Chosen Bites: Cooling off period

Having trouble deciding what to eat while it's so hot outside? Chilled soup Ajo Blanco fits the bill perfectly.

Ajo Blanco (photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Ajo Blanco
(photo credit: Laura Frankel)
It's really hot and not a good toasty hot, but a wet, limp and yucky hot. Still, the stomach demands and no matter how much the brain says no, the stomach insists.
I want something that won’t heat up the kitchen and that's satisfying without being heavy. Somehow my husband doesn’t think a chocolate milkshake is dinner, so I turn to my favorite cold soup: Ajo Blanco, which means “white garlic.” The soup is the original gazpacho before tomatoes were brought to Spain from the New World. It is typically served as a tapa.
Leftover bread is pounded with almonds, grapes, olive oil and vinegar to form a creamy and rustic soup. You’ve gotta love a soup that uses leftover bread. Really a good cucinapovera (poor kitchen) recipe.
It's delicious and will quiet the pleading stomach while pleasing the brain.
I serve Ajo Blanco in small shooter glasses and garnish with fresh figs, olive oil and toasted almonds. This week I bought fresh currants at the farmer’s market and will add those as well.
Because there are so few ingredients in this simple dish, it is important that each one taste great. Choose the best olive oil you can, tastiest grapes, freshest figs and cucumbers and the flavors of the soup will be incredible.
2-1/2 cups cubed bread, staled, crusts removed1 cup whole blanched almonds2 garlic cloves, crushed1/4 teaspoon salt1 cup cool water (in addition to the water used above to soften bread)1/2 cup white grape puree, strained to remove skins1 cup peeled and seeded diced cucumber1/3 cup best quality extra-virgin olive oil1-1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar1 cup assortment of baby lettucesOlive oil for drizzlingSuggested garnishes: cut up grapes, fresh currants, fresh figs, tiny croutons, fresh herbs such as chives, basil, mint
Preparation: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 processor along with the garlic and process until finely ground.
4. Squeeze the bread to get rid of excess water and add to the processor. Add grape puree, cucumber, 1/2 cup water and salt and puree until smooth. (If you want a sweeter soup add more grape juice and reduce the water.)
5. With the processor running on its highest speed, slowly add olive oil until emulsified, you can also whisk the oil in to the mixture.
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. Drizzle with olive oil.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.