Salmorejo – the gazpacho from Andalucia
Traveling is an education. It’s more than visiting historical sites and driving through beautiful new landscapes. It challenges our assumptions and provides context for our education. When we engage with the world around us we broaden our horizon, become culturally competent. If we are receptive, we may shed preconceived ideas about cultures and people and open our minds to other perspectives. Visiting foreign lands used to be an integral part of a person’s education and development and study of a foreign language was de rigueur in cultured homes.
“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled”.
I have a deep love of travel and feel at home in the world. At the Tel Aviv airport there are a couple of signs that speak to me: “Those whose journey never ends, belong” and “If you never lose your need to wander, you belong”.
We recently traveled on an extended trip to Spain. What an eye opener, I fell in love with the country, the people, the language, the music and of course the food. We saw locals eat their pan con tomate with their morning coffee, drinking a glass (or more) of vermut before lunch and enjoying their tapas in the evening before settling for a late night dinner at a restaurant. We saw the streets empty for an afternoon siesta and later fill with beautifully dressed families on an early evening stroll. You have to be there to experience it. Just reading about it is not the same thing.
We tasted many regional foods in Spain. Salsa Romesco and calcote in Catalonia, Sunday Paella in Valencia, churros and thick hot chocolate in Sevilla. One of the foods we learned about in Andalucia and the subject of this post was Salmorejo. Salmorejo is the local (Cordoba) version of cold gazpacho made with tomatoes, garlic, onion, oil and bread, all pureed to smooth perfection and served topped with hard boiled egg, bread crumbs and of course their famous ham (which I skipped). Salmorejo is served in a bowl (gazpacho in a glass) at lunch, dinner or as tapas with a glass of sherry. Having salmorejo in Andalucia, with local tomatoes, local olive oil and local sherry vinegar from Jerez is an experience I will not soon forget. I have had it at casual eateries and at high end restaurants and I hear that even the famed Ferran Adria included salmorejo in his unique molecular gastronomy cuisine. I asked some locals about how they made their soup and the answer was invariably “like my mother made it”. No recipes attached.
I am offering my way of making this soup using the Vitamix blender that whips things up to a very smooth consistency. I use boiling water to blend the tomatoes and onions as I find that it helps soften them in the process. The amount of bread you add is flexible, some use equal amount of bread and tomatoes, I use less bread and always from a day old baguette. If you have sherry vinegar use it in this recipe, otherwise any good quality red wine vinegar would do. Chill the soup before serving.
This recipe yield enough to fill two mason jars, about 8 cups altogether.
2 lb ripe summer tomatoes, you can use a variety of tomatoes.
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
6 slices of day old baguette, cut in cubes
Boiling water to cover the bread by a couple of inches
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup fruity olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley or small basil leaves
If you’d like you can roast a few of the tomatoes at 350℉ for 30 minutes for added flavour. Cut the tomatoes in half, sprinkle with a little salt and a pinch of sugar, place on a foil lined baking sheet and roast until partially dehydrated. Add these to the rest of the tomatoes to proceed with the recipe.
Cut the fresh tomatoes into quarters and remove the white part on the stem end.
Cut the bread into cubes and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 10 minutes.
Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, vinegar and salt in a blender, add the boiling water and blend until smooth.
Drain the bread cubes squeezing out excess water and add the bread to the blender.
Add the oil to the blender and and blend until smooth.
The soup is quite thick traditionally. The hot water thin it out a little which is how I prefer it.
Add some pepper and taste to adjust for salt and vinegar.
Pour into mason jars and refrigerate until cold.
Heat up oil in a skillet, add bread crumbs and salt and cook until crisp and golden.
Pour the soup into serving bowls, top with the bread crumbs, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve chilled.
Note: for traditional presentation top with chopped hard boiled egg.