Just in time for Valentine's Day, which is my favorite holiday of the year, my recipe here is one that I have served to couples ever since I returned from Madrid where, I actually had it on a date. It is quite simple to prepare, incredibly delicious, and has - quite possibly - surprising romantic qualities!
Leave it to the Andalusians, the creators of Salmarejo, to divine a richer, creamier cousin to gazpacho. With warmer year-round temperatures in Cordoba, Grenada, Sevilla ... their godchild-in-a-bowl transcends seasonality, and is sublime served cold every month of the year. It's traditionally known as a "tomato-and-bread" soup but, I describe it to my guests as a cold soup that is "silky creamy smooth, made with fresh, ripe tomatoes and really good olive oil". It's all in the spin. They buy it every time.
Tomatoes and (really good) olive oil really are the key ingredients, which is in fact what makes this soup so incredibly romantic.
According to Aprodisiac legend and lore (and, per my expert Amy Reiley) tomatoes were once considered "the forbidden fruit" and even into the 19th Century, Catholics had doubts about the fruit's "morality". Tomatoes are members of the "nightshade family", which to some of us, just sounds romantic to begin with.
It's best to use the fairest, most succulent, just-ripe red tomatoes you can ransom for this soup. If you must, ripe little cherry tomatoes can be used but, you'll need quite a few. If fresh tomatoes are just not an option, guess what. This still tastes really good even if you use a best-quality can of tomatoes.
A little about extra-virgiin olive oil. There's good, great, and then there's amazing. I'm recommending using both a fine, fruity California olive oil for the first puree step, and finishing with a serious Spanish Arbequina - slightly spicy if you can get it - for the finishing puree, and to drizzle for serving. If you've had the joy and pleasure of exploring La Espanola Meats with us, you are surely well familiar with their Sevillan extra-virgin variety that I live for, and use for the finishing oil in this recipe.
You'll also need a small baguette for the blending, use something that is easily breakable, not too chewy; actually any day-old white bread is fine. Sherry vinegar ought to be as fine-quality as you can get as well; if you have only have balsamic in your pantry, I will let you use that, just this once. La Espanola Meats offers the best-grade sherry vinegar for your future!
When serving this to your true love, here is what I recommend! Even Anthony Bourdain, on his brilliant episode of Parts Unknown:Granada, extolled the virtues of Salmarejo as a spread on grilled bread with slices of raw tuna! I've pinched that idea, and serve raw or seared tuna skewers on the side of the soup bowl. The tuna is a fine touch of romantic - and aphrodisiac - protein. Salmarejo with wine
Carefully top each soup serving with an olive-oil-drizzled heart.
Warm, crusty bread for certain, does belong on the side as well, you'll want to mop up every drop of this irresistible soup, I promise. Break your favorite loaf at the table together!
A fine, full-bodied red wine completes this gorgeous light meal.
And just sayin' ~ Leftover Salmarejo makes the best spread for little sliders (or even big-kid sandwiches) of imported meats and cheese. (Those would be really good for breakfast-in-bed.)
Start this early in the day, it ought to be at least slightly chilled for serving. Happy, happy Valentines!