Tag Archives: food

Anpan. Why you should try Japanese sweet bread.

Anpan – A Japanese sweet roll filled with a sweet, earthy paste made from the Azuki legume (It can also be filled with a white bean, green been, sesame or chestnut mixture). Julie thinks these are a heavenly, not-too-sweet dessert or a great start for your day with a cup of coffee or glass of milk.

When I think Japanese food, I think of the wild, recent popularity of Ramen, incredible Sushi, Tempuras, Soba, Shabu-Shabu, Yakitori and various incarnations of rice and fish dishes.

What I don’t think about is bread.

Most Japanese would probably shutter at my culinary stereotyping, but then again, it was a Japanese woman on a plane out of Chicago who, after hearing I was from Texas, asked me about riding horses to school, my ranch, my oil well and what it was like to live in a third world without many paved roads.

I was amused rather than offended (she did, after all, get three out of four correct – I won’t tell you which three), so hopefully my Japanese friends and acquaintances won’t be offended by any shallow observations that preceded or that follow.

Back to bread – in this case the Japanese sweet roll known as Anpan.

To understand today’s recipe, you have to understand something about Japanese history (everything ‘Mericuns needs to know is in the next couple of paragraphs).

In the early 16th Century, there was no bread in Japan.

In 1534, the first Westerners arrived in Japan. The Portuguese to be exact.

Like most folks from the West, they came with a Bible in one hand and firearms in the other. The Japanese, who were in the midst of a series of civil wars, wanted the guns and, since trade often hinges on other concessions, they allowed Catholic missionaries into the country.

Folks began rapidly converting to Catholicism. The Japanese, having learned what they needed to know about the firearms biz and realizing that this whole Christianity thing could upset politics and lealty, shut their doors to the West in 1636, threw all foreigners out, kept their own people at home (Japanese couldn’t leave their homeland) and began a practice of exclusion/seclusion that would last until 1854.

This included a decree forbidding the consumption of Western food.

No biggie. Bread had not caught on during the West’s century-long field trip to Japan and it would be another two centuries before the West was allowed a visitor’s pass, which would open the door to the Japanese adoption and adaptation of Occidental foods and practices.

Once the doors were back open, it would take about 20 years before we got our gluten hooks into the Japanese in a way that would never let go. It seems Western bread wasn’t to Japanese taste without a little tweaking.

In order to promulgate more ‘Mericun ignorance, simplify history and entertain rather than educate the masses, I have to let you know that it was a Samurai who invented Anpan, the first Japanese bread. (A picture of a guy in armor, carrying a sword sells a better blog post than some guy in a white apron covered in flour).

Actually, it was a displaced Samurai (The rise of a conscript Imperial Army put the hired sword out of business. Baking and protecting feudal lords evidently have a number of parallel/transferable skill sets).

A Samurai-cum-baker, Yasubei Kimura, married the Western concept of yeast bread, for which the Japanese hadn’t developed a taste, with Japanese tradition by using a yeast employed in making Sake and filling the slightly sweet bread with Anko (a sweet paste made from Azuki beans that has a long-standing place in Japanese cuisine).

It was a flavor profile that the Japanese could appreciate.

Bread in Japan was born and waistlines across the country began expanding – especially once a Meiji emperor asked to be fed the dish everyday (The country went wild for Anpan after this – It was kind of like when Princess Kate wears a new hat – it sells out instantly).

Anpanman - The Japanese superhero with a head of Anpan.

Anpanman – The Japanese superhero with a head of Anpan.

The rest is modern history, including the birth of Anpanman – the equivalent of our Mr. Rogers, Elmo and Sesame Street.

The Japanese superhero with a head made out of Anpan that all Japanese children have grown up with for the past 50 years has sold more than 50 million books in Japan alone, been the star of television series and movies (at a rate that shames anything Western), and his face is seen on virtually every good that is marketable to children – video games, food products, toys, etc.

Go Anpan(Man)!

