This is a soup for olive oil lovers. Almonds, bread, garlic, and grapes are puréed and strained, and a large amount of olive oil is blended in until you have a silky emulsion. A healthy dose of sherry vinegar balances the richness. It comes from the same part of the world as it’s red cousin, but it contains no tomatoes or peppers.
I first had this at a restaurant where I used to work. I was totally intrigued by the taste and texture. The challenge was to recreate it. As it happens, there was a recipe for white gazpacho in The New York Times this week. I also found a recipe on Epicurious that sounded similar to version I’d had before, but the NYT recipe, from the chef at Casa Mono, seemed even closer. In the end I used elements of both.
The grapes I buy here in Paris are not seedless, so I patiently cut each one in half and removed the seeds before blending. Tedious, yes, but necessary: The seeds will make the soup bitter, as will almond skins, so use peeled nuts. Spanish Marcona almonds are authentic and tasty, but regular old almonds will do just fine as long as they are fresh.
Garnished with more grapes and toasted almonds, this soup is a lovely first course. Serve it with bread and some jamon and call it lunch.
Or #letslunch, to be more precise.This recipe is my contribution to a loose club of food bloggers on Twitter who post a recipe around a particular theme one day every month. You can find their posts using the #letslunch hash tag.
Note: You will need a blender or food processor and a fine strainer for this recipe.
2 c water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 c stale, crustless bread, cut into 1″ pieces
2 c skinless almonds (sliced or whole), lightly toasted, plus some for garnish
2 c white (green) grapes, or a mix of white and red, plus some for garnish
1 to 1 1/2 c olive oil
2 T sherry vinegar, or more as needed
In a small pan, bring the water to a boil with the garlic. Remove it from the heat and add the bread. Let it soak for 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile, if your grapes aren’t already seedless, cut them in half and remove the seeds with the tip of a knife.
Put the almonds, grapes, bread and garlic (and the soaking liquid) in a blender or food processor and process until you have a thick puree. Add the olive oil and process until it’s incorporated.
Force the puree through a fine strainer. It should be silky and creamy. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and a pinch of cayenne. Chill the soup thoroughly, at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, taste the soup again for seasoning (I usually find at this point that it needs more vinegar). Ladle the soup into chilled bowls and garnish with a few grape halves and toasted almonds. Drizzle with olive oil or almond oil if you like.
Serves 4 as a first course, 2 as a main course.