Summertime and the livin' is easy. The same with dining; and cold soups are a welcomed relief from the dog days of summer. Forget about hot, sturdy stews. Those are for midwinter. We want cool relief. And cool soups, weather at room temperature or chilled, have been with us since soups were invented. The most renowned of these, of course, is Vichyssoise (pronounced "vihsh-ee-SWAHZ" or "vee-she-swahz"). It's a rich creamy potato-leek soup that is served cold. And, no, it ain't French. It's AMERICAN! Its creator was Chef Louis Diat of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City, and he conjured it up in 1917.
But the king of cold soups, in my humble opinion, is that Spanish classic, gazpacho. Gazpacho has Moorish origins. In 711 the Muslims of Northern Africa, known as the Moors because of their mixed Berber and Arab lineage, invaded Spain. It wasn't until 1492 (date sound familiar?) that the last of the Moors were expelled from Spain. But they left a lasting influence, especially in their cuisine. Gazpacho evolved from an Arabic dish. The word itself derives from the Arabic word for soaked bread. And the initial recipe called for soaked bread, olive oil and garlic. The Spaniards referred to this as ajo blanco, or a garlic soup. When tomatoes and peppers were brought back to Spain from the Americas, these were added to the soup, so that today we have the famous tomato-based gazpacho that originated in Andalucia in Southern Spain. In Malaga, a province in the region of Andalucia, they boast of their Malaga-style gazpacho which includes crushed peeled almonds and red wine vinegar.
The recipe included is the traditional Moorish type gazpacho and it comes from my cookbook, The Pharaoh's Feast, which is a history of cooking through the ages from day one to the present. For those of you who have been brought up on the tomato-base gazpacho, give this one a try. Its simplicity and natural flavors are a revelation.
GAZPACHO CON AJO BLANCO
1 cup untrimmed fresh bread, cubed
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1. Soak the bread in water. Drain and squeeze to extract excess moisture.
2. In a mortar (preferably earthenware), pound the garlic until crushed.
3. In a wooden bowl, mix the garlic, bread, and salt, and stir in the olive oil.
4. Add cold water as desired, to get the smoothness of a soup. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings.
Labels: Andalucia, gazpacho, Málaga, New York City, Olive oil, Oswald Rivera, Spain, Vichyssoise