Anpan sprinkled with sesame seeds and sea salt.

Anpan sprinkled with sesame seeds and sea salt.

AnPan recipe (adapted from Angieisagirl.wordpress.com, conversations with Shinobu Rowe and the Wagashi Maniac blog)

Ingredients

For the bun:

3 cups bread flour

7T caster sugar (pulse cane sugar a few times in coffee grinder or food processor but don’t go all the way to powdered/confectionary texture)

3T milk powder

4t instant yeast

3T beaten egg

6.75 oz warm water

4T butter, softened

for the filling:

18oz. azuki beans

15oz sugar

2t baking soda

Confection-making (Wagashi) is an art form in Japan, including the making of Anko (red bean paste) of which there are many varieties. What follows is a version of Anko known as Tsubu-an.

Confection-making (Wagashi) is an art form in Japan, including the making of Anko (red bean paste) of which there are many varieties. What follows is a version of Anko known as Tsubu-an.

The filling is what is the most time consuming.

1. Wash and sort the beans.

2. Soak your beans overnight, stirring in 1t of baking soda after they’ve been soaking about an hour.

3. Discard soaking water and place beans in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and just barely cover with water. Add another teaspoon of baking soda. Bring to a light boil over medium heat. Boil lightly for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

4. Add 10oz cool water and return to a boil.

5. Add another 10 oz cool water and return to a light boil (the beans shouldn’t be jumping around).

6. The beans will begin to break down into mush (you don’t want to turn up the heat and push them to this point. Let it happen slowly, without stirring and at a temperature that isn’t going to burn the beans to the bottom of the pan).

7. You should have beans that are thick enough that they look almost like a refried bean. You should be able to make a shallow well in the beans without them falling into each other.

8. Check beans and make sure there is no perceivable grit to them.

9. Add half your sugar, turn your heat to medium-high, stir softly (you don’t want the beans to be too smooth) for 2-3 minutes.

10. Add the other half of your sugar and stir softly.

11. The beans should take on a sheen. Cook, stirring slowly and ensuring that your beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pot (burned flavor will ruin this dish). Continue until enough moisture has been removed that you can see the bottom of the pot briefly when your spoon has been drawn across the pot.

12. Remove the bean paste, place in a container and allow to come to room temperature before refrigerating.

For the rolls

Anpan - a Japanese yeast roll filled with sweet and earthy Anko (a traditional confection made from Azuki beans and sugar).

Anpan – a Japanese yeast roll filled with sweet and earthy Anko (a traditional confection made from Azuki beans and sugar).

1. In a large bowl, combine your flour, sugar, milk powder and yeast. Reserve.

2. Combine egg and warm water. Beat together thoroughly.

3. Mix until everything comes together then transfer to a lightly floured surface and begin to knead (adding flour as needed) until dough becomes smooth.

4. Rub softened butter across the dough and continue kneading until it is smooth and elastic.

5. Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow it to proof for 1 hour or until double in size.

6. Punch dough down. Divide in half and gently form a two discs with your hands (You don’t want to work the dough again). Take a sharp knife and cut each disc (pushing the knife straight down) into eight equal pieces.

7. Lightly roll each triangle into a ball and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover, and let proof for 20 minutes.

Anpan buns are formed by placing a golf-ball-sized portion of Anko in their center and then pinching the dough together to form a ball.

Anpan buns are formed by placing a golf-ball-sized portion of Anko in their center and then pinching the dough together to form a ball.

8. While the dough is proofing, remove your Anko (bean paste) from the refrigerator and create 16 small balls that are slightly smaller than a golf ball.

9. Mix together one egg and one tablespoon water.

9. After you’re dough has risen for 20 minutes flatten each ball into a disc that should be slightly larger than your palm.

10. Place an Anko ball in the center of each disc, lightly brush the edges of the disc with the egg white mixture. Bring the edges of the disc together and pinch to close above the Anko ball. Smooth your roll and place seam side down on the baking sheet.

