Almond Gazpacho With Cherries And Flowers
This cold soup, popular in Spain's Malaga province, uses no tomatoes or other vegetables, making it especially pantry-friendly. It's classically finished with grapes, but as Anya von Bremzen writes, modern chefs use it as a blank canvas, especially when it comes to garnishes. Here, those include baby lettuces, fresh cherries and edible flowers, but let your imagination -- and the market -- be your guide. It's important to use high-quality olive oil and sherry vinegar, to keep the flavor smooth and not harsh.
About 5 ounces day-old country bread (crusts removed), cubed (2½ cups)
1 cup slivered almonds
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1½ cups chilled bottled still spring water, or more as needed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged, or more as needed
2 cups lightly packed baby lettuces, preferably of different colors, for serving
½ cup chive blossoms or other edible ﬂowers, broken into petals, for serving
1 cup sweet cherries, pitted and halved, for serving
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted, for serving
Place the bread in a large mixing bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Let soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the bread, squeezing out the excess liquid, then crumble the soaked bread into a blender.
Add the almonds, garlic, salt and 1 cup water to the blender and puree until a smooth paste forms. With the blender running at the highest speed, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube until emulsified. Add the vinegar and remaining ½ cup water, blend briefly, and check the consistency: It should be that of very thick cream or very thin mayonnaise. Add more water, if needed, to thin it out slightly. Taste for seasoning, and add more vinegar and/or salt as needed.
Transfer the soup to a pitcher. It will be delicious if you serve immediately, but if you have time, refrigerate it, covered, for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
To serve, pile small heaps of the lettuce in the middle of six soup bowls and top each with flower petals, cherries and a sprinkle of the toasted almonds. Bring the pitcher to the table and pour the soup around the garnish in each bowl.
Note: Toast the almonds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.
Serves 6 (makes 4 cups)
Nutrition | Calories: 310; Total Fat: 24 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 240 mg; Carbohydrates: 21 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 7 g.
(Adapted from "The New Spanish Table," by Anya von Bremzen. Workman, 2005.)