I will never forget a summer a very long time ago when my husband I lived in the city in a third story walk-up condominium. With no central air and a window unit that cooled it down to just barely above melting temperature. We worked all day in stuffy suits and traveled to and from work in crowded buses. Those were the days we found salvation in a neighborhood restaurant named Chardonnay. A dark and sleek spot with marble table tops that were cool to the touch. If felt like plunging into a swimming pool, washing away the heat and grit of the day.
The days of bus commutes, stifling suits, panty hose are long gone. And there is no Chardonnay (the restaurant that is), but I do have this creamy chilled, no-cook soup to fulfill that need on the hottest of summer days.
This creamy, chilled bread-thickened soup has is origins in the Southern region of Spain near Córdoba, where sun ripened tomatoes are blended with fruity olive oil, onions, garlic and day-old bread. Traditionally topped with Spanish Jamón and hard boiled eggs (note I took the liberty of substituting crispy pancetta for the Jamón). I also added a red bell pepper as recommended by a blogger from the region.
How much do I love this soup? Well I recently entered it into a cooking contest at work and took second place among a group of other Spanish-themed soups. The winner, ironically was a delicious goat meat stew which technically is African, not Spanish… But I was not about to quibble because it was truly wonderful
Cannot think of a better way to cool off and enjoy the best summer has to offer. Enjoy!
Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup (Salmorejo)
3 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
8 medium-sized, ripe tomatoes, cored, halved, and seeded
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 dense baguette (about 10 oz.), cut into large pieces (see Note>)
1⁄2 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
¾-1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 1⁄2 cups finely chopped pancetta, sautéed until crispy
Freshly chopped chives (optional)
Place salt, tomatoes, pepper, garlic, bread, and onion in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit for 1 hour. Drain vegetables, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid; place in blender. Squeeze water from bread; place about ¾ of the bread in blender with reserved soaking liquid, oil, and vinegar. Purée until smooth. If soup seems to thin, add the extra bread. Add additional olive oil to enrich soup, if desired. Season with salt and pepper, and chill. Pour into chilled serving bowls; top with eggs, pancetta, chives and a drizzle of oil.
Note> Bread can be either fresh or a day old. Just make sure it is a dense bread so that it can soak up the liquid without falling apart.