Pinch your Anpan dough together and then place it seam-side down on your baking sheet.

Pinch your Anpan dough together and then place it seam-side down on your baking sheet.

11. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and allow dough to proof another 40 minutes.

12. Preheat oven to 350 degree while waiting.

13. Brush tops of buns with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt (if you like something to offset the sweet taste).

14. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the buns are golden.

15. Remove, cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

16. Place any buns you don’t eat in an airtight container. To warm: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place them inside for 5 minutes. We try and eat them within a day, but I’ve known some to go two days.

When life gives you Burnt Lemon Curd, make Burnt Lemon Curd Ice Cream (with a Chewy Cardamom Ginger Cookie)

We’ve all made the kinds of mistakes that make you sick to your stomach.

This week, it happened to me as I was cooking lemon curd for a tea that was happening a few hours later. I’m a clean-as-you-go kind of cook, and I thought to myself, ‘I can get these dishes knocked out while my stove top and lemon curd are coming to temperature.’

Wrong. A layer of my lemon curd stuck to the bottom of the sauce pan while I was rinsing a bowl.

Normally I know better than to scrape the bottom of the pan after this happens, because you can often salvage the majority of your dish if you transfer pans and don’t scrape the burned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan into everything else that remains.

But somebody behind me said, ‘We learn from our mistakes.’

Instead of the five-finger-death punch to the throat that I wanted to deliver the person with the ill-timed platitude, I bit my lip and pushed the spoon into the soft, burned fat solids, which resulted in me scraping the burned bits on the bottom of the pan into the remaining lemon curd and completely ruining the dish.

I hustled to make another batch of lemon curd and made it to the tea on time, but being the world’s cheapest human I set aside the burned version thinking that there might be something I could do with it.

There was, and it turns out that the mistake was kismet.

I have loved burned and charred flavors since I was a kid – nothing overpowering mind you, but as an accent, I love how it offsets certain flavor profiles. Turns out, it is great with lemon curd.

I took the lemon curd and put it in the old Vitamix and whizzed away until you couldn’t see the little black bits, but you got that charred/burned flavor in the background.

Once it had set up, I returned it to the Vitamix with some heavy cream and milk which allowed for more subtlety. The lemon was at the front with a nice burnt finish.

A Smoky Cardamom Ginger Cookie and some Blackberries later and we were really in business.

Burnt Lemon Curd Ice Cream with Blackberries.

Burnt Lemon Curd Ice Cream with Blackberries.

Burnt Lemon Curd Ice Cream (adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd recipe)

Ingredients

3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
5 large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Zest 3 lemons and put it in a food processor with the sugar. Pulse until the zest is well-mixed with the sugar.

2. Add the unsalted butter, creaming it all together.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the lemon juice and salt and mix until combined.

4. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and, on low heat (here comes the largest variation to Ina Garten), turn your back on the stove and go start doing your dishes until you realize something is amiss. Seriously, here is how I’ve recreated the effect. Set your stove on medium heat, put about a quarter-inch of the mixture in the sauce pan. As the pan really begins to heat up, draw your spoon from one side of the pan to the other in a manner that lets you see the bottom of the pan. Your curd will begin to sizzle and burn. You don’t need a whole lot of burned bits to affect the flavor of the rest (think of this as putting a slight char on the outside of a steak – only this is a liquid in a sauce pan). Scrape the burned bits and lemon curd into the rest of the lemon curd in another sauce pan and heat over a low fire until thickened, which should happen when the mixture reaches about 170 degrees.

***tip for cleaning the burned fat solids from the bottom of your sauce pan: fill it with water and bring to a boil, which will soften the burned layer so that it may be removed.

5. Whether I have burned the lemon curd or not, I always place my lemon curd in the VitaMix/blender and smooth it all the way out before cooling.

6. Let lemon curd come to room temperature and place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

7. Once curd is extremely cold, add three cups heavy cream and one cup whole milk and mix thoroughly before chilling in an ice cream freezer.

