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Most of the famous cold soups from Spain have tomatoes in the base. Tomatoes didn’t come to Spain until the conquistadors brought them back from the new world in the 1500’s. As such, these soups clearly didn’t begin evolving until at least that time. Some of these soups have recipes which look very similar to the ajoblanco, although using tomatoes instead of almonds.

Exactly what qualifies as a salmorejo is a subject of debate, so let's start with a little bit of background.

“Porra antequerana,” which is named for the mortar (porra) it was traditionally made in, is one simple cold soup. Traditionally it is a very thick, hearty soup, consisting of just bread, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, and olive oil. I have heard of some people that add bell pepper to this soup. Others, though, claim that the addition of bell peppers make it a salmorejo, another famous cold thick soup from the south of Spain. Of course, many people claim that a salmorejo never has bell peppers in it. Some people claim that porra is differentiated by it being much thicker, but most people claim salmorejo should be very thick as well. Porra antequerana and salmorejo are both traditionally served topped with hard-boiled egg and jamón Serrano. There are at least 3 or 4 other very similar cold soups from the South of Spain whose names and variations I have trouble keeping track of.

You can begin to see the confusion I am sorting through.

Like many dishes from around Spain, the differences between these various cold soups depends on who you ask about them. The minor variances are often no more different than any recipe changes as it moves from one family to another. While I have no doubt there were historical, traditional differences between these soups, in modern, practical usage, these distinctions are almost impossible to discern. The name changes, as do minor details of the recipe, moving from one village, or even one family, to the next. At this point, I treat porra antequerana, salmorejo, and a couple others as regional names for the same classic dish. I am sure that I will take flak for this position – I encourage you to email me your opinions (preferably with historical insights and documentation included).

From here, we’ll call all of these variations on a theme “salmorejo,” because that is what most of my Spanish friends call it.

This soup is all about the tomatoes. It will taste as good as your tomatoes do, so don’t bother making it unless you have very flavorful, ripe tomatoes. It needs to be really thick, so don’t add any extra liquid past what the blender needs to spin everything. In Spain, it is always topped with virutas (thin shavings) of jamón Serrano along with some hard-boiled egg. If you can’t get the jamón, you can substitute thinly sliced prosciutto. To me, salmorejo is just ok without the jamón, but with it, is absolutely addictive and very satisfying as a meal unto itself on a hot day. If you are not a vegetarian, don’t skip the jamón! Some of my friends add a little bit of spice to theirs – I like to garnish with a sprinkle of Espelette or Aleppo pepper.

You need to taste while blending, and adjust the amount of vinegar depending on how acidic the tomatoes are.

Ingredients (makes about 5 cups)

  • 3 cups stale bread, torn in pieces

  • 2 lbs very ripe, flavorful tomatoes, cored, and cut in chunks

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 3 – 4 Tbsp sherry vinegar (or substitute red wine vinegar)

  • Salt TT

  • 3/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

To serve

  • Shavings or thin slices of jamón Serrano (or substitute prosciutto)

  • Hard boiled egg, peeled and chopped

  • Coarse salt

  • Espelette or Aleppo pepper (optional)

  • Your best extra virgin olive oil

1. 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.

2. Blend the tomatoes with the garlic, salt, and vinegar until very liquidy. Drain the bread, squeezing out any excess water, then add it to the blender. Blend until very smooth – this will probably take a couple minutes. You can add a little cold water if necessary to make the blender spin, but remember you want the salmorejo to be as thick as possible. Taste, and adjust the salt and vinegar if necessary.

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.

3. Serve cold, with each portioned garnished with some of the jamón, hard-boiled eggs, coarse salt, and a generous amount of the good extra virgin olive oil. If desired, garnish with a bit of espellete or Aleppo pepper.

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