When Victoria Beckham relocated to Spain, she supposedly made a crack about how the place smelled of garlic. This did not sit kindly with Spaniards, who take their garlic seriously. Whether cropping up next to vegetables, seafood, or bread, it is a pervasive ingredient in countless Spanish dishes.
One day, at a restaurant going over English verbs with a Madrid native, my student said the unthinkable. “I don’t like garlic,” she divulged, glancing at the menu. She pushed la carta over to me, but the page blurred as I began daydreaming of what life would be like as a Spaniard who disliked garlic. “You pick,” I exclaimed, and those infamous last words became my introduction to callos, or tripe.
I personally enjoy the piquant flavor that garlic provides, and add a liberal crush of the stuff to many a recipe. One of those dishes is salmorejo, a cold soup often served as a first course. It can be found pre-packaged in the grocery store next to its more-famous cousin, gazpacho. While they both originate from southern Spain, this variety of tomato soup is different in that it is flavored with olive oil and thickened with breadcrumbs. It's served scattered with any number of toppings such as raw onion, green pepper, cured ham, or hard-boiled egg.
Many restaurants will offer salmorejo as a dip--my favorite was trying it with rounds of fried eggplant. If you don’t mind garlic breath for the rest of the day, you can even have it for breakfast, as a spread on toast. Whether eaten with a spoon or on a baguette, you should always have some on hand, just in case someone posh happens to drop by.
*Bonus garlic knowledge: in Spanish, a clove of garlic is known as a “diente,” or “tooth”!
Ingredients for 2-3 servings
4 ripe tomatoes
1 green pepper
1-2 cloves of garlic (or more!)
1 slice of slightly stale or toasted bread
¼ cup olive oil (you may not use it all)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon white wine vinegarSalt and pepper to taste
For toppings: slices of hard-boiled egg, ham, diced onion, and/or the rest of the green pepper
Chop the tomatoes, half of the green pepper, and garlic and put into a blender. Add the bread, half of the olive oil, and a dash of salt. Mix together, and add a splash of water to make the texture creamier. Blend again, this time adding the white wine vinegar. Check the seasonings and add more salt, vinegar, and oil if necessary.
Once in the serving dish, swirl a bit of olive oil on top, add the toppings, and sprinkle with black pepper.