Serves 4 to 6; makes about 4 cups
In Baena, the summer soup called salmorejo is king! It's a smooth, thick, almost foamy cold tomato soup, a variation on gazpacho with a small amount of water and far fewer vegetables, heightened by the taste of a quality extra virgin olive oil and a shock of fine sherry wine vinegar. Salmorejo has become so popular you now find it served throughout Spain. The following recipe is from the American chef Richard Stephens, chef-owner of the restaurant La Gamella in Madrid. He follows the cardinal rule of the dish: the tomatoes must not only be ripe, they must also be aromatic; and the soup must be left overnight to rest so the flavor will properly develop.
This rich, salmon-pink soup is garnished with ribbons of serrano ham and cubed whites of hard-cooked eggs, creating a stunningly beautiful visual contrast.
2 pounds red ripe, meaty, and juicy tomatoes
3 cups cubed stale crustless bread
1 large garlic clove
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup cubed green or red bell pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons aged sherry wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup thinly slivered cured ham, preferably Spanish serrano ham
2 hard-cooked egg whites, finely diced
1. One at a time, pierce the stem end of a tomato with a long fork and hold over a high flame to char all over until the skin blisters, or sear in a dry cast-iron skillet. Cool, then peel. Cut a slice off the top of each tomato, scoop out the watery seeds, and strain over a bowl to collect the juices. Discard the seeds. Cut up the tomatoes.
2. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes with the bread and let stand for at least 20 minutes.
3. Crush the garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse salt. Add to the tomatoes and bread along with the sugar and bell pepper. purée the mixture in batches in a blender until smooth. If necessary, add a little water. The soup must be very thick and smooth. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a steady stream to form a very thick soup, the consistency of yogurt. Add the vinegar. Whirl the soup on the highest setting until it becomes foamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture back into the bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
4. To serve, thin with ice-cold water to a thick creamy soup. Correct the seasoning. Ladle into small soup bowls and garnish with the ham and egg whites. Serve cold.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
Recipes for the Passionate Cook
by Paula Wolfert
John Wiley & Sons
368 pages, US $34.95, Cloth
Recipe reprinted by permission
This page created January 2004
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