“Córdoba, far off and lonely. Black mare, large moon, olives in my saddle-bags; although I know the roads I’ll never get to Córdoba.” — Horseman’s Song by Federico Garcia Lorca.
I have always had a fascination with Spanish and Latin American culture. I have studied the language, literature, food, culture, music and art. No matter where I am, some atavistic desire in me keeps drawing my attention back toward Spain. In fact, the web address for this site, “ser cocinera” means “to be a cook” in Spanish. Today, that desire drove me to make Cordoba’s version of gazpacho. The best part of this refreshing soup is that it takes 15 minutes to prepare.
Cordoba may very well be my favorite place in Spain with its summer heat and mix of Moorish, Visigoth and Jewish cultures. In May, I befriended a gruff, hirsute taxi driver with a deep voice and a messy shock of graying dark hair in Cordoba. He was a self-proclaimed “hijo de Cordoba” a son of Cordoba, born and raised. When I got into his taxi and told him where I wanted to go he simply refused to take me.
“No, no, no you don’t want to go there. It’s not the good stuff. I’ll show you where you need to go.”
Driving way too fast through tiny side streets in between old buildings in the blinding white heat of the Spanish summer, our backs dripping with sweat against the seats, he showed me all the places to eat and drink and in what order to do them. He sang the joys of the Salmorejo Cordobes, something he kept referring to as Cordoba’s gazpacho. By the end of the day I had had a refreshing horchata drink made with almonds rather than pine nuts, bull spine and tail, fried eggplant with honey, albondigas –Spanish meatballs– and his ultimate suggestion, the Salmorejo.
Today I’ve recreated the traditional Salmorejo. Refreshing and thick, you get the sense from the bread base that bolsters the tomatoes, that the solmorejo was a typical, filling, peasant dish. But the olive oil, lemon juice and ripe tomatoes bring a light refreshing tartness that makes this simple age-old dish fit for a king. The egg and meat on the top add protein and texture.
For my recipe I used a modified version of John’s from heneedsfood.com, which was the real inspiration for trying to recreate this dish in my own kitchen. John is a professional chef and reading his recipes and stories is a real joy.
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (packed) coarsely torn day-old bread with crust
- 8 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar (you can substitute red wine vinegar, but you must try the Sherry)
- The juice of one fresh lemon
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped Serrano ham-though I substituted it this with a cured beef
Stir 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon coarse salt in medium bowl to dissolve. Add bread; soak for 15 minutes. Squeeze excess liquid from bread.
Puree a portion of both the chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, Sherry wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, and garlic that will fit in the food processor or blender until very smooth. Add as much of the bread as the machine allows. Puree until very smooth. Add half of light extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer to large receptacle. Repeat with remaining chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, Sherry wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, garlic, bread, and oil. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, the longer the better.
Serve cold in small bowls. Sprinkle chopped egg and meat over. Drizzle with Spanish olive oil and serve.