Cold Almond and Garlic Soup

Also known as white gazpacho, ajo blanco is a perfect cold summer soup: easy to make, healthful, and distinctive. The Arabs who ruled Andalusia for almost 800 years introduced almonds to the Iberian Peninsula, and this dish probably originated with their reign. Though highly popular in Andalusia, it is little known in the rest of Spain and virtually unknown in the United States. I served it garnished with grapes, but thin apple slices are also common.

Metric version of recipe

Yields 6 portions

Ingredient Amount
Bread, day old country style or fresh bread, loosely packed, torn into 1-inch pieces 2 cups
Water, divided use 6 ¾ cups, or as needed
Garlic, coarsely chopped 1 Tbsp.
Almonds, blanched 2 cups
Salt, divided use 2 ½ tsp.
Sherry vinegar ½ cup
Olive oil, extra virgin ½ cup
Grapes, green, medium, halved and seeded, for garnish 16 ea.
Almonds, toasted, sliced 2/3 cup

Method

  1. Soak the day-old bread in 1 1/3 cups of water in a medium bowl for 10 minutes. If using fresh bread, there is no need to soak it.
  2. Process the garlic and almonds in a food processor fitted with the steel blade for 1 minute, or until finely ground. Stop halfway through the process to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the soaked bread and any soaking water (or the fresh bread), 2 teaspoons of salt, vinegar, and oil, and blend for 2 minutes longer, or until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a medium nonreactive bowl and stir in the remaining 3 1/3 cups of water (use 4 1/3 cups if using fresh bread). Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until well chilled.
  4. Stir the soup well, reaching to the bottom of the bowl, just before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning with ½ teaspoon of salt or more if desired. Ladle 1 cup of soup into each chilled soup bowl, garnish with the grapes and toasted, sliced almonds, and serve.

Additional tips

Recipe credit: Teresa Barrenchea, as presented at the Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival. Published with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Presented at Seminar VII A on Friday, Nov. 3, 2006.

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