Cut the garlic cloves in half lengthwise and, if necessary, remove the green germ growing through the center. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over low heat. Stir in the garlic cloves and cook, stirring often, until the outside of the garlic is translucent and cloves are soft, about 20 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown. Pour in water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes. The garlic will be very tender. To eat the broth on its own, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add vegetables as desired. If using as a soup stock in other recipes, omit the salt and pepper.
Adapted from "Soup: A Way of Life" by Barbara Kafka, Artisan, 1998