SERVES 6 to 8 (VEG): Ground almonds, almond extract, and bread are the keys to our silky and elegant white gazpacho
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Although both hail from Andalusia, Spain, white gazpacho bears little resemblance to its familiar, vegetable-laden red cousin. White gazpacho, or ajo blanco, was originally made by peasants with five simple ingredients at their disposal: stale bread, garlic, vinegar, oil, and salt. They pounded the bread with a mortar and pestle, added slugs of vinegar and olive oil, and then stirred in water to make the mixture drinkable. When the dish made its way onto aristocratic tables, upscale ingredients like almonds and grapes were added, giving the soup nuanced flavor and sophisticated textural contrast. However, the versions we tried were watery and bland or even grainy. We discovered that the order in which we added ingredients to the blender made all the difference: First, we ground almonds, then we added bread (which we had briefly soaked in water), garlic, sherry vinegar, salt, and cayenne. Then we slowly drizzled in the water and olive oil. To amplify the almond flavor without overwhelming the soup, we mixed a tablespoon of the pureed soup with a small amount of almond extract, then added a teaspoon of the mixture back to the soup. Sliced green grapes and toasted almonds added fruitiness and crunch, and a final drizzle of olive oil made for a rich finish and an elegant presentation. This rich soup is best when served in small portions (about 6 ounces). Use a premium-quality extra-virgin olive oil; our favorite is Gaea Fresh Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.
- 6 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed
- 4 cups water
- 2½ cups (8¾ ounces) plus ⅓ cup sliced blanched almonds
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ cup plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
- ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
- 6 ounces seedless green grapes, sliced thin (1 cup)
- Combine bread and water in bowl and let soak for 5 minutes. Process 2½ cups almonds in blender until finely ground, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed. Using your hands, remove bread from water, squeeze it lightly, and transfer to blender with almonds. Measure out 3 cups soaking water and set aside; transfer remaining soaking water to blender. Add garlic, vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and cayenne to blender and process until mixture has consistency of cake batter, 30 to 45 seconds. With blender running, add ½ cup oil in thin, steady stream, about 30 seconds. Add reserved soaking water and process for 1 minute.
- Season soup with salt and pepper to taste, then strain through fine-mesh strainer into bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids.
- Transfer 1 tablespoon soup to separate bowl and stir in almond extract. Return 1 teaspoon extract-soup mixture to soup; discard remaining mixture. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add remaining ⅓ cup almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately transfer almonds to bowl, stir in ¼ teaspoon salt, and let cool slightly.
- Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Mound grapes in center of each bowl,
sprinkle with almonds, and drizzle with extra oil. Serve immediately.
The texture of a pureed soup should be as smooth and creamy as possible. With this in mind, we tried pureeing several soups with a food processor, a handheld immersion blender, and a regular countertop blender. It pays to use the right appliance to produce a silky-smooth soup. And because pureeing hot soup can be dangerous, follow our safety tips.
BLENDER IS BEST
A standard blender turns out the smoothest pureed soups. The blade on the blender does an excellent job with soups because it pulls ingredients down from the top of the container. No stray bits go untouched by the blade. And as long as plenty of headroom is left at the top of the blender, there is no leakage.
IMMERSION BLENDER LEAVES BITS BEHIND
The immersion blender has appeal because it can be brought to the pot, eliminating the need to ladle hot ingredients from one vessel to another. However, we found that this kind of blender can leave unblended bits of food behind.
PROCESS WITH CAUTION
The food processor does a decent job of pureeing, but some small bits of vegetables can get trapped under the blade and remain unchopped. Even more troubling is the tendency of a food processor to leak hot liquid. Fill the bowl more than halfway and you are likely to see liquid running down the side of the food processor base.
WAIT BEFORE BLENDING, AND BLEND IN BATCHES
When blending hot soup, follow a couple of precautions. Wait 5 minutes for moderate cooling, and fill the blender only two-thirds full; otherwise, the soup can explode out the top.
KEEP LID SECURE
Don’t expect the lid on a blender to stay in place. Hold it securely with a folded dish towel to keep it in place and to protect your hand from hot steam. And pulse several times before blending continuously.