Burn-appetit.

Burnt Lemon Curd Sammich.

Burnt Lemon Curd Sammich.

The Smoky Cardamom Ginger Cookie I used may be found here http://food52.com/recipes/32272-smoky-cardamom-ginger-molasses-cookies.

This ice cream is outstanding by itself, but is over the top with this cookie and some room-temperature blackberries.

Let us know what you think. Please feel free to “Like” us here and on Facebook and share with your friends.

Olive Oil Orange Cake with an Almond Brown Butter Glaze

One of our goals is to share slices of life (and cake), recipes and dining experiences that one might not be able to otherwise experience for whatever reason – geography, income, trepidation about traveling, etc.

Today, Out of Abilene is taking you on another journey to New York City. Maialino is an awesome little trattoria at 2 Lexington Ave., which is about 1750 miles away from where I am right now. I’ve been jonesing for their olive oil orange cake, and I’ve lied to myself at least once a week for the past year, promising myself that I am going to recreate the experience.

Rich but subtle. Dense but not dry (in fact, it’s anything but). A crust on its top and outside walls. An interior so moist you wonder if it is injected with something or cooked with a pudding.

There is nothing I could think of that would be better with a glass of milk than a slice of this cake – unless it was perhaps a muffin-size version of it that would allow me to tell myself, “I’ll just have this one, and just this one is better than eating a whole slice.” Not to mention, a muffin gives me 360-degrees of crisp exterior.

Today, you can have both with a couple of different riffs on form (cake vs. muffin), long cook vs. short, high-temp cook and glazed or unglazed.

Whether you want olive oil muffins or cake, the recipe remains the same. Only the cook methods differ.

Whether you want olive oil muffins or cake, the recipe remains the same. Only the cook methods differ.

Maialino-inspired Olive Oil Orange Cake

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2t kosher salt
  • 1/2t baking soda
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • 1 1/3cups extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 1/4cups whole milk
  • large eggs
  • 1 1/2T grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Out of Abilene Almond Brown Butter Glaze

  • 1/2 cup toasted almond slices
  • 3T butter
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 3T milk
  • 1/4t almond extract
  1. Depending on which of my methods you are going to follow, either preheat your oven to 475° F or 350° F. The former I call the cornbread method (heat a skillet, cake pan – if it can take it, or muffin tins) until they are smoking hot and pour the room temperature batter in for a nice, crisp exterior crust. The latter temperature is just your normal pour it in the pan and bake. If you are cooking a cake, you need a 9″ cake pan that is at least two inches deep. If you are cooking muffins, you need two, 12-muffin standard trays.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder)
  3. In a second bowl, mix together all of your wet ingredients (olive oil, eggs, milk, orange juice and zest and Grand Marnier. I let my wet ingredients come to room temperature.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and combine until just mixed. Your batter should be smooth with no lumps, but you don’t want to sit and run your mixer on high and over mix.
  5. If you are using the cornbread method, ten minutes before you are ready to bake your cake or muffins put your cast-iron skillet or muffin tins into your 475° F preheated oven. Let them sit five minutes. Remove. Place 1T vegetable shortening in the skillet or a dot of vegetable shortening in each muffin tin. Return to oven for five minutes at which point the shortening should be at its smoke point. Remove your skillet or tins from the oven and roll/rotate them around so that the shortening hits all of their inside surfaces. Immediately pour your batter into them (for muffin tins: 3/4 full). They should sizzle and you should see an outside crust start to form. Return to the oven. Cook them for 8 minutes at 475° F and then drop your oven temp to 350° F and continue cooking for 30 minutes for the cake or 15 minutes for the muffins (or until a cake pik comes out clean). Remove. Transfer to a rack and allow them to cool for 30 minutes before removing them from their pans and then allow them to come to room temperature (about 2 hours for the cake and about another 30 minutes for the muffins) before you either eat them with a glass of milk or glaze them.
  6. If you are using the less-complicated, pop-it-in-the-oven method, coat non-stick muffin pans or 9″ cake pan with a thin coating of olive oil, place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan, pour in your batter and bake at 350° F. The cake should take about 1 hour before a cake tester comes out clean. Muffins take approximately 30 minutes. Allow them to cool 30 minutes before removing from their pans. Remove. Place on a rack. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving or glazing (unless you have a cup of milk handy) – approx. 2 hours for cake and another 30 minutes for muffins.

