Salmorejo: chilled Spanish tomato soup

This recipe includes soaking the ingredients which mellows the soup, cutting the bite of the onions and garlic and softening the tomato skins. The soaked bread is a simple thickener often found in Mediterranean dishes.

The Runaway Spoon
Salmorejo is gazpacho’s simpler cousin. It’s a fresh, chilled tomato soup without the added peppers and cucumbers.

Salmorejo is gazpacho’s simpler cousin. It’s a fresh, chilled tomato soup without the added peppers, cucumbers and other business found in gazpacho.  I’m not a huge fan of gazpacho, because it varies so wildly and people seem to put all kinds of crazy ingredients in it. You never know what you are going to get.

But Salmorejo is right up my alley. I first tasted Salmorejo in its homeland of Andalucia in Southern Spain but forgot the exact name of the dish and didn’t do much research when I came home. But a few years ago, I was staying with friends near the beach close to Valencia, Spain and on a trip to the grocery store, I saw cartons of chilled Salmorejo (next to the cartons of gazpacho) and suddenly remembered the lovely soup from my earlier trip.  We grabbed a couple of cartons and served them for lunch.  Unfortunately, the first carton tasted a little off…. So we opened the next carton and it exploded all over the patio. I think it had fermented. I was kind of embarrassed that I had insisted on buying it. Oddly, I took this as a challenge and decided when I came home, I had to explore the recipe.

I read many, many recipes and most simply blend the ingredients, chill and serve. But this method for soaking the ingredients mellows the soup, cutting the bite of the onions and garlic and softening the tomato skins. The soaked bread is a simple thickener often found in Mediterranean dishes.  Use half a crusty baguette and serve the rest with the soup, or use up some older, slightly dried leftover crusty bread.

I saw a picture of a chilled soup with olive oil ice cubes floating in the bowl in a magazine years and years ago and it stuck in my head waiting for the right application. I don’t generally recommend buying specialty kitchen equipment, but I found some little round ice cube trays at a dollar store, so seek them out, they are pretty inexpensive. You can always use them for plain ice cubes. If you don’t have a small ice cube tray, drizzle the soup with a fruity, quality olive oil. Salmorejo is traditionally served with whisper thin pieces of jamon Serrano and sometimes boiled eggs.  You could also serve the parsley picada from this wonderful White Gazpacho recipe.

Salmorejo: chilled Spanish tomato soup

1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion
1-1/2 pounds plum tomatoes
8 ounces baguette
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons kosher sal
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Divide the 1/4 cup olive oil between the cubes of an small ice cube tray (about 2 teaspoons a cube). Freeze until firm, 8 hours or overnight.

2. Slice the onion and place in a large bowl. Half or quarter the tomatoes (depending on size) and place in the bowl. Tear the bread into large chunks and add to the bowl with the crushed garlic cloves and the salt. Pour over enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for an hour.

3. Drain the tomato and bread mixture over a bowl, reserving the soaking liquid. Pick out the tomatoes, onions and garlic as best you can and place in a blender. Add the 1/2 cup olive oil and the vinegar and a little of the soaking liquid and blend to a rough puree. Use your hands and the back of a spatula to press as much liquid as possible out of the bread and add it to the blender. Turn on the blender and puree, drizzling in some of the soaking liquid, until you have a smooth, creamy soup. If you would like a silky soup, pour it through a strainer into a bowl, pushing all the liquid through. Let the soup cool, then cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

4. Serve the soup cold with frozen olive oil floating in each bowl.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: White Gazpacho with Parsley Picada

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