Step 1Bring the water to a boil in a 3-or 4-quart saucepan or soup pot. Add the minced or pressed garlic, salt, bay leaf and thyme or sage. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes if using regular garlic, 30 minutes if using spring garlic. Taste and adjust salt. Add more garlic if desired.
Step 2Toast the bread. As soon as it's done, rub both sides with the cut clove of garlic and set aside.
Step 3Beat together the eggs and olive oil. Spoon a ladleful of the hot soup into the eggs and stir together. Then turn off the heat under the soup, and stir in the egg mixture. The eggs should cloud the soup but they shouldn't scramble if the soup isn't boiling. Stir in the pepper and parsley.
Step 4Place a garlic crouton in each bowl. Ladle in the soup, sprinkle Parmesan or Gruyere over the top, and serve.
Step 6Garlic Soup With Broccoli, Green Beans or Sugar Snap Peas and Peas: Add 1/2 pound broccoli florets, green beans or sugar snap peas, or 1 cup shelled favas or fresh or thawed frozen peas, to the soup at the end of step 1. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. They should remain bright. Meanwhile make the croutons. Proceed with step 3.
Step 7Garlic Soup With Potatoes: Add 1/2 pound waxy or moderately waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, fingerlings or white creamers, scrubbed and sliced about 1/4 inch thick, to the soup at the beginning of step 1. By the end of the 15 minutes they should be tender. If they are not, continue to simmer until they are tender and proceed with the recipe.
Step 8Garlic Soup With Pasta: Add pasta such as small shells or elbow macaroni, or large pasta such as fusilli to the soup at the end of step 1. Cook the pasta al dente, then check again for salt, and proceed with the recipe.
Step 9Note: You can add green vegetables to the potato or pasta version. Add them at the end of step 1 as directed.