As the San Diego summer wanes, it gets intensely hot as if trying to compensate for the gloomy June mornings that disappoint our tourists but keep the locals cool and unbaked.
This is cold soup weather—White Gazpacho weather. Distantly related to its more familiar tomato-based cousin, white gazpacho is a unique and unlikely soup. As far as I know, no other cuisine has a soup that resembles this one, and the flavor imagination doesn’t soar at the thought of bread, almonds, olive oil and water. In this case, the imagination is a pale imitation of reality. This soup soars.
Indigenous to Andalusia (Southwestern Spain) with its Moorish influences, creative cooks have hijacked it for their own with ingredients such as cucumber, sour cream, milk, leeks or shallots, vegetable broth and various herbs added to “update” it, all of which sever the connection to the Moorish tradition.
I prefer the traditional version as served in Málaga garnished with fresh white grapes, but I give the broth a boost by adding the grapes as a puree, and garnished with fig to keep the Moorish connection in evidence.
It will make you think of courtyards rimmed with horseshoe-shaped arches and interiors of intricately-carved surfaces.
Adapted from New Spanish Table by Anya Von Bremzen.
2-1/2 cups cubed bread, staled briefly in the oven, crusts removed)
1 cup whole blanched almonds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cool water (in addition to the water used above to soften bread)
1/2 cup white grape puree, strained to remove skins
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 cup assortment of baby lettuces
3 fresh figs, quartered
Olive oil for drizzling
1. Put bread in bowl, add water to cover and allow bread to soften.
2. Over medium low heat, lightly toast the almonds until they turn golden. (stir frequently and be careful not to burn them)
3. Add the toasted almonds to food processer along with the garlic and process until finely ground.
4. Squeeze the bread getting rid of excess water and add to the processor. Add grape puree, 1/2 cup water and salt and puree until smooth. [If you want a sweeter soup add more grape juice and reduce the water, but remember this isn’t a dessert]
5. With the processor running on its highest speed, slowly add olive oil until emulsified. (At this point you could strain the soup through a fine sieve for a lighter texture. But I think that misses the point of the soup. It should be thick and rustic)
6. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Adjust water to get the consistency of thick cream.
7. Taste for salt, pepper, and vinegar adding as necessary.
8. Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours.
9. When ready to serve pour into bowls and garnish with lettuce and figs. Drizzle with olive oil. (Many other garnishes will work–grapes, almonds, mint, croutons, fruit, ice cream, etc.)