For the glaze

  1. Toast your almonds in a skillet on medium-high heat. Some color is good, but be careful not to over toast. Reserve.
  2. Heat your butter in the same skillet at a medium-high heat until it begins to change color, swirl and continue to heat as it takes on a brown color, being careful to remove it from the heat before burning it. It should have a nutty smell. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Add your butter to your confectioner’s sugar and mix.
  4. Add 2T whole milk. You should begin to get a paste. Add a third tablespoon and you should start to get a smooth paste that isn’t quite pourable.
  5. Reserve for glazing or….
  6. I heat the glaze for about 20 seconds in a microwave or until it is extremely pourable (significantly thinner than what you started with). Ladle it on top of your cake or muffins and then top with sliced almonds.

Next time:

How does a Whipped Moscarpone Basil topping sound?

Let us know what you think. Follow us here or at Out of Abilene on Facebook. Email Barton at barton@outofabilene.com.

Bourbon and Biscuits (Mesquite-smoked buttermilk biscuits, that is)

I finally have a plausible explanation for having bourbon with my breakfast.

Our newest culinary departure is a Mesquite-smoked buttermilk biscuit, slathered with salted, sweet-cream butter and Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly. It’s even better than it sounds – the kind of flavor combination that makes you rationalize having, “just one more” five or six times before witnessing the unbuckling of the belt, a Terror Squad and Fat Joe ‘lean back,’ and the always-popular, table etiquette-smashing migration of the hand to that spot between your stomach and the fabric of your sansabelt pants.

Heavenly comfort food. Damn the stinkeye my wife’s throwing at me just because her mom is having breakfast with us this morning. Don’t think I didn’t see her butter one up and drop it in her purse beside the table. (Reminds me of the time my cousin Scott, age 5, packed ice cream sandwiches in his suitcase before going home from grandma’s house, but that’s another story).

I don’t hold it against her. If I were at her table, I’d do the same thing – either eat my fill, which would be followed by the hand migration move, or drop a couple of these biscuits in the man purse I carry with me. Have I piqued your interest – in the food, not my table manners?

Homemade Maker's Mark Mint Julep Jelly. I've never slapped my momma, but I understand where the expression comes from.

Homemade Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly. I’ve never slapped my momma, but I understand where the expression comes from.

Below, you will find some tips on making a really good buttermilk biscuit (smoked or unsmoked) and, if you are interested in the Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly, you can come see us at Out of Abilene at the Abilene Farmer’s Market or contact me at barton@outofabilene.com.

Mesquite-Smoked Buttermilk Biscuit

Ingredients (makes 8 good biscuits and four or so outliers – explained later)

2 cups mesquite-smoked flour (directions follow)

1t Kosher salt

1T Baking powder

1/4t baking soda

6T frozen unsalted sweet cream butter cut in 1/4 inch dice

1 cup Buttermilk

1. To smoke your flour – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While it is heating, make a smoker out of a disposable roasting pan. To do this, make yourself a “bowl” of out tin foil that covers 2/3 of the pan. Pour three cups of flour in the bowl and smooth it out to a half-inch thick. Place a small stack of wood chips on the outside of the bowl in the remaining one-third of the pan. Cover whole thing tightly with tin foil and shove it in the oven to begin smoking. Here is where your preference and experimentation comes in. If you want just a hint of smoke (a little fragrance and perhaps a tinge of flavor for the most discerning/delicate palates), smoke your flour about 20 minutes, remove it (the top will have started to develop a crust), break it up, sift it and put it back in for another 20 minutes. If you want more pronounced smoke flavor, I have heard of folks going multiple hours. It depends on your palate (or your guests). Smell and taste. Reserve for whenever you decide to make your biscuits. I chill my flour.

