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

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