Salmorejo vs. Gazpacho

Everyone around here knows gazpacho, the (originally tomato-based) cold soup with has infinite variations. Is it fair to even call them gazpacho, though? I've heard of many sweet versions: melon gazpacho, strawberry gazpacho, peach gazpacho, etc. It's as if the term were being used to describe almost any fruit-based (or watery vegetable: there's also a cucumber gazpacho out there) cold soup. 

What Americans don't know is that gazpacho is a regional dish; it stems from Andalucía, southern Spain, where the weather gets warmest in the summer months, and they need its cooling effect when tomato season comes around (which is not coincidentally the same time of year). Furthermore, gazpacho in Andalucía is most often consumed from a tall glass, not a bowl. Its watery consistency -refreshing and rehydrating- allows for it. 

Salmorejo, on the other hand, is thick and creamy and comes in a bowl. It also comes from southern Spain, but more specifically from Córdoba (go visit! see the Mosque!)

In case I haven't said it here before, I love bowl food. Soups, stews, and grainy salads are my favorite dishes and if I could I would always eat with a spoon (the logo of my Spanish company, Desayuno con guisantesis a bowl and spoon, in fact): 

Maybe that's why I'll take salmorejo over gazpacho, hands down, any day. 

I recently taught a tapas workshop for 20 women celebrating a bridal shower. It was a big event, months of preparation with people flying in from all over the country. We all had a great time. In addition to the salmorejo, 20 buzzing women put hands on to create:

  • Manchego cheese and caramelized pearl onion skewers;
  • crispy fried eggplant (a classic pairing with the salmorejo);
  • potato-chip Spanish tortilla;
  • Catalan bread with tomato;
  • citrus olive oil cake;
  • marinated oranges in sherry and cinnamon.

At the end, I asked everyone which their favorite recipe was and a big crowd said, the salmorejo. So here's the recipe. We will most certainly be preparing it, among others, at the cold soups workshops I am teaching at Cavallo Point and Kitchen on Fire in July.

Salmorejo cordobés
Ingredients: 
 2 lb. red tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced, all juices reserved
1 10-inch piece baguette, day old
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 t. sherry vinegar
salt and black pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs, for garnish
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

In batches in a food processor, combine the tomatoes and their juice with bread, cucumber, pepper, onion, garlic and 1/2 of the oil. Purée at high speed until you read a silky texture, adding the rest of the oil gradually. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and chill for at least 1 hour. 
Whisk before serving and taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in bowls (or shot glasses, for tapas) with some ground pepper, a dash of olive oil, and some chopped egg and parsley on top for garnish.