Thursday, July 29, 2010

Surprising Soups

When I wrote THE BEST SOUPS IN THE WORLD the hardest part was cutting down the nearly 2,000 soups I wanted to include to the 250 that actually made it into the book. So, when I'm asked what's my favorite soup it's all 250. But I keep thinking of more soups I wish I had included. On the other hand some surprising soups have found their way into the book such as Alexander Dumas' Shrimp and Tomato Soup. You'll find it in THE BEST SOUPS IN THE WORLD.
 [Photo: Clifford A. Wright]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cold Soup from the Balkans

This soup and hundreds more can be found in my book THE BEST SOUPS IN THE WORLD. This cold summertime soup is a favorite in Bulgaria and Macedonia. It's called tarator. In fact, a thicker version is used as a meze dip in Greece and Turkey and called tzatziki and cacık respectively. In Arab countries of the Middle East, though, taratur is a sauce made with tahini and lemon juice. The blend of yogurt, walnuts, cucumber, and garlic seems so natural and the dish is made all the more appealing by stirring in a good quality olive oil. I once made tarator on a hot July 4th followed by some yogurt-and-mint-marinated grilled lamb and it was as perfect a meal as could be. For a slightly lighter taste you can use vegetable or sunflower seed oil.
1 pound (2 cups) plain whole yogurt
3 cucumbers, peeled and finely grated
8 large garlic cloves, pounded in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt until mushy
2 1/2 ounces (about 3/4 cup) shelled walnuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Water if necessary
1 bunch dill, stems removed, chopped
In a bowl, beat the yogurt until smooth. Add the cucumbers, garlic mixture, and walnuts and mix well. Add the oil and beat until well blended. If your yogurt was quite thick, add some water to thin it and make it soupy. Let rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving. Stir the dill in at the last moment and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

[photo credit: Borovets Vacations, 2005]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chilled Summer Soups from Andalusia

The famous gazpacho of Andalusia is one of our favorites soups for summer, but there are other wonderful chilled Andalusian soups such as Ajo Blanco. This recipe comes from my book The Best Soups in the World.

Ajo Blanco
This cold summer soup comes from Málaga in the Spanish region of Andalusia and is a kind of white gazpacho with a medieval history. It is thought to have its roots during the era of Islamic Spain between the eighth and fifteenth century. This soup is an almond-flavored soup usually served with Muscat grapes. A proper ajo blanco is a perfect emulsion of ground almond, olive oil, bread, and garlic. Its whiteness comes from the almonds. Peel the grapes by dropping them in boiling water for about a minute and a half; it’s slightly tedious to peel them, but it’s for the better.
5 ounces Italian or French bread, crusts removed
1 1/2 cups blanched whole almonds (about 1/4 pound)
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
4 cups cold water
1 pound seedless green grapes, peeled (see headnote)
1. Soak the bread in some water for a minute then squeeze dry.
2. In a food processor, crush the almonds with the bread, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt until pasty. Pour the olive oil through the feed tube as the machine is running in a slow stream. Blend in the vinegar and 3/4 cup of the water through the feed tube and run continuously for 1 minute. Transfer to a blender and process even finer at high speed for 2 minutes.
3. Transfer the almond mixture to a bowl and whisk in the remaining cold water. Refrigerate for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator and add more salt or vinegar if needed. Serve very cold with the grapes sprinkled in the bowls.
Makes 4 servings