One of the absolute best parts of living in foreign places is eating delicious local foods and taking those recipes with me wherever I go. I imagine being old and having a recipe book filled with interesting dishes from places around the globe. File under the Spanish section: Two incredible, easy, no cooking required, refreshing-yet-creamy Spanish summer soups (that actually contain no cream at all).
Don’t get me wrong: gazpacho – the famously refreshing blend of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs – is awesome. But to me, it’s more of a drink and less of a soup. Particularly because it’s sold in cartons in the grocery stores in Spain so it’s a cinch to pour some into a glass for a quick and hydrating snack. As part of a meal, I prefer gazpacho’s creamier, more filling, but still refreshing cousin salmorejo, which originates in southern Spain, although these days it’s all over the country. I ate this constantly in Madrid (like every time I went out to eat). It’s so simple: Basically just tomatoes, bread, olive oil and garlic. This soup really is all about fresh tomatoes, so make it when the markets are overflowing with big juicy toms.
Salmorejo (Serves 4-5)
-6 large tomatoes, peeled, cored, and seeded. (To peel, drop tomatoes in pot of boiling water for one minute, then transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Then, the skins just peel right off).
-4-5 slices of white bread, crusts removed. (For a fancier touch, use the inside of a baguette. I’d advise against using whole wheat bread. Sourdough would be delish).
-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 a clove to 1 whole clove garlic, peeled
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Splash of white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
-2 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped (for garnish)
- Add tomatoes (that have been peeled, seeded, cored) to blender and blend until liquified.
- Add bread to blender and let it soak in tomato liquid for five minutes.
- Add garlic, salt, and a splash of vinegar and then blend, slowly adding olive oil through opening in the top of blender. Keep blending until it begins to emulsify. The texture should be about halfway to the consistency of mayo. (But it’ll thicken more in the fridge). Taste. Keeping in mind the taste will develop a little more while you chill, but does it have enough zing? If not, add a little more vinegar and blend some more. Too bitter? Add a pinch of sugar and blend some more.
- Pour into a bowl and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
- To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped hard-boiled egg. (Chopped ham is a also a traditional garnish, but I keep mine vegetarian, much to the chagrin of Spaniards).
Sopa de Ajo Blanco
The first time I had this creamy, garlicky chilled soup was in Salamanca, Spain, and I had no idea what I was eating. When I asked, the waiter told me “garlic soup.” I said, yes, but what else? I was certain I was eating a cup of cream. But no, this soup is fairly healthy and vegan. Like salmorejo, the base is bread and olive oil. But instead of tomatoes, you use blanched almonds. Also, there’s a lot more garlic in this soup (they don’t call it garlic soup for nothing). The result is a pungent soup with an sweet almond flavor. Unfortunately, it’s the color of paste, so add some sliced red grapes, a spattering of toasted slivered almonds, and a drizzle of very good olive oil (Spanish, if you have it) to up the presentation.
Sopa de Ajo Blanco (serves 4 to 6)
-8 slices of white bread, crusts removed
-1.5 cups blanched almonds (blanching removes the skins. To blanch, toss the almonds into boiling water and then remove and rub the skins off. Or, just buy slivered almonds, which are already blanched)
-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-2 cups cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon white wine or sherry vinegar
- Put bread in a bowl of water to soak for a few minutes.
- Pulse almonds and garlic in blender or food processor until a fine meal
- Squeeze excess water out of bread and add the bread to blender, along with salt and vinegar. Blend, slowly adding water and then olive oil through whole in top. Keep blending until smooth, about one minute.
- Put a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and pour the soup through the sieve, pushing the soup through sieve with a rubber spatula or spoon. (This makes for a much smoother soup, but you could do without the sieve, especially if you used a super strong blender).
- Chill soup in fridge for at least four hours. To serve, ladle into small bowls (this is a fairly rich soup) and garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, thinly sliced grapes, and toasted slivered almonds (heat a tablespoon or so of slivered almonds in a pan on medium-low heat, moving pan often, for 2 minutes).
To Spanish soups,
Em in Jerusalem