Thursday, June 25, 2009

Super food

SALMOREJO. So I’m not a dietician, but I seriously believe it has restorative powers. After a long weekend of traveling, eating fried foods for dinner and pastries for breakfast, the only thing I desire in life is a chilled bowl of salmorejo. And did I mention, it’s delicious. Now that it is tomato season in España, and vine ripe tomatoes are plumper, redder, and more tantalizing then ever, it is the perfect lunch for these hot, dry afternoons. The summer schedule has started, meaning stores are closed for siesta (naptime!), and one must be an early bird and scamper on down to the market before 2:30. I will be going on one last traveling jaunt before returning to the states, which will include Morocco, Burgos, San Sebastián, Oviedo (part of the Camino de Santiago), and Santiago de Compostela, so I’ve been taking advantage (aprovechando) of my afternoons to prepare this dish a lot lately.

The basics: tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, garlic, and olive oil... lots of aromatic, tasty, Spanish, extra virgin olive oil. I am lucky enough to live with someone that brings it back by the gallon (literally) whenever he visits his homeland of Andalusia. Sadly, the states do not have the abundance of olive trees that dot the plains over here, but a good olive oil, no matter what the cost, is a key ingredient in salmorejo. And a blender. In ancient times, I’m sure they sufficed with a stone and an earthenware bowl, but nowadays only a blender gets you the creamy consistency of this dish. Unlike gazpacho, which is thinner and generally drunk from a glass, salmorejo is served in a bowl, sprinkled with bits of hard boiled egg and chunks of jamón, and eaten with a spoon, excepting for any bowl licking at the end. It is a specialty of Cordoba, but popular throughout Andalusia. In the past, travelers would carry salmorejo in an animal horn, and drink it straight from the horn. This is not very relevant, nor interesting, but the women who works at the produce stand in my market told me, so I figured I’d share this tidbit with you.

Here you have my approximations of the ingredients – I do not have an exact recipe, and what’s more, one must experiment in order to prepare the mixture to their taste. Some like it with more of a bite (more garlic or vinegar), creamier (more olive oil, more blending), or more liquidy (more cucumbers, less bread if any). Thus I give you the outline.

For the salmorejo:
5 – 6 medium vine ripe tomatoes
1 Italian green pepper (long, thin variety)
1 small cucumber
2 cloves of garlic
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
chunk of hard baguette (optional)

For sprinkling:
Tiny chunks of jamón iberico, or a cured meat
Hard boiled egg diced small

Peel the cucumber, quarter the tomatoes, and throw all the ingredients into your blender. Let it blend for a couple minutes, until it's a creamy, almost light consistency. It should be a bright orangish-red color. Chill and serve. You can improvise with the toppings. In Sevilla, I had salmorejo with hard boiled egg and tuna. I’ve also seen it served with avocado, shrimp, even goat cheese. If the flavor is too strong, you can use as a spread on toasted bread with a manchego cheese, or whatever you'd like. Buen provecho!