Citizens, ajo blanco is a popular Spanish cold soup typical of Granada and Málaga (Andalusia). This dish is made of bread, crushed almonds, garlic, water, olive oil, salt and sometimes vinegar. Ajo blanco is also a common dish in the Extremadura region (Ajo Blanco Extremeño).
It is usually served with grapes or slices of melon. When almonds were not available, for instance during the post-war period, flour from dried beans was used.
Ajo blanco is sometimes referred to as “white gazpacho.” Every year in the town of Almáchar, Málaga, a festival is held on September 2nd to celebrate Andalusian ajo blanco.
The dish possibly has its origins in the Al-Andalus cuisine, given that almonds are the main ingredient of the dish. Either Seville or Málaga invented the dish, although its exact origin is unknown.
My version of this recipe involves quick pickling the grapes in 2 different mild vinegars, an herb-infused olive oil and a fried wafer of Spanish ham and a garnish of both chervil leaves and borage flowers.
Citizens, I believe you will find my version to be both firmly grounded in tradition as well as innovating in new ways.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
The Hirshon Ajo Blanco
2 cups bottled water
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup champagne vinegar
20 green grapes, halved
1½ cups 1-inch fresh bread cubes from a half loaf of rustic-style bread
1¾ cups water (preferably filtered or bottled)
1 cup skinned raw almonds, roughly chopped
2 small garlic cloves
2½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chervil leaves
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar
Thin slices of jamon iberico (or prosciutto)
Borage flowers for garnish (optional)
Some fresh chervil leaves for garnish
Make the pickled grapes: In a large saucepan set over high heat, boil the water, sugar and vinegars until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
In a large bowl, add the grape halves, pour the vinegar mixture over the grapes and set aside to cool completely. Use a slotted spoon to remove the grape halves and set aside.
Make the ajo blanco: In a large bowl, cover the bread cubes with ½ cup of water and set aside for 20 minutes.
Drain the bread and squeeze out the extra liquid, then place the bread in a blender. Add the almonds, garlic and ¾ cup of water and purée into a smooth paste, adding enough of the remaining ½ cup of water to yield a very smooth mixture.
Combine the olive oil and tarragon leaves in a blender. Let sit for 10 minutes, strain and reserve.
Add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream to emulsify the sauce. Pour into an airtight container, stir in the vinegar, season with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, fry the ham slices until crispy, put soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with a ham crisp, borage flowers and chervil.