Chef’s Note: This splendid soup (ajo blanco means “white garlic”), also called gazpacho blanco, is widely popular. Proportions vary—some cooks use as much bread as almonds. The soup is usually served with peeled and seeded muscat grapes or, less commonly, with small melon balls. You can use any sweet grapes. I used to peel them, but I stopped doing that and found the result just as pleasing. You can make the soup hours ahead or even the day before.
- 9 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) blanched whole almonds
- 3 ounces (about 3 slices) crustless white bread soaked in water for a few minutes, until soggy
- 3 garlic cloves, or to taste, crushed to a paste
- ½ cup California Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 drops—no more—almond extract (optional)
- About 3 cups cold water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar, to taste
- 36 or more seedless white grapes
Step 1: Grind the almonds very fine in a food processor. Add the bread, garlic, and oil and blend well. Add the almond extract if you like.
Step 2: With the motor running, gradually pour in enough water to give the soup a light creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt and vinegar.
Step 3: Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with oil, and drop 6 or more grapes into each.
Variation: Loli Flores of Seville gave me her recipe for an ajo blanco de piñones, made with pine nuts instead of almonds. Grind 8 ounces (1⅔ cups) pine nuts with 2 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed, and 2 crushed garlic cloves in a food processor. Add 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar, salt to taste, and about 3 cups water and blend to a light creamy consistency. Serve chilled, garnished with muscat or other grapes.
Recipe courtesy of The Food of Spain
(HarperCollins, 2011), by Claudia Roden
Reprinted with permission from the publisher and Claudia Roden