2. When you are ready to make biscuits. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. 3. Sift (after smoking, there will be lots of small pieces that won’t go through a sifter – throw them out) two cups of flour. I smoke three cups because there is always a little lost to sifting and the need for to dust your work area/board.

3. Add your dry ingredients. Sift.

4. Add your butter. Do not touch it with your hands. Use either dough blades or forks to work it until you have a mixture that resembles ‘coarse meal’ or your flour-covered butter pieces are the size of small peas.

Mesquite smoked buttermilk biscuit.

Mesquite smoked buttermilk biscuit.

4.5 An explanation as to why we do it this way. If you want flaky biscuits, you want to still have small discernible chunks of unmelted butter when you cut out your biscuits. Making biscuits is much like making a pie dough or pate brisee – the less you work it, the better.

5. Pour your buttermilk into this mixture and work it until it just comes together (preferably with a fork, flat wisk, etc – the heat from your hands will melt that butter in a matter of a minute if you don’t watch what you are doing).

6. Put the dough on your lightly floured workstation and pat it out until you have a half-inch thick rectangle. Fold the ends in to meet in the center and quickly pat to a half-inch thick. Repeat once more. Form a one-inch thick rectangle. (You should be able to see small pieces of butter in your dough)

7. Press a biscuit cutter straight down into your dough. Do not press and twist. You should get 8-10 biscuits without recombining your dough. Recombine your dough and make another couple of biscuits (these won’t be as good).

If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, make your biscuits like good Southerners make cornbread. Preheat your cast-iron skillet before setting them to bake.

If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, make your biscuits like good Southerners make cornbread. Preheat your cast-iron skillet before setting them to bake.

8. If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, put one tablespoon of vegetable shortening into the cast-iron skillet and preheat it right to the point that your oil is going to smoke. Roll the oil around the sides of the pan so that it is well-coated and discard any remaining oil. Arrange biscuits and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.

9. If you want crisp sides, place your biscuits on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake for 10-12 minutes.

10. If you get to the end of your baking, and your tops aren’t brown enough, change your oven over to broil and place on the top shelf for about a minute to brown further. (keep an eye on them as you can burn them quickly.

11. To reheat (they should disappear during the first sitting even if you are alone – especially if you are alone): five minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven.

To recap:

The secret to a great biscuit, like a pie crust, is all in the handling of the dough. Do not overwork it. Do not overbake it.

The frozen butter and the folding are going to give you the flakiness and layering.

Do not use a rolling pin like you see folks do in the movies. You will overwork your dough and the developed gluten will make your biscuits tough.

This is a purist issue, but press straight down when cutting your biscuits. Again, you are avoiding overworking the dough.

You want a crisp bottom? Make your biscuits by preheating a cast-iron skillet (the same way all good southerners make their cornbread).

Let me know how it worked out for you.

Have questions? Post them here or email me at barton@outofabilene.com

And, in the comments below: Where did you have the best biscuit of your life and how do you prefer it (butter, jelly, honey, etc.)

Cold comfort. Salmorejo.

Salmorejo, a rustic mixture of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and bread,  will make you wonder why you haven't been eating chilled soups (at least this one) all your life.

Salmorejo, a rustic mixture of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and bread, will make you wonder why you haven’t been eating chilled soups (at least this one) all your life.

Cold soups. You mention them in West Texas and you just might get the stink-eye that says, “You must be some kind of commie.” Soup is warm weather food. Savory broths. Hot liquids. Sunshine in a bowl that is meant to warm heart, hands and body.

