This recipe is from Susana Trilling, who owns the Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca, Mexico. It uses an herb called hoja santa that has a large, fragrant leaf. Look for it in Latin markets but if unavailable, watercress is the best substitute. Serve this soup with a dark beer like Negra Modelo and cornbread. Read Dave DeWitt's entire spicy spring soup article here.
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large hoja santa leaf, cut into strips or 1 bunch chopped fresh watercress
6 cups Vibrant Vegetable Stock (see recipe here) or substitute your favorite stock
2 de árbol chiles, left whole, or substitute 2 large piquíns or santaka chiles
Salt and white pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
1 bunch celery leaves, coarsely chopped
20 toasted bread cubes or croutons
20 cubes Oaxaqueño or other melting cheese such as queso blanco or Monterey Jack
Garnish: grated Parmesan cheese
Sauté the garlic in the olive oil in a soup pot until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the hoja santa or watercress and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the stock, chile (if using), salt, pepper, and bay leaves and simmer for a half an hour. Remove the bay leaves and chile. Add the celery leaves just before serving.
Place 5 cubes of bread and five of cheese in 4 individual soup bowls and ladle in the soup. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.