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White Gazpacho or Ajo Blanco: Chill Out With This No-Cook Soup From Southern Spain 

click to enlarge ANDY BRUMBAUGH
  • andy brumbaugh

This summer has certainly served up some hot, humid days — the kind of days we know we have to eat something, but little appeals. In my house, we've had our share of charcuterie platters and sandwiches for dinner, but a chilled soup is another, more interesting option for unpleasantly warm weather.

Many people are familiar with traditional gazpacho, which is almost like salsa in soup form — full of chunky tomatoes and peppers. I've seen many variations of the dish, including those that incorporate watermelon or cantaloupe. For this recipe, I wanted to make something that was rooted in tradition. Enter ajo blanco — a white gazpacho from the Andalusian region of Spain. Internet research suggests this dish might date back as far back as Roman times.

There are different ways to make it. I chose a recipe that requires no cooking at all. You can easily make this a vegan dish by replacing the milk with water or a non-dairy beverage like almond, coconut or rice milk; using vegan bread; and leaving off the crispy prosciutto.

This is the kind of soup that gets more flavorful as it rests, so it would be a good dish to make ahead of time for company. It's especially pretty if you get creative with the garnishes.

Ingredients

(serves 4)

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped (Leave a few pieces unpeeled for garnish.)
  • 1 cup green grapes, plus a few extra for garnish
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 2 pieces prosciutto for garnish
  • 4-8 chives for garnish
  • 1-2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil for garnish

Directions:

  1. Blanch almonds by boiling them in a small pot of water for 1 minute, then drain them and run them under cold water. Remove the skins by carefully pinching the almonds; the skins should easily slip off.
  2. Cut the bread slices into quarters and soak in milk along with the almonds, for at least 20 minutes.
  3. In a blender, combine the cucumber, grapes, garlic, milk-soaked bread and almonds, and vinegar. Blend on high speed until the soup is creamy and smooth. Chill for at least one hour before serving. (Note: I learned from experience that using an immersion blender or food processor does not give the soup a creamy texture, so stick with a regular blender.)
  4. To garnish: Thinly slice several grapes (5-6 slices per serving of soup). Thinly slice cucumber (into decorative flower shapes if desired). Place prosciutto between two paper towels and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, until crispy, or crisp it up in a pan for a minute or so. Cut chives in half. Top each bowl of soup with grape and cucumber slices, a few pieces of chive, and a small piece of crispy prosciutto. Drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.

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