Preparation / Directions:
POUND THE GARLIC in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt. Pound garlic until is has broken down to a paste, then gradually work in the basil, parsley, thyme, paprika and tomato paste. Warm the oil in a soup pot, add the garlic-herb paste and mix together. As soon as the oil is hot, add the bay leaves and the onion. Sprinkle the saffron directly over the onion, stir everything together and cook for 10 minutes or until the onion has softened. Add the pepper, tomatoes, their juice and the water to the pot. Bring to a boil then immediately lower the heat and cook for 25 minutes at a simmer. While the soup is cooking, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil; add a dash to salt and the rice. Boil until the rice is tender, about 12-to-15 minutes, then drain. Stir the rice into the finished soup, season with pepper. Serve the soup garnished with the fresh herbs and cheese.