weekend in the morning (Huzzah!) and I'm already looking forward to a bowl of this golden blanket when we return Sunday night. I completely agree with Ruth Reichl, quoted by Deb Perelman in the original post, that "If everyone ate more garlic, the world would be a happier place." Except for garlic plants, my friends. Think of the garlic plants. 

Then make this soup. 

And please, send me your own forays into this cooking challenge. If you want to write a guest post, I'm all for it! If you want to leave a comment with your adventures, please do so. C'mon, man. Just participate. 


  1. I just hit 'surprise me' three times and I got all sweet things! I'm okay with that. Are you?

  2. And then I did it again in a new browser and got 3 savoury. Is that cheating? Both browsers are still open, you tell me the rules.

  3. I can't stop laughing. Your poor cat sitter.

  4. It's been done. I got these scones:
    but had to make a few changes... didn't have whole wheat flour, so I used 3/4 white and 1/4 oat bran, also blackberries were on sale so those did in a pinch. I've been eating them all week with lemon curd and am oh so happy to have done so!

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