For Jeff Fortescue, the tradition of making fruitcakes for friends and family at holiday time can be traced back to the 1970s when his grandmother sent fruitcakes from a Texas bakery to his family for the holidays.
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Jeff Fortescue’s Garlic Soup
Serves 3 or 4
5 or 6 (or 8 or 10) cloves of garlic
1 sprig of sage leaves (or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme, or a few fennel seeds, or a bay leaf)
4 cups of water
Three or four slices of dried, crusty bread
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil, plus extra for the bread
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Place the garlic cloves, water, sage leaves (or other seasoning) and one tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and bring to a pretty good simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat and cover; the liquid should still be simmering but not at a full boil.
Meanwhile place the slices of dry bread into soup bowls and drizzle each slice with a bit of good olive oil. Unless the garlic cloves are huge, they should be cooked through and quite soft after 15 to 20 minutes.
Place a strainer over a bowl or another pot and pour the liquid through. Remove the sage (or other seasoning) and using a wooden spoon or a spatula, press the garlic through the mesh of the strainer into the water. (You’ll probably have to scrape it off the bottom of the mesh and into the pot once or twice too.)
Taste it at this point and it may seem a bit insipid. Add one quarter teaspoon of the salt and taste it again. If it still seems a little flat, add the rest of the salt and taste. You’ll see how the salt helps the dish come alive. If you’ve been working quickly, the garlic soup will still be hot and you can pour it over the bread in the bowls and serve. If not, just reheat, stir then pour.
There are many variations on this soup to make it more substantial. Search for garlic soup on line and you’ll find soups that use egg yolks (very good), cheese, different flavorings, more garlic, less garlic and so on. But do try it this way too, it’s fine way to start a light meal.
Meredith Moss spotlights at-home cooks and professional chefs throughout Southwest Ohio and invites them to share favorite recipes, cooking tips and their family traditions. If you know of someone we should feature, please contact Meredith: MMoss@coxohio.com
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