The tonic of garlic, the NYT and ‘a bit more’

Today I had one of those headaches, probably weather-related. It started at the base of my left ear and circumnavigated the span of my frizzy-from-the-rain hair. I took two Tylenol. Then a third. Then an Ibuprofen. The frizzies might as well have been daggers.

Sleep, my husband ordered when I returned home about to fall to my knees. Then he told me about Joe Biden and his unintentionally broadcast, off-color, high-fiver of a remark to the president during the signing of the health care bill. I took my laptop to bed and rushed to the New York Times Web site for the up-to-the-minute scoop (forgetting that the Gray Lady would never, ever print what Biden actually said).

There it was in the right-hand column, one of the best-read stories of the day, and it had nothing to do with health care or bad language. But it was a great tonic for my raging headache. A recipe for garlic soup, exactly one bowl of garlic soup.

(By the way, not long ago a Times reporter talked to the Niemans about an award-winning project he’d written and casually dropped into his talk the importance of those “Most Popular” story links on the side of their home page — and not just to readers. One reporter is so worried about job security that every time she writes a story, she e-mails a link to all her relatives and friends, asking them to e-mail it to someone else.)

But who wants to worry about job security when you have a headache, so back to the soup. I tinkered, as is my wont. And while I can’t say it was the cause of my current pain-free state, it sure didn’t hurt. Were I smart and more enterprising, I’d have had a slice of toast with it, using Penny Wright’s knead-free bread recipe. Were I rich, I’d have ordered the coolest toaster on the planet to help — a lovely appliance I got to use when I stayed at Penny’s sister’s house in Southampton last week. It’s a brand called Breville that features such functions as a “lift up and look” button and “A bit more.” I love that: A bit more!

Garlic Soup

(inspired by Martha Rose Shulman’s version in today’s New York Times)

2 cups chicken broth (Shulman’s recipe calls for water)

2 garlic cloves (big ones), minced

Splash of olive oil

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Handful of pasta (I used rotini)

Two big handfuls of fresh spinach (or any other green or favorite vegetable), chopped

1 egg

Handful of shaved Parmesan cheese

In a small soup pot, pour chicken broth and throw in garlic and cook on medium for about 15 minutes. Then toss in pasta and seasoning. Cook till almost al dente.

Add spinach, stirring for one minute or so, then turn the burner off. Crack egg into a cup; to that add a ladle full of the hot soup and stir. (You’re trying to avoid the egg turning into scrambled bits in your soup.) Return to soup, stir and let sit for another minute or two, and enjoy the buttery color it becomes. Adjust with more salt to taste.

Serve topped with Parmesan or copious amounts of any good cheese. (Next time I cook this up, I’ll start off by sauteing some garlic and bread crumbs in olive oil and then add the broth etc. I might also use arugula instead of spinach, but I’ll only let it simmer 30 seconds or so.)

When it’s all gone and your headache history, ask somebody to make you a bit more.

Leave a comment


  1. bethmacy

     /  March 24, 2010

    Potato chips and tabasco sounds oh so very Mad!!! I remember you eating weird things like that in your long, rectangular office in features — when you were too busy to eat lunch!
    I hope you eat better now.
    Great talking to you Sunday and thanks again.
    It had been waaaay too long. xoxo Love

  2. That recipe has comfort written all over it. (Minus the spinach. When it’s cooked, I don’t get much comfort from spinach.) For headaches, I usually go for potato chips dipped in tabasco. Not nearly is subtle as garlic soup, but a lot quicker to make =)

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