Chop until you drop

July 11th, 2009

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Welcome to gazpacho season:  any able hands are encouraged to apply for chopping detail. These weeks of light, late al fresco suppers beg for a cold soup every night.  So, to oblige, the vagabond has riffled through a deep file of summer soups, beginning with gazpacho – white gazpacho; red will follow in August.  The Spaniards have so many types of crunchy-cold soups, each region following the same basic theme.  From chop-and-toss-everything together in Extramadura to the Moorish (and very more-ish!) finesse of Malaga’s almond-garlic blend, Spanish soups offer delicious alternatives. Right now, early July, is the perfect time to incorporate juicy cloves of new garlic, blanched almonds and tart-sweet white grapes into chilled bowls of Ajo Blanco Malagueño. And let the chopping volunteers relax this time around.

Begin as you would make a Greek Tzatziki salad or pesto, using a mortar and pestle to mash together 2 peeled & minced garlic cloves/18 to 20 g. with 1  to 2 tsp. fine seasalt. While you are doing this, let 3 slices of trimmed day old bread/70 g. soak (just to cover) in cold water.  Use white country bread rather than whole wheat – otherwise the soup will not be white (I tried it once and the result was a soup resembling whole wheat pancake batter). Chop up 1+ 1/8 c/100g. blanched almonds (new crop if possible)  and blend/grind them in with the garlic until well mixed. Put this into a blender, squeeze/drain the bread and add by chunks to the mix (retain the liquid), whizz and gradually pour in 3 T. sherry vinegar, then 4 T. best (Spanish) olive oil and blend all, adding the liquid from the soaked bread and 3 + 1/2 c. ice water. Taste for seasoning, add more salt, freshly ground white pepper +a little more vinegar or oil as you wish. Strain all this through a sieve, pressing for maximum liquid, into a bowl; chill overnight. Wash a bunch of green grapes, seed and peel enough for 6 to 8 each serving. Chill. Make croutons: in a cast iron skillet, stir together 2 T. olive oil + 1 clove garlic, crushed – then add 2 cups bread cubes and stir/toast them until browned and edges are crisp. Dust with smoky Spanish paprika and cool. Chill straight-up vodka glasses to serve 8 as an amuse-gueule, or in low-ball glasses for 6 as a soup starter.  Garnish with the grapes, and serve more croutons and grapes in bowls on the table.

The vagabond welcomes comments:  which format for recipes is easiest to use – in-text or with a list of ingredients?  This soup was inspired by Penelope Casas’ recipes in The Foods & Wines of Spain, published by Knopf, NY in 1982. Next month’s soup:  Bulgarian cuke soup. Next week’s focus: get ready for Marmande’s Tomato Fiesta.

2 Comments »

  1. ken albala says

    Oh Does this sound delish. I’ll mever forget the first time I had such a white gazpacho in Cordoba I think, or Seville. With apples and raisins. Heavy on the garlic, smooth white and so refreshing. Actually I’ve got a recipe for it in the forthcming cookbook. How do you like them apples?

    July 15th, 2009 | #

  2. marolyn says

    Ken – you pique my curiosity again! Let me know when the book is out and I’ll try the (garlicky?) version of your White Gaspacho. Here in the southwest we’re not shy about garlic. But with apples? hmmm. M.

    July 26th, 2009 | #

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