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Ajoblanco | Cold Almond & Garlic Soup


“Ajoblanco,” which literally translates to “white garlic,” is the modern precursor to all the other cold soups that people know from Spain. Arguments persist about the exact origins of ajoblanco, some claiming it goes back to the Romans (or even further). The “standard” version, with almonds as an important part of its base, almost certainly traces its roots to similar soups made by the Moorish conquerers that ruled much of Spain from 711AD until 1492. The Moors introduced almonds to Spain, so it couldn’t have predated that. Almonds, along with old bread, garlic (as the name suggests), a little bit of vinegar, cold water, and olive oil, form the base of ajoblanco. These days some people add a bit of green apple to the mix. Ajoblanco is traditionally topped with green grapes, but you can top it with other fruit, especially earlier in the summer time before grape harvest time. The fruit adds a sweet balance to the rich, creamy, slightly acidic soup.

The taste of ajoblanco really calls me back to its Arab origins. The almonds give it a taste and texture almost reminiscent of a tahini based sauce from the other side of the Mediterranean . It feels like food from a bygone era when I eat it, even though it would be completely at home in the midst of a fancy dinner party.

If you can get Marcona almonds, use them for this soup to get a little bit deeper flavor. If not, use any almonds as long as they are blanched and peeled – the soup will still be good.

Side note:

There is another cold soup from Extremadura, that I have seen referenced many times, also called ajoblanco, which includes egg yolks, but not almonds. I’ve never been served that soup, or really seen it, so I will leave that discussion to another day when I can offer a little more context and understanding.

Ingredients (makes about 5 cups)

  • 1 cup Marcona almonds (or any blanched and peeled almonds)

  • 3 cups stale bread, torn into pieces, crusts not used

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar (or more TT)

  • Cold water, as needed

  • 3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt TT

To serve

  • Green grapes, sliced in half

  • Coarse salt

  • Your best extra virgin olive oil

1. Cover the almonds in water, and soak overnight.

2. At least 30 minutes ahead (and up to a couple hours before), cover the stale bread with a generous amount of cold water, and let it soak.

3. When ready to blend, drain the water from the bread, and gently squeeze out some of the excess – discard that water. Add the bread, garlic, almonds (and their water), vinegar and a pinch of salt to the blender. Blend until very smooth – it will likely take a couple minutes. If needed, you can add a little more cold water, but add only enough to make the blender spin, as you want a thick soup. Taste, and adjust salt if needed.

When smooth, with the blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify and make the soup creamy. Transfer to a container and cool down in the fridge until ready to eat.

4. Serve cold, topped with the grapes, a little coarse salt, and a generous few glugs of good extra virgin olive oil.

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