We need to get over ourselves. We iced tea. Now we won’t drink it any other way. And I’ve seen West Texans galore sneaking iced/chilled coffee for their caffeine fix. (Nobody tells them they are all hat and no cattle just because they sneak off to Starbucks – at least not to their faces).

Chilled soup should be your next frontier. And we’ll start out with one that hopefully doesn’t lead to someone saying, “get a rope.”

Salmorejo. That’s right. It sounds like a dish off a Mexican food restaurant’s menu. We know that isn’t for commies seeing as you can’t chunk a rock in this part of the world without hitting a Mexican restaurant or a barbecue joint. (FYI, it’s Spanish, not Mexican.)

It’s a rustic chilled soup that is a staple in southern Spain, hailing from Cordoba. Rich, creamy (no dairy though) and delectable. I got hooked eating it almost every day from a lunch counter in Sevilla during the summer and convinced some of my language teachers who said they made it on an almost-daily basis to show me how to prepare it. I don’t say cook because all you really need are the ingredients and a blender for the soup itself.

There are four, must have ingredients – tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, vinegar and bread.

Here’s a starting point for one of the quickest, most delicious anytime lunches or light dinners you can make.

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes (chopped roughly. I don’t core, seed, half or anything else because I have a good blender that is going to make everything really creamy and what rustic dish requires that much refinement? I do cut off the tops.).
  • 2 oz. of stale bread crust removed (I do prefer using an old artisan loaf, french bread or bolillo – five for $1 like you get at HEB – and not some sliced sandwich loaf). Put the bread in a glass of water and let it soak.
  • 2 medium smashed garlic cloves (You could start with one large and work your way all the way up to as many as three. Garlic is the hardest ingredient to judge in this recipe. Baby steps until you get it right. What you don’t want is a really sharp garlic burn or a garlic taste that overwhelms everything else).
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar (red wine vinegar if you don’t have it)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (not the cheapest you can find but not the most expensive either. Something that you like its taste)
  • salt to taste
  • serrano ham/prosciutto in 1/4 inch cubes
  • chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg
  1. Put the tomatoes and smashed garlic in the blender. Puree.
  2. Squeeze the water out of your bread. Add to tomatoes and garlic
  3. Add sherry vinegar.
  4. Puree some more.
  5. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the soup while it is blending. Keep going until it is well-emulsified/creamy and, perhaps, a bit frothy on top.
  6. Add salt to taste and adjust vinegar for the amount of tang you like.
  7. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

A few tips/observations:

I like Salmorejo cool but not ice cold. Think about this before service and judge when you need to remove it from the refrigerator.

Traditionally, Salmorejo is topped with hard-boiled egg (chopped, sliced, grated) and serrano ham (I like it cubed).

Serrano ham is impossible to find in these parts. I have the deli counter cut me a quarter inch slice of prosciutto and then I cube that when I get home. Regular cubed ham could give you that salt and textural change if you had to go that route, but I’d probably opt for crumbled bacon before I did that. Everything is better with bacon.

To me, salmorejo is about like a pesto in that it’s only your own fault if you don’t get the flavor you like. Like a gun with fixed sites, you walk it into the target. Translation for those who don’t shoot guns: Tweak it. More tanginess=More vinegar. More garlic=more garlic. More creaminess=more soaked bread and olive oil.

I’m fortunate enough to have a Vitamix, and I sometimes skip the bread altogether.

It’s unlikely that you will go too far in one direction to save the dish, but it’s not like we’re dealing with high-dollar, high-falutin’ ingredients here like foie gras.

Try it. If you have half a lick of sense about you (and you don’t hate tomatoes), you are going to like it.

Maybe next time we can talk about Salmorejo’s Andalusian cousin, Gazpacho – not to be confused with the Gestapo, although that’s probably the only way you could have forced my grandfather to eat it.

In the meantime, tell me how you liked it, the adjustments you made and any dishes you would like to learn in the future. I’ll be your test kitchen guinea pig and relay everything I learn via this blog.

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